Today has been a day of celebration in the Catholic Church, the day The Common Man and his mackerel snapping brethren commemorate the founding and continued existence of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the official papal church in Rome. The Basilica was founded in the fourth century, and was originally a gift of Emperor Constantine I. It is, by all accounts, a wondrous building with a unique architecture that the world is lucky is still standing.
Indeed, sometimes The Common Man has a hard time believing Christianity is still standing after 2000 years. After all, Christian churches have, throughout their existence, brought a large amount of suffering on themselves with their schisms, their wars, their persecutions. If it weren't for the awesome guy who founded it, The Common Man thinks that it may well have gone by the wayside years ago.
And, as if to confirm that is the miracle of Christianity's continued existence, comes this CNN story out of Jerusalem. In preparation for a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks were engaged in negotiations for who would be in the procession. When negotiations broke down, Israeli police had to be called in to break up the ensuing battle royale.
It was Brother against Brother in some monk on monk violence as, apparently, dozens of holy men scrapped over who had the right to enter the church. The Armenians, commemorating the discovery of a relic they believe to be the cross of Christ's Crucifixion, wanted to get into the church, built on what many believe is the site of Christ's Crucifixion and resurrection. The Greek Orthodox monks, who are claiming some kind of right to the church and the site, wanted to ensure that the Armenians couldn't make any claim on the site for themselves. According to one Greek Orthodox monk, "We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through ... and establish a right that they don't have."
Think about that for a moment. Two thousand years after Christ's church was founded, the various factions are fighting in the street over who owns his church. Indeed, this petty infighting saddens The Common Man, as it trivializes Christ's sacrifice and desire for his church to be one. And it only gives the entire name of Christianity a bad name. In a time when Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs, how can Christians persecute themselves? Particularly when the rabble beating the snot out of each other is composed entirely of men who are supposed to be holy.
And the really terrible thing is, you know it was a terrible fight. After all, we're talking about Christian monks. Were these Shaolin monks, a bunch of monks fighting in the street would be awesome (and directed by Ang Lee). Instead, you got a bunch of scraggly, scrawny, bearded buys tugging said beards as hard as they can. That there is not fighting that pleases the Lord. Rather, it's the fighting that makes the Lord wish he were only selectively omnipotent, so he wouldn't have to know about it.
Their sissy-fighting has turned one of Christianity's greatest churches into a commodity that must be possessed, not honored and revered. And in doing so, commodifies both the death and resurrection of Christ. Then again, after 2000 years of bloodshed, maybe that's the Christianity that Christianity deserves.