For more than a decade, events in the Middle East have dominated American foreign policy and news media programming. Current events in the region has animated the world and portends a global conflagration that some equate with ancient bible end of days prophesy. In this context the expanding war in Middle East, North Africa and Nigeria is being positioned in some quarters as being between Christianity and Islam. In our conversation about these unfolding events we hope to generate some perspective and understanding regarding competing interests and dynamics in the region.
The impetus of this dynamic situation according to many was the “Arab Spring” which began in Tunisia in 2011, and it spread to other countries. The “Arab Spring” emerged in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, etc. The Arab Spring in Tunisia developed into a best case scenario as democratic and economic reforms were established and the country is currently experiencing a prosperous trajectory. On the other hand the governments in other countries repressed the “Arab Spring” with dubious results. For example, in Egypt the military component re-emerged and the democratically elected president was deposed in a coup. Indigenous revolutionaries deposed the government in Yemen, and it is now called a failed state. The United States, et al, invaded Iraq and Libya deposing their respective leaders, but Arab revolutionaries in the neighborhood has successfully challenged the western geo-political design…
The “Islamic State” and ISIL are the latest incarnation of the Arab Spring revolutionaries together with the Syrian anti-government forces and Iraqi anti-American forces have taken over much of the real estate in Syria and Iraq. These extremist Sunni-Muslim forces are expending and grabbing territory in the Middle East, and are networking with other extremists in North Africa, Yemen, Somalia, and Nigeria. In the United States and the western world, this escalating Asymmetrical warfare is being portrayed as a war of Islam against America and the west by some, while others posit that it is a war between Christianity and Islam that, and that war is inevitable… Still others resist the notion of a war between Christianity and Islam, and offer nuanced assessments and analysis. Our conversation will offer context and historical perspective to this perplexing conundrum…
From the outset, we need to appreciate that the Middle East, such as the borders and countries that exist today, were determined by the British and French following WWI, with the United States playing a supportive role. Palestine was than a protectorate of the British under the Belfour Declaration and was not yet partitioned to accommodate the State of Israel. The British also established a formal supportive relationship with the House of Saud, and the Kingdom Saudi Arabia. The French controlled Syria and its contiguous lands. During WWI, the Ottoman Empire controlled much of the Middle East region, and as an ally of Germany, the Ottoman Empire lost it real estate holdings in the Middle East as America, British and French were the unequivocal victors of WWI. The famous “Lawrence of Arabia” on behalf of the British was the interlocutor that was critical to establishing the hegemony of Saud in the region. British forces and the French Foreign Legion document their colorful history in the Middle East.
In addition to the Belfour Declaration, and the establishment of Saudi Arabia’s hegemony in the region, the countries of Iraq and Iran are central to the dynamic in the Middle East that should not be understated and underestimated. Iran was formally known as the Persian Empire, while Iraq is the former Mesopotamia and both countries enjoy an ancient and consequential history of 5000 years plus. On the contrary the longevity of the United States and Europe is dwarfed by that of Persia and Mesopotamia. The significance of this distinction should not be underestimated, going forward. The contemporary boundaries and political facts on the ground in the Middle East are imposed and enforced by America and the west has existed for 100 years and the boundaries seem now to be melting down currently. The one hundred year design of the Middle East is melting down because the established allies of the western powers with its strong man rule is passé as the populations directly impacted by these autocratic and repressive rule are in revolt, and the region is virtually at war. The so-called “Islamic State” is headquartered in Syria and the traditional borders that distinguishes Syria from Iraq, is none existent as a practical matter. The fighting forces of ISIS currently hold a large swath of territory that overlaps both countries. The military forces of ISIS in Syria and Iraq are engaged in a war with reportedly a coalition of 50 odd countries under the leadership of America and the west, and they seem to be holding their own. Moreover, the ISIS brand of terrorism is being franchised as other extremist Muslim groups in other countries are pledging allegiance to the ISIS objective, and Asymmetrical warfare operatives of various strips are targeting the homelands in America and Europe.
Is ISIS at war with America and the west? Is the often referenced war between Christianity and Islam what’s up in the Middle East? Alternatively, are there other different and compelling narratives? Is there a persuasive argument beyond the western conventional geo-political wisdom?
