An admirable Eugene Peterson collection: 5-25-17
They show us how to be human: 5-27/28-17

Modern echoes of the Inquisition: 5-26-17

One of the reasons I wrote my latest book, The Value of Doubt, is that in various places around the world I see evidence of religion that countenances no doubts about anything, religion that insists not only that it has all the answers but that if any alleged adherents of that religion have different answers they must be crushed.

Heresy Cover-Value of DoubtIf this sounds like some of the terrorists who justify their violent extremism on the basis of their twisted reading of Islam, yes, I'm thinking of that -- mostly recently the slaughter in Manchester, England, and the ISIS claim of responsibility for that madness. But let's not imagine that such misshapen religious thought and action is somehow new in our era. Oh, my, no.

For instance, it was on this date in 1232 that Pope Gregory IX sent the first Inquisition team to Aragon in Spain. This did not become directly what we'd later referred to as the Spanish Inquisition. That dates to the late 15th Century. But both attempts at policing orthodoxy within Catholicism were examples of what happens when theological certitude about matters that cannot bear the weight of certitude rules the day.

Gregory's order in 1232 happened in the midst of what was known as Albigensian or Cathar heresy.

The heresy, if it was one, had to do with a Gnostic view of things, including the idea that there was a good God of the New Testament and an evil God found in the Hebrew scriptures.

These kinds of theological sword fights to the death seem weird and even unthinkable to many Christians today, and yet we find various branches of the faith -- not just Catholicism -- creating ways to enforce orthodox thinking. Even as you read this, for instance, the United Methodist Church, one of the largest Mainline Protestant denominations, is at the edge of schism because some of its members, on the basis of how they read scripture, want to prevent ordination of gays and lesbians while others want to change the rules to allow such ordination. Some on both sides of that issue are locked into certitude with no room for compromise or discussion.

What history makes clear is that when religious bodies adopt rigid positions about which there can be neither debate nor serious conversation, the path forward inevitably is filled with blood and trauma. Which should be a warning, but rarely is perceived that way.

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As we continue to commemorate the 500th anniversary this year of the start of the Protestant Reformation, let's not forget the effect this had on music, especially church and protest music. This BBC piece explains. But if we're to stay ahead of the curve, don't we need a rap version of Martin Luther's most famous hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"?


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