Saturday, 18 October 2008

the sword?

I recently read some stories about the history of the early church in the communities around here.  I was saddened to read stories of intimidation by christian villagers and of forced conversion to Christianity.  This is the sort of behaviour I associate with other religions, not with Christianity, not with the followers of Christ.  What do I make of it?

Firstly, I should remember that such use of 'the sword' is not uncommon in the history of the church.  Intimidation, forced conversion, imprisonment, and the like have all been practised at some stage in the history of the church in order to force people to adopt a particular position.  This does not make this behaviour acceptable, but it does mean that it should not surprise me.  

Secondly, I must understand the context in which these took place.  Community is very important Vanuatu; communities unified by a common faith even more so.  A hundred years ago, there was no central government, no police-force, no court system.  The community was everything.  It was important for the whole community to convert to Christianity.  Village life just wouldn't work if some remained in heathenism.  This means that once the majority of a community is Christian and they have established laws for the community that include things like 'no gardening on Sundays', then this is a law for the whole community, whether or not the individuals are actually Christian.  When there are no police to enforce the law, then the ordinary person is asked to ensure observation to the law.  What looks like intimidation may actually be a village community enforcing the laws that the community has agreed upon.  Now, I still think the events lay more on the side of intimidation than upholding the law, but it more understandable in this context.

Thirdly, I can be confident that intimidation and forced conversion are not the way of Christ.  Christ did not take up the sword, not even in defense of himself.  The apostles preached the gospel.  They did not spread their community by the sword.  They taught, they exhorted, they persuaded. They did not indimidate, they did not threaten, they did not even use deceit.  They did not even call people to leave their communities to join a 'christian community' but to remain where they were, as shining stars, holding out the word of life.  

There's more I could add.  Another time...

1 comment:

Raeline said...

Dear Rachael,

I was relieved to read your 2nd point but of course it still not make us happy to think Christian values or whatever, were forced onto people. As you say, contrary to Christs teaching. Love Mum (Raeline)