Focus on the Family: Getting Acquainted

This past Monday, CBS ran an article with the headline: "Monks Brawl at Site of Jesus' Tomb." Again, that was a CBS headline, not one from The Onion. Click here for the full story, which includes a disturbing video of the fight caught from above.

The irony runs thick, as could the commentary on how time and again, Jesus' followers fail to demonstrate the ideals of the one they claim to follow.

I tend to see a news story like this or another report on foreign Holy Land bickering and think, why can’t they just get along? Why so much division and hatred? Why can’t they see what negative implications this power struggle is having on the religious traditions they are trying to uphold?

But if one were to see religious spats in the United States from an overhead video, wouldn’t we see the same threads of immaturity and futility? the fruitlessness of shoving around fellow believers, hoping for a bigger piece of the pie?

We Protestants have split denominations literally thousands of times in our brief stint here in the United States, sometimes over differences that could/should have been solved over a civil cup of tea or, at most, a feisty thumb war. Case in point: the denomination of my upbringing split from another partially because our side did not believe church members should also be members of a lodge.

In fact, most of these church schisms come in the name of claiming rightness. One group thinks they have a better handle on the truth than another and therefore are entitled to more power and control. The others, they think, should be stripped of this power and control.

The problem with religious groups wishing to gain this control, is that its accumulation is something Jesus, their supposed leader, did not model. If that were his prerogative, he would have been born into royalty and not near barn animals. He would have ordered others to serve him, not washed stinky feet. He would have given easy moral answers that people could used to judge one another instead of challenging people to look inward and drop their rocks of judgment.

We all want to be right in our theology and practice. But, as my friend and pastor says: we have to acknowledge that each of our faith traditions is ultimately insufficient. That they all lack something.

In this column, I plan to look at how my beliefs differ from conservatives evangelicals like James Dobson. But can I (without excessive twitching) acknowledge those points where we agree? Could I admit that our motivation to serve Christ might, at its elemental level, be similar?

I don’t think we are called, as believers, to pretend that we always agree. I also don’t think it’s a sin to be critical of others’ beliefs or actions, especially when we think that they are hurtful to growing the Kingdom of God. But it is to say that the way we go about this disagreement (throwin’ down like monks or through verbal condemnations) is helpful to no one.


  1. You state "One group thinks they have a better handle on the truth than another and therefore are entitled to more power and control. The others, they think, should be stripped of this power and control." I think the better analysis starts where you began. When we disagree we begin to push each other away, just as the monks did. The problem with the Church isn't necessarily our desire for power and control, it is that when we see differences, we distance and withdraw our love. We should welcome thought and judgment, but then we need to learn how love, truth, and differences may coexist. We must remember that we are bound together as sons and daughters to the eternal other; the God of love, truth and power.

  2. Simply put, many who claim to live for Jesus Christ do not. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus states, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it."