In Wars Over Faith Everyone Loses
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
5th Sunday of Easter
Hellenists vs. Hebrews: the thought sets few hearts racing now but in the years after Jesus’ execution and resurrection this was the Christian community’s culture war.
The Hellenists were Christians comfortable with opening the new faith to the influences of the world beyond Judea and traditional Judaism (Rome governed the Western world; Greece (Hellas) was the touchstone of culture.). The Hebrews were folks convinced that Christianity had to preserve its Jewish morality and mores unsullied by outside influences. Though both groups found Jesus and his Way attractive and wanted to follow him, they fought mightily over the heart and soul of the infant community. Ultimately the Hellenists triumphed and Jesus’ revelation adopted the language and ways of people beyond the confines and history of Judea. The development made our understanding of faith possible. But the ancient Church’s choice came with great cost.
For over fifteen centuries a feel for the world in which Jesus lived and taught vanished from Western Christianity. His worldview and key ideas were foreign to our faith experience. God’s Reign, being a son of God, even the understanding of words like body and blood lost the sense that would have come naturally to Jesus and his peers. The modern rediscovery of Jesus’ milieu and the revelation couched in its terms is the fruit of today’s intense scriptural and historical study. That research made much of what we cherish in the teaching of Vatican II possible.
In high school my history teacher never tired of drumming into us that the first casualty of war is truth. It’s not simply that each side lies to present itself as good and right. It’s also that both sides are fighting for a point of view, an experience of life that they value and history rarely gets a chance to know the experience – the truth – of the losers.
It’s difficult to see the truth imbedded in a point of view that we are fighting to overcome. Still, it’s important to ask how we might impoverish ourselves when we strive to vanquish our enemies and their vision of life. What truth will our victory kill?