If we extrapolate from the “Arab Spring” we observe that the indigenous populations in the respective Arab countries it is clear that there is chasm between the strong arm, monarchal ruling class and the local populations. This chasm can be characterized by economic disenfranchisement and lack of opportunities, education, and lack of a health and social service infrastructure. Hence, for the past 100 years the ruling super class of western impacted countries of the Middle East have alienated and deprived their indigenous population. ISIS as an outgrowth of organic revolutionary forces have noted the legacy of the super ruling class and they (ISIS) are diametrically opposed to the century old ruling paradigm that is enabled and supported by America and Western powers. Specifically, the “emerging Islamic State” wants to remove America and the west from the region and to destroy their economic and geo-political hegemony. In this context the forces of ISIS are seeking to remove the Arab allies of the west from control of Middle East countries that comprise the status quo in the region.
Therefore, the primary objective of ISIS is to reclaim control of the region from despotic Arab leaders that rule target countries in the Middle East who are political clients of America and the west. Consequently, a cogent political argument can be made that the primary military objective of the so-called Islamic State is to remove and destroy the control of America and the west enjoy, by way of their client leadership on the ground. Hence, the “Islamic State” is not at war with America, et al, their objective is to control their own piece of ground. The question as to whether the “Islamic State” envisages that they are precipitating a war between Christianity and Islam is a fair question that begs exploration, and response. There are several moving parts to this question therefore we will endeavor to examine the various moving parts associated with the question. The first moving part to be examined is, to what extent does ISIS or ISIL, if you will, represent the religion of Islam? This relevant question is perhaps the most fundamental moving part.
It is clear that the “Islamic State” is comprised of Sunni-Muslim extremist a sect of Sunni Islam, and there are many other sects that constitute world Islam. Unfortunately the House of Saud, the Sunni Muslim hegemonic power in the region for the past 100 has been in a tricky relationship with the West, Israel and oil. The “Islamic State” and their military initiative is an Arab phenomenon, and their religious theology is a sect of Sunni-Islam. The ruling elite of the target countries in the region supported by the west are all Sunni Muslims. For example, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are Sunni Muslims countries. Obviously, ISIS murders many Muslims including Sunni’s, therefore, the forces of ISIS murder Muslims, Christians and others without discrimination. Therefore, ISIS represents an extremist sect of Sunni-Islam, and Sunni Islam is but one tradition of Islam.
While Sunni-Islam is a well established sect of the religion, there exist a fundamental juxtaposition between Sunni Islam and Shea Islam. The Sunni vs. Shea juxtaposition is an ancient schism that occurred following the death of the prophet Muhammad. The controversy is based on the nature of succession which presented a dichotomy between those that held that the successor must be a blood relative and those that support the alternative position. Hence, following the passing of Prophet Muhammad a schism in Islam occurred that divided Sunni and Shea. This dichotomy continues to animate and dominate the internal dynamic of the Islamic faith. Despite this ancient sectarian internal dynamic Islam spread throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia. Moreover, in addition to the proliferation of the theology of Islam around the world, there was a concomitant conquering of territories and countries.
Interestingly enough, the growth, development a conquests by the forces of Islam occurred within the footprint of the Roman Empire which heretofore, was the occupying power in the Middle East during the period. Nevertheless, following the advent of Islam, Arab Muslims reclaimed their indigenous territory, and conquered Egypt and the country became Arabic ethnically. Also, in the 8th century, the forces of Islam by way of North Africa (Hannibal), conquered Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and they subsequently invaded and conquered Spain and ruled it for 700 years until 1492, when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in conjunction with the papacy regained control of Spain.
Therefore, from the 8th century to the 15th century Islam and Christianity represented the powers in control of the known world, as the church and state were one in the same. As a practical matter, there was no separation between church and state in the western world at this time. Separation of church and state was ushered in following the Protestant Reformation 5 centuries ago. When Charlemagne became the Emperor of Rome in the 800’s he formally declared himself as Emperor of the “Holy Roman Empire.” During this period Christendom in the West and Islam, by way of the Arabs, North Africans and the Ottoman Empire, competing for relative economic and political domination in target countries in region of the world. Secular government and the separation between church and state occurred in Europe in the 1600’s following the Protestant Reformation. Accordingly, separation of church and state, and secular government has existed in the western world for the past 500. During this period western hegemony of the trade routs, economics and geo-political control was consolidated in the Middle East, and other pertinent regions.
