Watching Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" on a "Good Friday" once again paraded before me a constellation of questions most of which even the ablest Christian apologist finds difficult to answer, but which nevertheless do not really undermine the foundations of the Christian faith. The question on some aspects of the "Incarnation" or of the "Trinity," for instance, has engendered centuries of debates which have never been completely resolved until today -- a sobering reminder of the finitude of our intellect and the sheer magnitude of the unknown or what is beyond this plane of existence.
Watching the film also afforded me to reflect on the rank sectarianism that has rocked and split Christianity across two millennia, a sectarianism not really unlike that of Jesus' enemies -- especially the Pharisees.
It is sad to think that what started out as a faith system undergirded and wrapped by love ended up, to a large extent, being cemented by hatred; that the bridge of fellowship built by its founder has been transformed by many of its adherents into a wall that houses a chosen few or, to change the metaphor, a catapult that shatters communities of believers.
We are led to ask why, to borrow from Larry West, "churches [have to be] born in caves [only to] die in cathedrals." Or why, to use Hans Finzel's words, "organizations [have to] have this nasty habit of becoming institutions." Or why, to take Doug Foster's phrase, "iconoclasts [have to become] statesmen." Or why it has to be that, to quote from Jonathan Swift, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."
I've had my share in the advocacy of sectarianism in Christianity. I tell you, finding one's way out of the dark, dank woods of sectarianism is both a heart-rending and a mind-wracking experience. Conversely, one's quest for meaning that leads one out of this proverbial forest can be an exhilarating experience, especially when this quest leads you to connect with your authentic self and heritage within a larger community of fellow "strugglers" in the faith.
In the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you my reflections on my attempt at transcending the theological canopy that had shaded my vision and, to a certain extent, cloistered my Christianity for years.