A great illustration.

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Franciscans and Orthodox fight at the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the spot where Jesus was buried.

The argument was over such profound theological points as whether a door should be closed during a procession. Ah, at the council of Nicea they argued meticulous points about Christ’s nature and divinity, whether he was homo- or hetero- (-ousios, that is)–the same or different essence of God the Father– with some wags adding a little iota in the middle and making Jesus into a similar substance before they signed. (In case you’re wondering homo- won out, leading eventually to the classic Nicene Creed – and another historical note, a little bit added towards the end of that creed is one of the primary reasons why Franciscans and Orthodox are of two different ‘churches’. You can guess which bit.)

And people actually will argue we are more intelligent in this era.

The fight wonderfully illustrates all that can go wrong with religious sentiment from the highest levels to the most personal, ever since the time of Jesus. The irony is quite rich.

This also is a key reason why I’d be wary of visiting any of the so-called shrines of Christendom. I’d still like to visit Israel, but more for the purpose of sitting on a hillside, staring at the waves on an inland sea, feeling the texture of plants and trees, filling my nostrils with the aroma of the soil, and taking in the essence of whatever wilderness could be found.

That’s of course the kind of places where Jesus looked for holy sites. Go where he went to find God. Then again… I don’t necessarily need to travel across the world to find those kinds of places. Thank God.

This story also reminds me of John Cassian who left the monastery at Bethlehem in the 5th century and didn’t want to go back, as they were considered very lax in their devotion and lacking in holiness.

Methinks somethings never change.

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