Consequently, there is a relevant back story and context to the current events that are unfolding in the world today. The back story articulates the dynamic role that Christianity (Protestantism) played under the umbrella of secular western government as they pursued the economic, strategic and geo-political objectives. From the 1600’s to the present, secular governments of Western Europe and the United States emerged and the concept of separation between church and state became the standard of modern civilization along with the elective process. During the 500 intervening years the European and American constitutional paradigm coupled with global industrial development ultimately dominated international trade routes, economic, military advancement and geo-politics.
Since the Christian Reformation in the west, Protestant Europe expanded and grew exponentially and ultimately gave birth to the United States of America in 1776. At the end of the day Catholics and Protestants embraced each other under the umbrella of religious tolerance and cooperated despite their perennial rivalries for the purpose of world domination. Although the rivalries among respective European powers continued to be colorful and provocative, Europeans cooperated in order to achieve their collective economic and geo-political objectives. Also, during the intervening centuries the religion of Islam grew in popularity to the extent that both Christianity and Islam share the approximately 3 billion adherents in the world. It is important to note that Arab Muslims represents a small minority of the faithful because other ethnic groups have outpaced the growth in the Arab world by far.Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country as they outnumber all the Arab Muslims in the Gulf States put together. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey has significant Muslim populations, and according to recent reports, Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. In short, Islam is in fact a major religion in the world.
But the perception persists that Christianity and Islam are at war, notwithstanding myriad arguments to the contrary. The fact remains that there are compelling and persuasive arguments that are advanced on both sides of the issue. With this dichotomy in view, we will reference some points that are generally not mentioned in the framework of one position or the other. We’re going to examine the perception that there is a war between Christianity and Islam by way of exploring the origin and overlapping aspects of these two religions. There is a symbiosis and familial component that connects Christianity and Islam that must not be overlooked or made light of as we consider them. There exists a theological as well as a familial connection between Christianity and Islam because both faiths are monotheistic religions that acknowledge the same origin in the framework of their acknowledged patriarch, the Prophet Abraham.
As a matter of fact there are three religions of Abraham, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and they represent a historical procession with Islam being the youngest of the three religions having its advent in the 7th century by way of the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran, Islam’s holy book, acknowledges its origins in terms of the patriarch and the assertion that Moses, and Jesus are Prophets that preceded the advent of Islam. Additionally the Quran holds Mary the mother of Jesus in high esteem and the Muslim holy book also mentions the union between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon which is also recorded in 1 Kings of the Old Testament. Hence, stories in the Quran and the Bible reference similar prophets, characters, stories, and scenarios. Moreover, while the Quran was reportedly revealed to Muhammad by God, it was the arch angel Gabriel who was the intermediary between God and Muhammad that facilitated the Quran’s revelation to Muhammad.
These various points are salient factors that confirm the fundamental connection and overlap that characterizes the unequivocal connections between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. More particularly, Abraham had two sons one was Isaac whose familial line established Christianity, and there is Ishmael, the other son of Abraham whose familial line established Islam… Consequently, if there is a war between Christianity and Islam, the founding and heritage of both religions indicate that the war is a family affair. But the family internal dynamic is rooted in Judaic theology as represented by Cain and Able, the sons of Adam and Eve. The back story relative to the religions of Abraham (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is replete with the familial dynamic. Interestingly enough, the family dynamic is established by the findings of current science which confirms that human beings represent one race, only. This singular finding and observation by religion and science has far reaching implications as it relates to human nature, and man’s inhumanity to man… Perhaps human nature such as it is, represents the fundamental problem and not the so-called war between Christianity and Islam.
Unfortunately, the level human nature such as it is, coupled with subjective objectives associated with the promotion of revisionist religious and secular history continues to obscure salient historical facts. Much of the historical revisionism has airbrushed critical and inconvenient information out of the conventional popular narrative. But as a practical matter human nature may be the smoking gun that has compromised the truth and colored the political facts on the ground that the majority of us consume and regurgitate. Accordingly, I’m never comfortable signing on to conventional wisdom and popular narrative associated the status quo and unfolding current events in the world. It is not difficult for me to imagine the relative issues that formulate the foreign policy of America, et al, which is based on the argument of safeguarding and protecting their economic and strategic interest in the region. Therefore, I’m not surprised by the various presentations justifying the presence of the west in the region.
