Saturday, April 13, 2024

Fr Georges Massouh: Holy Wars... Ridiculous! (2015)

 Arabic original, written in 2015, here. May Fr Georges' memory be eternal!!!

Holy Wars... Ridiculous!

"My kingdom is not of this world" and not "My kingdom is not in this world" was Christ's response to Pilate when he interrogated Him before handing Him over to be crucified. Christ denied that His kingdom was "of" this world-- that is, in the image of this world, in the image of the kingdoms of this world.

Christ did not despair, despite His objectivity, of man's ability to attain perfection. He did not want to completely close the door in man's face. Rather, He wanted him to try to establish a kingdom that would be up to the standards of the Gospel. The "Christian state" in its various forms and identities has failed, from its establishment under Constantine the Great down to our present day. This state failed because it was "of this world"and was unable to be different from what prevailed among the nations. Indeed, with their brutal practices and the atrocities that they committed, Christian kingdoms have perhaps provided the ugliest examples among nations.

Christ realized this before it happened. He realized that nations are not built on sincere intentions, on righteousness and piety, or on lofty teachings. A state in this world means a state of this world. He did not have the slightest doubt that when Christians obtained power, they would be like all people who obtain power. They would be scornful, exploitative, despising the vulnerable. The logic of the state is not the logic of the Gospel. The Gospel calls for tolerance, forgiveness, love, and giving freely. The state calls for punishment, prison, law and taxes...

Christ realized this when He disdained and mocked political authority. On the day when He was crowned as a king, the day of His entrance into Jerusalem, unlike the custom of ancient or modern kings, He rode a donkey. He rode a donkey after having previously fled from the crowd when they wanted to make Him king. His closest disciples, like that crowd, did not understand Christ's logic, since they asked Him who among them would sit at His right and His left in His glory and almost quarreled over this question. They asked for an authority for themselves that they did not receive from Him.

Christ realized this, and nevertheless He called on Christians to be committed to the affairs of the world and of people, to defend values and virtues and proclaim the truth. Christianity, contrary to what some may imagine, is a religion that is not only concerned with spiritual matters but also strives for a better world where peace, justice, love and mercy reign... This requires struggle against evil and sin. Even though historical experience is discouraging in terms of the possibility of this promised, ideal kingdom, its realization is not impossible, even if it is difficult. A church historian once said that Christian emperors ruled more harshly than pagan emperors because a pagan emperor considered himself to be a god among many gods, while a Christian emperor considered himself to be the one God's sole representative on earth.

Christ did not establish a kingdom "of" this world that launches holy wars led by His successors, heirs or followers. There have existed what some consider "Christian" empires, but even apart from their assaults on non-Christians, they committed massacres against Christians opposed to them and their policies. The [Holy] Roman Empire launched Crusades that targeted Eastern Christians alongside Muslims. The Byzantine Empire persecuted Syriacs, Copts and even Chalcedonian Orthodox (during the reign of Heraclius), just as the Byzantines and Bulgars slaughtered each other while both were unquestionably Orthodox and Protestants and Catholics slaughtered each other in Europe... and in the modern era--- and here we have no desire to open old wounds-- we can point to the Christians in Lebanon fighting and slaughtering each other in the name of Christianity...

In reality, today there is no "Christian" state and no "Christian" president or leader in the image and likeness of Christ on the face of the earth. Therefore the wars of this state and this ruler are not in any way "holy". People are free, in matters of politics, to support this or that state in their wars, but not in the name of Christianity or in the name of the Church and not under the pretext of protecting the existence of Christians or under the pretext of defending minorities. The logic of the Church must be other than the logic of this world.

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