BY: DAVE and SHEILA GARNER
MAY 7, 2007
My wife Sheila and I began reading the book “The Faith” a “History of Christianity” by Brian Moynahan during our daily devotion. One of the most fascinating things we learned was that Islam conquered the Middle East and squashed Christianity, not so much by force, but by taking advantage, either ignorantly or otherwise, from the suppressive and exploitive hierarchy and schisms (splits) within the leadership of the church. It is recorded by historians that by the fifth century the leadership within Christianity had become so divided by personal doctrines that there was no cohesion among its members. Strong men were able to come in and if they were affluent enough, start their own, sometimes very powerful movements under the name of “Christianity.” To defend itself the church began vehemently persecuting anyone they deemed as a heretic, which was anyone who dared to believe differently or oppose the accepted church doctrine. Heavy taxes were levied against the populace to support the church and the common people were kept in ignorance.
Eventually over a period of time in the Christian countries, you had no choice, the Catholic Church was the only church and you had no other options. It dominated all of its subjects under the supreme authority of the Pope. The church was loaded with all kind of saints and rules of obedience and any new convert was forced to undergo stringent teachings and the trial of their faith before baptism. He had to run the gauntlet of often conflicting, confused, and often argumentative teachings of the times concerning the supremacy of the Catholic Church as being above all other entities and the pope as being the unquestioned authority concerning all matters pertaining to salvation and sanctification. He had to accept the authority of the patriarchs, the sainthood of Mary as the mother of God, their determination of the nature of Christ, the virgin birth, the use of icons, the celibacy of the priesthood, and honor the celebration of communion as being the literal eating and drinking of the body of Christ. Islam was much less complex and all the Islam convert had to do was to declare Allah as God and accept Mohammad as his prophet and he was immediately accepted into brotherhood. This simple statement and humane treatment they received converted the suppressed peoples by the thousands, even so much so, that many times the Moslems were welcomed by those they conquered.
When the Christians were in control they demanded obedience and anyone who opposed them, they were either excommunicated and banished or killed. On the other hand, Mohammad did not demand any such thing from the people. He let the priest remain priest and even let the churches remain standing, allowing them to continue holding services. He let the Christians remain Christians, but made them pay taxes for his continued protection. Mohammad and his followers were vicious to the armies that opposed them and killed them indiscriminately, but after the cities fell, he gave them the choice to accept Islam or pay the tax and remain a Christian under his protection. He made one major demand upon the Christian; no Christian was allowed to attempt to convert any Muslim to Christianity. A Christian man could not marry a Muslim woman, but a Muslim man could marry a woman from the Christian community and their offspring had to be raised Muslim. Gradually over time the Christians were eventually eradicated through attrition.
It was the infighting within the Christian community that allowed the Islamic beliefs to spread so quickly over the mid-east. They were so busy fighting among themselves over doctrines that the real enemy of Christian faith was able to conquer most of Africa, Jerusalem, and most of the Christian world and almost eradicate the Christian faith.
In today’s Christianity there is an abundance of schisms that permeate the church body. Instead of forgetting the past we would do well to learn from it and not emulate the spiritual shortcomings and failures of our predecessors.
OUR MEDITATIONS NO. 1 [Dave-Sheila Garner] 5-7-071