On the other hand, the indigenous populations in the target countries apparently have a legitimate grievance with their local rulers based on a century of repression, and economic and political disenfranchisement. The disenfranchised are challenging their rulers, who are enabled by western allies, and who are Sunni Muslims. The Islamic State is comprised of local and organic Sunni-extremists that are prepared to radically change the political facts in the ground in their respective neighborhood. In short, ISIS is Sunni-extremist Muslims and their mandate is rid their country of western assets, including the ruling Sunni Muslim super class. Hence, ISIS represents the unfolding internal dynamic within Sunni Islam in particular and world Islam in general. The United States and the western powers would be well advised not to fall into the quagmire of sectarian stiff which is the current state of Islam. Apparently, the west understands that they should not put military boots on the ground and be perceived as occupiers in foreign countries safeguarding and protecting their economic and strategic position.
It is worthy of note that the ruling super class are reluctant at best to put their army boots on the ground which may suggest that the rulers are wary of potential organic feedback which would ultimately position the ruling elite as assets of western imperialism. The religions of Abraham enjoy a very interesting history of reformation, which is well documented in Judaic and Christian history. The history of Christianity in the west in particular is based on the Protestant Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church, after about 1400 years. Subsequently, denominational Christianity has proliferated in the west, and new Protestant denominations continue to emerge. It has been about 1400 years since the advent of Islam, the most recent of the religions of Abraham, and we suspect that the current internal dynamic in Islam may ultimately lead to a fundamental reformation. Reformation is the only option to remediate the primordial schism between Sunni and Shea Islam.
The Sunni and Shea dichotomy also has an ethnic and culture dynamic in that Sunni Muslims in the Middle East are predominantly Arab, while the Shea Muslims in the region are Persian. In this context Sunni Muslims (Arabs) in Saudi Arabia and Shea Muslims (Persian) Iran are the two toughest big boys in the neighborhood and at the end of the day the toughest big boys in the neighborhood must work out the future.
Abounding complexities that underpin our modern world may be approaching the point of global conflagration, as the geo-political hegemony of the West is being challenged by indigenous regional peoples seeking self-determination, elected government, and in some instances seeking separation from western influences. The unfolding political facts on the ground in target countries referenced the popular phrase known as “Arab spring”, presently overwhelming the Middle East and North Africa in particular, are classic examples proliferating violence. But as a practical matter, a compelling argument can be made that virtually all regions of the world are experiencing turmoil of one sort or another… Apart from the myriad issues that inform and animate this calamitous international environment of conflicting nation states and insurgent forces, the problems are exacerbated and have become extremely virulent by the ancient and ignominious religious dimension. Interestingly enough, religion has often played a distinct role in the subtext and background of military and imperialistic undertakings of secular governments throughout early as well as contemporary history. More specifically, the perceived juxtaposition and popular narrative between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam continues to inform their respective adherents relative to the incompatibility with the others. At best, the concept of “religious tolerance” continues to be promoted broadly, yet over the centuries the phrase “religious tolerance” of others has proven to be engaging yet is utterly insufficient. Arrogance may have an organic connection to the word tolerance. Unfortunately, the quality and scope of “tolerance” can be undermined by the invisible energy of arrogance. Perhaps going forward, the concept of “religious tolerance” can be replaced with the phrase “religious appreciation.” The appreciation of another person’s religion, or other differences, does not suggest acceptance or belief in the others values. On the other hand, appreciation implies acknowledgement and respect to the extent of mutual co-existence. This writer is among those whom subscribe to the advent of religious appreciation in general as it embodies ecumenism which represents the noble quality in human beings.
