Skip to comments.The End of Christendom
Posted on 04/12/2002 8:52:15 AM PDT by Richard Poe
SHOULD WE TAKE everything in the Bible literally? Author and journalist H.W. Crocker III says no.
His new book Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church (Forum, 2002) accuses Protestant fanatics of destroying Christendom, through their obsessive Biblical literalism, thus paving the way for Nazism, Bolshevism and other bloodthirsty cults of the post-Christian era.
It took guts to write this book. With the media vilifying Catholics on a scale not seen since Neros Rome, Crocker has dared to pen a panoramic, 2000-year history of the Church that makes no absolutely no apologies or concessions to Catholic bashers.
It is a breathtaking act of defiance.
Crocker lashes into pagans, heretics, Saracens, Byzantines and other long-dead troublemakers, with a passion undimmed by passing centuries. His withering polemics could have emerged from a 13th-century scriptorium.
Triumph is to conventional history as matter is to anti-matter. Place this book too close to Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the resulting detonation would probably have to be measured in kilotons.
Among other jaw-droppers, Crocker reveals that Catholic dogma never demanded a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture. "Aha!" cry the born-agains. "More proof that the Pope is the Antichrist!"
Well, maybe. But consider Exodus 19:4, in which God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites: "You yourself have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself."
Now, as anyone knows who has watched Charlton Heston stretch forth his staff over the Red Sea, the Hebrews walked out of Egypt. They did not fly "on eagles wings." Exodus 19:4 is clearly meant to be understood metaphorically, not literally.
But if the Bible speaks sometimes in metaphor, how do we know when to take it literally?
Learned doctors of the Church debated such questions for centuries, citing Aristotle as readily as St. Paul, in an intellectual free-for-all reminiscent of the Athenian agora.
But the illiterate masses did not take part in these discussions. They were given a simpler faith, of candles, statues, incense, processions, incantations and stained-glass windows.
The medieval Church thus resembled the lamaseries of old Tibet, where monks probed the mysteries of the universe, while peasants in the countryside spun their prayer wheels and celebrated their festivals.
It was a wise and orderly system, tailored for a flesh-and-blood world in which some people are just plain smarter than others, and better equipped to handle subtle ideas. In any case, the system worked.
Then along came Martin Luther, a 16th-century German monk whose writings reveal him as a violent, hate-filled man, tormented by visions of the Devil.
Luther urged every Christian to read the Bible and draw his own conclusions. In the chaos that ensued, a phantasmagoria of Protestant sects emerged, many preaching a nightmare version of Christianity, in which every thought and custom not found in the Bible was forbidden.
John Calvin outlawed, "dancing, singing, pictures, statues theatrical plays; wearing rouge, jewelry, lace." Children had to be named after people in the Old Testament. In England, Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas, because it was not in the Bible.
Witch-burning rare in Catholic countries rose to genocidal proportions in Protestant lands. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," says Exodus 22:18.
Eventually, however, people began noticing that, if you took everything in the Bible literally, much of it just didnt make sense.
Forced to choose between a literal interpretation of Scripture and common sense, many intellectuals, by the 18th century, gave up on Christianity altogether.
But religion is power. And power abhors a vacuum. With Christianity in retreat, new gods arose to take its place.
French revolutionaries promoted a new cult of the state. They butchered faithful Catholics, men, women and children. In Notre Dame, Christs altar was replaced with an altar to the Goddess of Reason. But the real god of the revolutionaries was the guillotine, their sacrament the spilling of blood.
Kings and emperors once feared the Church. The threat of excommunication tamed many a tyrant. But by the 20th century, blasphemous madmen like Hitler, Stalin and Mao laughed in the Churchs face while transforming the earth into a reeking slaughterhouse.
What comes next? Catholics are on the run today, as beleaguered, in some ways, as the martyrs of pagan Rome.
Yet even now, there is hope. The Goddess of Reason has worn thin her welcome, in many hearts. Led by "a few good men," Crocker suggests, the Church may yet emerge from its catacombs to astonish the world.
Richard Poe is a New-York-Times bestselling author and cyberjournalist. His latest book is The Seven Myths of Gun Control.
However, is the following excerpt actually true? "..John Calvin utlawed, "dancing, singing, pictures, statues
theatrical plays; wearing rouge, jewelry, lace." Children had to be named after people in the Old Testament. In England, Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas, because it was not in the Bible..."I don't know very much about the Calvist ideology, but I've never heard this.
Apparently the concept of the "straw man argument" has never been explained fully to the author of this review or the book. This definition of biblical literalism that supposedly denies the possibility of metaphorical or other poetic constructions does not reflect the actual interpretation of any literalist that I have ever met. It's easy to knock down your opponents when you can raise up false representations of their real arguments.
Yep. Gotta watch out for those sneaky Christians who believe the Bible means what it says. Better to let an intermediary (priest) tell you what's important.
Funny, I don't see the difference between the sermon and the homily. Seems to be several bible readings in the mass as well. Give me a denomination that doesn't try to tell you what is important.
Sure am glad God hates religion.
Praise God, my judgment has been paid, by an itenerant Jewish Preacher 2000 years ago.
We will all be judged by the Creator. I shall pray for you, sir.
I'm serious, I get very, very nervous whenever some Christian weirdo says he'll pray for me. You don't know me! I may not be worth praying for! And I promise you, guarantee you 100% that it will be a waste of your time.
How about, "Context"?
I bought Triumph last week and have only read a couple sections, but it looks good. I am trying to slog through Kamen's Spanish Inquisition first.
Listen, we all have our own versions of "The Truth." What Christians fail to understand historically and repeatedly is that their version of The Truth is not universal and shared by everyone. Please proselytize to, and pray for, somebody else.
The available evidence seems to me to imply the opposite. I'll stipulate that North America, and especially the U.S., is the global home and font of Biblical Christianity and evangelism by same. But Christianity is alive and well in North America, and increasingly a museum relic in Europe.
In other lands outside Europe, much of the conversion to Christianity is to the non-liturgical Protestant variety (although, to be fair, Catholicism is expanding in Asia, if not as rapidly). But within Catholic Latin America there seems to be a great movement afoot (from what I've read, anyway) into evangelical sects.
Evangelical Christianity is thus growing spectacularly worldwide and taking believers from Catholicism, even as the single place where evangelical beliefs are strongest - the U.S. - is the single place in First World "Christendom" where Christianity is actually vibrant. The author seems to have it backwards, from what I can see.
You flatter yourself!
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