This is not going to be a post going down the path of pointing out the horrors visited upon the world due to the Jude0-Christian religion, for that one just needs to open a Western History book, or catch the current events in the Middle East. No, this is a reflection on the understanding of the Holy Mystery over the past 6,000 years since Oral tradition shared the story of Abram and Sarai’s call.
See it was a tribal religion when it began, steeped in the oral tradition for thousands of years. Stories shared to understand the how and why of the world (currently our world’s meta-narrative is science). That is where the truth lay, in the story and understanding one’s own life. This tribal oral tradition eventually codified into the Hebrew Bible texts. Through this there is thousands of sects of Judaism the 3 most common known post-World War II are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Yet before the distruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE there was a few more famous sects: Pharisees, Saduccees, Zealots, and Essenes. Inspired by their culture’s meta-narrative of the Holy Mystery.
This meta-narrative under the Roman Empire’s occupation bread many messiahs, the most notable for the transformation of the world being the peasant labourer Rabbi born out of wedlock, Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings would inpsire a fifth way within the Temple that would go on to become its own religion: Christianity thanks mostly in part to the winning writings of Paul of Tarsus. In the 300’s Constantine became Emperor of Rome and shrewdly knew poltiically monotheism would allow for better control than many gods, and made Christianity the Empire’s Religion.
So as he forced a Canon of the “holy Scriptures” three hundred years of mystery, Gnosticism and variance vanished from the world.
In 1054 CE a schism shattered Christendom as the Pope of Rome and Patriarch of the East drew the line in the sand for power and control of the people and mutually excommunicated one another.
Over the next 500ish years mystics in both traditions would found Religious orders to get to the heart of the Holy Mystery and free the people from religious oppression. Most notably being the Mystics of Assisi: Clare & Francis; the Jesuits, etc. This period would also show the territortial might of another tradition shared through Abram and Sarai, that being Islam and the Qu’ran which would lead to many Crusades to be fought for control of the Holy Land (kinda like today).
Yet in the 1500’s CE a perfect storm would brew with the rise of indulgences in the West, Kings wanting control over their own kingdoms and church lands, the printing press, and coming through the Bubonic Plague that saw 30% of the population wiped out and saw clerics preach it as God’s wrath for sin yet even clergy were wiped out by it. The people were not ea
ting the pablum no more.
Enter the Reformation which would shatter the Vatican’s political control outside of Rome and see 8 books stripped from the Holy Bible to bring the number to 66, not to mention the rise of the state church that saw Kings decried to be ruling by divine right in Germany (Lutheran); Switzerland (Zwingli); England (Church of England; Cramner, Henry the 8th) to name but a few.
This period would see the craziness of multiple denominations establish through the next four hundred years, each with their own flavour and understanding, and the strongest defining belief being that they were not “Papists”. Unique movements of note being Calvinists; Anabaptists; Methodists; Quakers (Society of Friends).
Within Islam there grew synergy with already exisiting Middle Easter Mystics known as the Sufi Movements.
There was also the rise of what is colloquial known as Mormons in 1830-known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, with the mystic Joseph Smith.
Then there was the broad strokes of Christian Science, which diverged into many paths today encapsulated under the banner of “New Thought”. Those being Church of Christ Scientist; Divine Science; Religious Science; Science of Mind and Unity to name but a few.
Within both Islam and Christianity univeralism gained footholds and specific expressions: Bahai; Universalist; Unitarian-the last two would merge mid-20th Century.
Also the 1900’s saw the launch of the Salvation Army, a militaristic structured church for social outreach and impact. It also saw the rise and decline and re-rise of the Social Gospel which later in the century would return as Red Letter Christians or Liberation Theology. As well as the Catholic Worker’s Movement synergy with the Labour Movement in the 1900’s and the collective living movements.
These are simple broad strokes to reflect on the history of a faith tradition that has shaped the Western World, where will it take it next?
Where will it take you?
How does your own faith journey tie into the journey Abram’s people?