With the popular religious juxtapositions as a subtext, secular governments in target regions, as well as geo-political players and insurgents, vociferously engage their political, economic, and military objectives. Needless to say, although the popular religious juxtapositions are individually challenged within their respective quarter with sectarian strife, they generally seem to ignore their internal challenges in favor pointing an accusatory finger at another religion… We can highlight Judaism, Christianity, and Islam with all their respective internal sectarian challenges, yet none of the three religions of Abraham – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, can tout their theological purity. Accordingly, the contemporary expression and observance of the respective three great religions are based on revisionist history which has caused schisms in each religion along sectarian lines. At this point in the 21st century, the only unequivocal connection that the respective religions have with their illustrious pasts is their unanimous assertion that the prophet Abraham is the patriarch of their religion – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Therefore if we take the historical word of the three monotheist religions, there is a familial relationship by way of their acknowledged patriarch. Moreover, the theology of monotheism asserts that all of humanity is the children of God. The Genesis narrative that the religions of Abraham observes and articulates, offers the familial account relative to the advent of humanity. Hence the essence of the disagreement among the three Faiths can be viewed in the framework of the family dynamic… Obviously much was lost in translating the historical procession of the religions of Abraham from Judaism to Christianity and than Islam. But the political facts on the ground in regions and countries, directly and indirectly impacted, speak to various levels of conflict based on religious divisions associated with popular revisionist renditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. With respect to the religious hyperbole associated with the escalating conflagration that seems to be consuming target regions and countries of the world, some will find it useful to examine the historical procession of the Abrahamic religions as they are generally understood and perceived. Perhaps the following cursory exposition of religion, in general and in the context of the historical relation between the contemporary church and state, may be useful in generating a broader appreciation and understanding of the dynamic factors that account for human affairs/events in the world, such as they are…
The earliest historical records of human society indicate an abiding inclination, if not proclivity in the human mind and imagination, toward a higher and invisible spiritual power… Accordingly, peoples in all regions of the world organized their communities around the place of worship in the framework of the temple. The temple and the priesthood became the center of early societies and communities. Consequently, religious leaders became the organic rulers of fledgling communities and thriving societies until the advent of the “king” and secular power, authority and government. The initial rivalry between priest and king on behalf of ruling the people morphed into a precarious courtship, if not marriage between the “church” and “state.” The colorful church and state relationship remained in place for millennia, until the advent of the America and federalism, which proclaims the separation of church and state. The separation of church and state idea was a product of an age of enlightenment which included the Protestant Reformation, the rise of objective science and reason, and the age of discovery in the Western world… The Protestant Reformation bifurcated Christianity into Catholics and Protestants, and the industrial development in the Western world generated enormous economic wealth in Europe and America. Ultimately, secular power, in the context of the military and economic component, totally eclipsed the influence of the church and religion in the material world, but the church enjoys a clear monopoly of the spiritual world without equivocation. Nevertheless, the relationship between church and state remains an intriguing enterprise as they modulate the status quo from respective vantage points… Secular public and private powers in the course of achieving relative military victories, territory, resources and raw material more often than not includes a religious context to their geo-political objectives. In ancient Rome, at the advent of Roman Catholicism in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine utilized the Faith as a theme for his manifold military forays and conquests of the known world. All the emperor’s military campaigns were in the name of advancing Christendom to the world. The Christian Crusades, authorized by the papacy during the 12th century, established the Knights Templar, a military wing of Christendom, mandated to reclaim the holy land that fell to Islam in the 8th century. More recently, President George W. Bush initially dubbed his intervention into Iraq as a “crusade” which resurrected an ancient West vs. East military confrontation between Christianity and Islam. Currently, in the wake of the “Arab spring,” North Africa and the Middle East are active theaters of military conflict, unconventional and asymmetrical warfare.
The adversarial juxtaposition that characterizes the historical relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam has its origins in antiquity. And this religious dichotomy continues to conveniently find its way into the popular narrative and backdrop of the competing geo-political objectives on the ground in target countries and regions. The escalating conflict in the Middle East is perhaps a classic example of what happens when artificial and arbitrary boundaries are imposed on a region and they begin to unravel… While Western powers continue to entertain strategic and tactical operational contingencies to contain the advances of indigenous Islamic military forces, others assert that the Western powers can only forestall that which is inevitable… Obviously, the outcome of the current chaos and mayhem percolating in the Middle East remains to be seen, but if history doesn’t repeat itself, it will most certainly display a rhythm and rhyme in the foreseeable future… The Middle East, as we know it in terms of the boundaries of countries and respective peoples of the region, came about 100 years ago based on the political and economic designs of the British and the French foreign ministries. This scenario was the outcome of the exploits of “Lawrence of Arabia” and the French Foreign Legion. The British and French segmentation of the region was codified following WWI, and the authority for countries comprising the Middle East was divided between Great Britain and France. The rest is a colorful and horrific history of authoritarian rule in the region based on the geo-political design of the West. Artificial boundaries are deteriorating, strongman rule enabled by Western powers has waned under the force of organic and indigenous uprisings, and the overall influence that the Western developed countries enjoyed with traditional regional leaders are no longer relevant.
