My goodness, another religious post! Something must be in the air. I’ve always been fascinated with early Christianity and, in particular, the politics of Christianity prior to the Great Schism which tore the Church asunder, beyond all repair. In fact, the Great Schism is a pretty good metaphor for what has been happening to followers of Christianity ever since, although one could also argue that the earlier Photian Schism was a taste of things to come.
Divide and Conquer
Never could this saying be further from the truth. Every split in Christianity has weakened the Church and the legitimacy of Christianity as a religion of peace, harmony and universal tolerance. The in-fighting, petty squabbling and bickering started soon after the death of Christ. We often talk about the big Catholic-Protestant divide, but often forget about the older Catholic-Orthodox split or the even more dated split between Trinitarian Christians and Non-Trinitarian Christians (those who believed in the Holy Trinity and those who did not).
Church of Divided Faiths…
…better known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a prime example of man’s ability to become entrenched, embittered and intolerant. This most holy of churches (sitting on the Golgotha where Christ was crucified and housing His Tomb) has been the focus of in-fighting between Armenian Apostolic, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic priests for centuries. These three churches have jurisdiction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, although some areas are also administered by the Coptic, Ethiopian and Syriac Orthodox churches.
Ironically, the division of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was set in stone by Grand Vizier and Turkish Ottoman Muhsinzade Mehmed Pasha in 1767, a Muslim (as the Church was then in the Ottoman Empire) in order to bring peace to the Church which witnessed constant fighting between the rivalling sects. Nothing has changed since and these divisions are largely the same now as they were then. In fact, the now infamous ladder is a stark demonstration of this. Placed there in 1852, the ladder has not been moved since for fear of incurring the wrath of the other Christian denominations.
The intricacies of the politics of the jurisdiction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is truly bewildering and perfectly mirrors the sects, sub-sects, factions and rivalries between all the Christian denominations today. It is all well and good when arguments remain philosophical, religious and theological, however, when they spill into the physical realm then embarrassment is the only word that can be used. Only recently, did one of the most holy places in Christendom witness the following scenes: