Monday, March 8, 2010


"The Last Judgement," facade tympanum, church of St. Michel, Dijon, France. Attributed to Hugues Sambin, fl c 1540.

In 1209 some 10,000 French Crusaders descended on the town of Beziers in Languedoc in southern France. They burned the town and slaughtered all the inhabitants - perhaps twenty thousand people. Captured prisoners were tortured, their eyes gouged out and their lips, noses and ears cut off before being killed. Even those sheltering in churches for sanctuary were killed. Simon de Montfort, one of the Crusade leaders, justified the killing of fellow Christians by saying "Tuez les tous, le Dieu reconnaitra les siens," - or Kill them all. God will know his own.

This was the Albigensian Crusade, so called because the people who lived in the area around the town of Albi belonged to a sect that believed that the corporeal world was tainted and evil, and that the Roman Catholic Church, with its opulence and wealth and its privileged, politically powerful leaders, was a manifestation of that evil.

Over the 50 years, with the blessing of Pope Gregory IX, Crusaders occupied the Languedoc and conducted an Inquisition that killed over a million people.

The victims were not pagans, atheists, or members of another religion. They were Christians who, observing the corruption and worldliness of the people who held power in the church, turned away from it. For this crime of apostacy, their brethren massacred them.

Vezelay Abbey, facade

History is full of tales about the persecution of apostates. And it's not just Christians - almost all of the world's religions have a history of treating those who abandon their faith with hatred, scorn, and cruelty.

This kind of thing still goes on today, and even when not on such a horrific level, it's still ugly. I recently saw an example of it when a writer I know and respect wrote a guest post at a blog about teaching. Her post was about teaching your children about religion.

She wrote that she had been raised in a certain religious faith, but that as a young teen, she had begun to doubt, observing the inequities of power within the church. Later as a young woman, her growing disenchantment caused her to leave her faith.

She told this as background for her teaching her kids about all the world's religions, so they could explore and make their own decisions. Then she told how her daughter, hungering for more, made her own spiritual journey and found faith on her own despite her mother's agnosticism.

It was a moving and beautiful post, and most responses to it were civil. There was some dissent, of course. A few took offense at what they felt was a negative view of their faith. Some respectfully pointed out what they saw as her error. Some reacted with anger, claiming she was "bashing" their church. Some condescendingly disparaged her lack of devotion and faith, and suggested she was a weak person. Yet others called her a bad parent, and a poor example to her children. Still others demanded that her post be removed and that she never be allowed to write again.

But hey - it's the blogosphere. Controversies can rage in the comments section of blogs. The blog administrator moderated the comments, deleting the nasty ones.

Only it didn't stop there. The anger pursued the author to her own blog. Soon nasty things began to appear in the comment section of completely unrelated posts. Bible verses appeared, warning against damnation in the afterlife. There were namecalling, insults about her appearance, warnings to her family, and libelous accusations.

Notre Dame de Paris facade - figure represents "The Church."

The furor was surprising. Even though internet anonymity often spurs people to say things they would never say in person, it surprised me how nasty it was, and for such a minor offense. How could one brief account of someone's personal decision inspire such ugliness? The original post didn't condemn others who remained in the faith; it didn't try to convince others to follow her example; it didn't quarrel with the doctrine - all it said was "I've left the faith, myself."

And what banal, petty ugliness, too! One person, expressing glee at the opportunity to post on the forum, wrote:

"goodie! it seems like us early birds won't be deleted so soon. "

then went on to excoriate the author for being "rude" and called her stupid.

"goodie"? Tell me, please, what motivates someone who claims to believe in the teachings of Christ, to express such pleasure at being given an opportunity to say hurtful things to another person? Why the joy at being able to express hate?

Notre Dame de Paris - chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Hatred of apostates has resulted in oceans of blood spilt over the centuries. What God would want that done in His name?

"...I by my works will show you my faith." - James 2:18

What are you showing us about your faith, "goodie"?


mo.stoneskin said...

When people use Bible quotes in a graceless, vicious way it makes me angry.

Middle Aged Woman said...

It was very difficult for me to be civil there, but I think I was, in defense of our mutual friend.


Sheesh! I'm glad I missed that whole mess. I look forward to a recap. The internet is a wonderful thing. I would hate to see any restrictions. I've experienced readers taking my typed words in a completely different tone than was offered. In fact, I was shocked by some reactions. Nevertheless, I don't believe the offender(s) should be treated bruatlly. Showing them Christlike examples may be the very best way to convince them how to behave.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Our right wing believes in Supply Side Jesus.

Because that's what floats their pocketbooks.

Queenly Things said...

I am always appalled at behavior that some folks will qualify as Christian. Lord have mercy!!!

Anonymous said...

I missed the ugliness at the WC, but I read the post at the other site, and there was certainly plenty of ugly there. I've been thinking a lot lately about why we're all so mad at each other - seriously, it occurs to me (often belatedly) I don't have that kind of time. Nor the spirit for it.

People had to go out of their way, intellectually and doctrinally, to find offense with anything in the post. Again with the cyber-yelling....

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Simply horrible, and, in the case of persons in small towns and/or isolated social circumstances, the truly threatening phenomenon of "shunning" can make one's life untenable.

God, protect us from your followers, amen.

Gilly said...

There is nothing so terrible and cruel and a self-righteous person who believes themselves to be Christian, and have a calling to correct others.

Jesus himself said that we will know the real good ones "by their fruit" Matthew 7:16 since you ask ;)

Funny sort of fruit some 'Christians' produce!

Life with Kaishon said...

Wow. This was a profound post.
I hope when I live my life every day people can see Jesus. That is what I hope.

I am sorry there are unkind people out there. It is unfortunate. Some people just seem to love to fight.