But as we take a cursory survey of human affairs and events across the scope, breath, and intrigues in the ascent of civilization, diabolical, abominable, and utterly egregious acts and atrocities punctuate the procession of human history. Both secular and religious leadership can be sighted for engaging in the diabolical and abominable… But justice is anticipated in the secular as well as the spiritual world. It was a great man who posited that the moral arch of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. The question as to whether there will be appropriate accountability remains an open question. Based on end time eschatology, accountability and ultimate justice will prevail… Accordingly, an increasing amount of public opinion is arguing that world events as they are currently unfolding have profound biblical implications going forward…
Christianity enjoys a dramatic and chromatic history. Although events in Jerusalem set the stage for the growth and spread of this religion, Rome became the sine qua non for the religion in the western hemisphere and concomitantly in the world. Subsequent to the rise and establishment of Christianity in Rome, which occurred in 325 AD, Roman Catholics enjoyed an exclusive monopoly of the faith in Europe, until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. History records 16th century Europe as a dynamic period well known for the “Renaissance” “age of enlightenment” “doctrine of discovery” as well as for the bifurcation of Christianity into Catholics and Protestants.
The Roman Catholic Church and the respective Protestant denominations are the lenses by which the western world generally experiences and understands Christianity, but Christianity in the east offers a parallel developmental process. Orthodox Christianity a/k/a the Eastern Oriental Orthodox Christian Communion is observed in countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. This Eastern Orthodox line of the Christian faith predates the Church of Rome by 300 plus years. As such, it was the members of the Eastern Oriental Orthodox Christian Communion who represented the growing Christian community and who experienced the cruel and odious machinations of the Roman Empire as they persecuted Christians. It was not until 313 AD, by way of the Treaty of Milan, that Rome’s persecution of Christians came to an end. Subsequently, in 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine convened the first ecumenical council, (Council of Nicaea) that resulted in Rome’s 1200 year domination of Christianity. Emperor Constantine established Rome as the headquarters of the Church in the west, while positioning Constantinople as the capital of the Faith in the east.
Emperor Constantine was a self proclaimed convert to Christianity (312 AD) following his vision of the cross during his successful military campaign to unify Rome. The emperor credited his military victory to this vision of the cross which reportedly inspired him to accept the Faith. Emperor Constantine’s objective for convening the first ecumenical council was to consolidate the growing Christian religion under the domination of Rome. This was achieved following the Council of Nicaea, and the acceptance of the Nicene Creed was a requirement. The Eastern Orthodox bishops that did not submit to the domination of Rome, and its creed were branded heretical and excluded from remaining council proceedings and all future ecumenical councils. The irony of the new convert’s ability to convene a world ecumenical council including African, Asian and Middle Eastern bishops and require them to submit to Rome’s political domination and ecclesiastical hegemony is profound. Nevertheless, the Council of Nicaea is etched in the stone of ancient history as the advent of the Roman Catholic Church and the Christian faith in Europe. By way of military campaign’s Rome conquered Europe and the rest of the known world and proselytized the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church as well as imposing the Greco-Roman historical “master” narrative. Rome enjoyed an exclusive monopoly over the Christian religion until the 16th century when the Faith was bifurcated into Catholics and Protestants.
Prior to the advent of Roman Catholicism, Christianity was eclectic and diverse in its representation and expression in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. As the “fulfillment theology” associated with Judaic messianic expectation, the Faith was initially proselytized by priests of the Magi, the first worshipers of the infant Christ. Following their (the Magi’s) visitation with offerings of frankincense, myrrh and gold, each returned to his respective community and proselytized Faith. Three hundred years hence, when Emperor Constantine appropriated Christianity to help facilitate the military expansion of Rome, he consolidated the Faith under Rome’s religious creed and absolute earthy authority… In particular, Ethiopian bishops did not acquiesce to Roman domination and they (Ethiopian Bishops) also had irreconcilable ecclesiastical differences from Rome, relative to the nature of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the trinity, the infallibility of the pope, among other issues.
