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Things Christians can learn

“Can’t we all just get along?” asked Rodney King.

Certainly not in Jerusalem and I’m not talking Muslims and Jews here. According to Serge Schmemann in a recent article in the New York Times, it’s the Christians who are having a hard time of it.

The famed Church of the Holy Sepulcher has long been a war-zone for competing Christian clans, all of whom claim ownership rights to this church built on the site where tradition has it that Jesus was buried. One can’t help but wonder if Jesus knew what was being done in his name, he’d have wished to be buried somewhere outside Fargo.



So violent have the confrontations over the centuries been that in 1757 the then rulers of Jerusalem decided the Christians didn’t have a prayer for finding a peaceful resolution and so they assigned a Muslim to keep the key. To this day, Muslims continue to be the guardians of the peace at this seemingly un-Christian Christian shrine.

Not a little embarrassing for those of us who claim Christianity as a model for love and harmony.



Recently, war broke out again in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This time it involved the Egyptian Christians and the Ethiopian Christians. As best I can figure, the Christians from Ethiopia are upset because a Christian monk from Egypt has started sitting in the shade on a part of the roof they claim as their own. An analogy to this squabbling might be found in the backseat of any mini-van on vacation. “Mommy! She’s sitting on my side!”

Other less humorous and far more serious rifts within Christianity remind us that we are a long way from practicing what we preach. A brief excursion to Northern Ireland would serve that purpose.

Of course, you don’t have to go international to witness the widespread hypocrisy that is a burr on the butt of Christianity. It wasn’t all that long ago that one church sued another for some reason that, as I recall, had little to do with honoring Jesus. And any preacher still breathing can tell you stories of churches ripped apart by Christian folk acting anything but Christian. Why even we staid Lutherans have managed to work up enough passion to convince ourselves that some of us are right and all the rest of them are wrong. Just ask Lutheran Pastor David Benke who was foolish enough to believe that gathering with other grieving folk for a post 9-11 Prayer Service at Yankee Stadium might be a very Christian thing to do. Not too long afterward, his denomination brought charges against him for praying with pagans and heretics. How’s that for a real Christian attitude? He’s already lost his job and soon may lose his denomination as well. Judging from how they’ve apparently judged him, it might not be such a bad thing.

Last and certainly least comes the latest wisdom from The Reverend Franklin Graham, son of Billy and pious paradigm of too much of contemporary Christianity. According to Frankie, “Islam – unlike Christianity – has among its basic teachings a deep intolerance for those who follow other faiths.” He goes on to condemn the Islamic infidels to hell and beyond for not believing as he does. Chalk up another example of deep Christian tolerance.

Maybe we Christians should take our cue from the wisdom displayed at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and hire a Muslim to teach us how to get along.

Rich Mayfield is pastor of the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church and a regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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