Worth fighting about?

This was passed on to me earlier today in an email. As news, it comes a few days late:


Kerfuffles and fisticuffs are nothing new among the various churches that share custody of the major shrines of the Holy Land. Raymond Cohen’s study, Saving the Holy Sepulchre (Oxford, 2008), not only highlights a few of these colorful moments in intra-Christian relations, but illustrates how lack of agreement over how to manage and care for such spaces has imperiled (at times) the fabric of these ancient, holy places.

As a Christian with sympathetic ties to and respect for the Armenian, Byzantine and Roman traditions, I lament that these spats occasionally erupt. I have to wonder how such internal scuffles appear to Christians without an appreciation of the difficult history of these places — or without concern for the ancient historic churches. Moreover, I have to wonder — I can only imagine — how such things appear to non-Christians, whether they are believers in some religious system or not.

Let us pray for one another.


  1. When news of John Paul II’s planned visit to Greece was met with violent public protests there by Orthodox clergy and nuns, Jesuit Fr Bob Taft commented something like this: “Oh the Orthodox – they know how to believe, they just don’t know how to behave.”

  2. I’m sure that to some people, Christians and non-Christians, the differences that divide Christians, in fact the differences that divide many people of similar religions, would appear as silly as arguing that the salt must only be added to food before the pepper, and never after.

  3. This is a graphic reminder of the end results of what used to be called “the scandal of division” within Christianity. Violence of a physical kind follows from steps taken all along the road to get there, including — I am sure — the tendency to see the “other” as an enemy to be defeated rather than a friend to be understood and respected.

    As we look forward to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the end of January, I ask myself: Do we really take this scandal of disunity seriously enough to build bridges, rather than simply reinforcing the divisions.

  4. I had a post about this too. Maybe this is a microcosm of the whole turf war in the middle east – if even people of the same faith can’t help but fight, year after year, over little things like whether a ladder can be movied, maybe we should have more understanding of why no peace has been made between those with differing beliefs.

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