The various controversies that attended the Council of Nicaea are recorded in history as the “east vs. west schism.” It is the objective of the Balthazar Monastery to explore the parallel and divergent development of Christianity in both the east and west… In addition to this east – west dichotomy, early Christianity played a consequential role in the military conquests and growth of the Roman Empire. Imperial Rome ruled the entire known world under Christendom until the advent and growth of Islam was able to successfully challenge the land holdings of the Holy Roman Empire, during the 8th century in Egypt, Jerusalem and Spain in particular… Nevertheless, imperial Rome and the Holy See continued their efforts to “discover,” conquer and redefine the world, albeit with a level of competition in some regions from Islam. Specifically, Spain would be ruled for 700 years by the Moors (Islam) until Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand returned the country to Catholic authority in 1492. The Spanish royalty with the authority pope financed the exploits of Christopher Columbus, and subsequent discovery of the “New World.” Jerusalem was briefly reclaimed in the 12th century by the Knights Templar under the auspices of the papacy, for less than a century. Egypt on the other hand was lost to Islam and was ultimately absorbed by ethnic Arabs in the name of Islam.
The Papacy in conjunction with various European kings and queens continued their concerted efforts to “discover” and conquer lands occupied by so-called “heathens” and bring them under the rule of Rome’s Christendom, or to reclaim the territories (such as the Holy Land and Spain) that had been lost to them. Muslim’s conquered Jerusalem during the 8th century and retained control until the 12th century when it was briefly recaptured during the Crusades under the auspices of the pope. Only months after Christopher Columbus returned to Europe from his initial voyage to the “New World,” the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI gave Spain and Portugal a head-start in their quest for domination over these newly discovered regions. The Pope decreed that all lands discovered west of a meridian 100 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands would belong to Spain while new lands discovered east of that line would belong to Portugal. This papal instruction also specified that all lands already under the control of a “Christian prince” would remain under that same control. This established line made Portugal angry. King John II (the nephew of Prince Henry the Navigator) negotiated with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to move the line further to the west. King John’s rationale to Ferdinand and Isabella was that the Pope’s line extends all around the globe, thus limiting Spanish influence in Asia. On June 7, 1494 Spain and Portugal met at Tordesillas, Spain and signed a treaty that moved the line 270 leagues west, to 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. This new line gave Portugal, more claim to South America, yet also provided Portugal with automatic control over most of the Indian Ocean. While it would be several hundred years before the line of the Treaty of Tordesillas could be accurately determined (due to problems determining longitude), Portugal and Spain kept to their sides of the line quite well. Portugal ended up colonizing places like Brazil in South America and India and Macau in Asia. Brazil’s (Portuguese-speaking population is a result of the Treaty of Tordesillas). Portugal and Spain ignored the instruction from the Pope in enacting the treaty, but all was reconciled when Pope Julius II agreed to the change in 1506. Hence, the Papacy divided the “New World” between Spain and Portugal, as the first Colonial “masters” of the world.
Other European powers of the day such as Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, and the Dutch, had no land holdings in the “New World” and so they conspired with “pirates” to raid the territories and cargoes of Portugal and Spain. Ultimately by way of the Protestant Reformation the dissident European powers rejected the authority of the papacy. In the wake of the unfolding Protestant Reformation during the 16th century in England, the bifurcated European Christian powers rivaled each other as they scrambled for “New World” territories in order to derive wealth and power from the free labor of enslaved Africans. Going forward, the dynamic between Catholics and Protestants became the backdrop and design of the post 16th century world, particularly in the context of the expansion into the western hemisphere. In the spirit of the original Christian teachings Catholics and Protestants have essentially promoted “religious tolerance” among themselves, apart from a few fascinating and violent exceptions. In the secular framework, competing European powers have over the centuries collaborated and cooperated, despite their colorful internal rivalries and wars. Ultimately, the competing European secular powers united around their shared objectives to conquer and control the “New World” and the continent of Africa, in the name of Christendom.
