When the Church Ruled by the Sword by Michael Brown

When the Church Ruled by the Sword by Michael Brown

Last month, I stated that the essential difference between Christianity and Islam was the difference between Jesus and Muhammad, the difference between the cross and the sword, the difference between liberation and subjugation. Unfortunately, through much of Christian history, the Church has departed from the message and example of Jesus, also ruling by the sword. Honesty compels me to tell this part of the story as well.

Shortly after I came to faith in Jesus in 1971 as a rebellious, 16-year-old, Jewish hippie, the local rabbi befriended me. The first thing he asked me to read was a book on anti-Semitism in Church history, a plague that infected both Catholicism and Protestantism. It is a story that Jews know only too well yet a story of which many Christians know nothing.

As the Catholic scholar Edward Flannery once wrote, “The vast majority of Christians, even well educated, are all but totally ignorant of what happened to Jews in history and of the culpable involvement of the Church. . . . It is little exaggeration  to state that those pages of history Jews have committed to memory are the very ones that have been torn from Christian (and secular) history books” (The Anguish of the Jews).

Once, while lecturing at a leading seminary, I spent some time with a leading Church historian, a true scholar in the field. I asked, “When do you and your colleagues teach the students about anti-Semitism in Church history?” He replied somewhat sheepishly, “We don’t.”

That has been the case at most seminaries where I have taught, despite their fine programs and brilliant scholars. These painful, embarrassing chapters of Church history have virtually been torn out of our history books.

To be clear, though, when Islam has ruled by the sword, it was the rule rather than the exception. This was in keeping with the example of Muhammad and the early expansion of Islam. The new religion advanced by the sword, subjugated by the sword, and dominated by the sword.

In contrast, when Christianity ruled by the sword, it was the exception to the rule. This violated both the spirit and the letter of Jesus, of the first disciples, and of the early centuries of Church history.

But saying this does not excuse this departure from the New Testament faith. Rather, it heightens the Christian guilt and magnifies the apostasy. Only an apostate Church, a Church in name only, could oppress and humiliate and even brutalize others in the name of Jesus.

Speaking of Islam, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), one of the greatest Jewish thinkers, said, “No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have.” Yet Maimonides and other Jews sometimes found conditions in Islamic countries to be far more favorable than in Christian countries.

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SOURCE: Michael Brown

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