The respective European colonialists respected each others holdings and economic interests in the “New World” during the trans-Atlantic trade of enslaved Africans, and treated their “human” property similarly. Following the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, these European powers cooperated and conspired as they undertook what is known in contemporary history as the “Scramble for Africa” (1876 – 1912). Subsequent to the Scramble, the Berlin Conference (1884) divided the territorial spoils of Africa, by petitioning thereby creating random boundaries and assigning various countries to the European “New World” colonial masters. Subsequently the Monroe Doctrine (20th century) ensured that the former colonial masters of the countries in the “New World” would remain in place, while promoting the virtues of “self-determination” for indigenous populations.
European secular governments, in the context of the “Western World,” have compatible geo-political visions. Although the respective European governments separate religion from state, they all espouse the Judeo-Christian ethic, in terms of Catholic and Protestant renditions of Christianity. The religious leaders of the western world, vis-à-vis, the pope, archbishop of Canterbury, and the respective bishops that lead the faithful in denominational Christianity generally share a coherent world view. Both the religious leadership and the secular leadership in the western world have demonstrated a symbiosis throughout the history of the Roman Catholic and Protestant global narrative.
There is intriguing irony though, with respect to Ethiopia… Ethiopia is the only African country that has not been colonized by European powers during the 19th century. Moreover, Ethiopia did not submit to Rome’s religious domination during the 4th century in the context of the ancient east – west schism. Although, ancient Ethiopia has a well documented Judeo-Christian heritage and tradition predating the advent of the Church of Rome, Ethiopian Christianity was nevertheless was branded heretical. Therefore Ethiopian Christianity remained isolated from European influences until the 20th century. In both instances (secular and religious) it can be persuasively argued that Ethiopia has proven to be indomitable and unique…
Catholics and Protestants currently share the world Christian demographic which numbers just above two billion, and about 15 to 20 percent of the world’s Christian populations are observers of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, in which Ethiopia is in communion with. The accommodation between Catholics and Protestants is organic as they both observe similar holidays and Holy days, and they both utilize the Gregorian calendar, which observes Christmas Day on December 25. On the other hand, Orthodox Christians utilize the Julian calendar which observes Christmas Day, on January 6, of the year.
Over the centuries there has been much speculation as to “what if” Ethiopia’s biblical canon, and Judeo-Christian narrative was not excluded from the popular western canon of scripture… Due to Rome’s domination of the growing Christian religion, the Greek translation of the original Hebrew scripture was translated into Latin. This Latin translation became the translation that converted European countries to Roman Catholicism, under the authority of the papacy. Following the Protestant Reformation, the Latin version was translated into English and made accessible to the common person, thus breaking Roman monopoly of the Christian word. From King Henry VIII, to the King James version, the English translation proliferated throughout Europe and the known world. What if the fathers of the Roman Church had retained all the books in the original Hebrew Bible, as opposed to removing 15 books from the 81 books?
At the point of the first ecumenical council (325 AD), the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had already established 81 books of Judeo-Christian Hebrew scripture. It is not hard to imagine that the Roman Catholic Church decided to include 66 Books in the Latin translation because that choice offered an introductory narrative for establishing Roman Catholic dominance of Christianity. It is conceivable that if Ethiopia had not been unequivocally disconnected from the Roman Christian dispensation, the economic, social and cultural subjugation of African people by way of the “master” narrative may have been virtually impossible to achieve… Instead, the Roman Catholic Church formulated a Greco-Roman narrative that established Rome’s religious and secular origins and world view…The Roman Catholic Church fathers and historians formulated a revisionist Greco-Roman historical narrative that established and promoted Rome’s religious as well as secular origins and world view…
The Greek poet and historian Homer, in his classic book The Iliad, was unequivocal as to whom he revered and received great learning from. Homer credited the Egyptians for much of his education, and referred to Ethiopia, and Ethiopians with divine attributes, vis-à-vis, the land of Punt (Land of God)… Some suggest that if the Ethiopian component was included in the Latin Canon of Scripture it would have made it difficult, if not impossible to impose a multi-race narrative and social construct contrived to position Africans, and black people as less than human. The advent of the “Negro” as an inferior race of humans, the trans-Atlantic trade of enslaved Africans would likely not have been industrialized and institutionalized to the extent that it has.