Stephen’s speech to the religious leaders seems to focus on the way the people have traditionally responded to God’s chosen ones, like Joseph and Moses … disrespectfully, sometimes violently … as they did also with Jesus. He brings up, too, the idea tha the man-made temple can’t really house God. It’s as if Stephen is telling them that they never really got the God thing right, despite helpful hints from the prophets along the way … ouch!

It’s not so surprising that things go downhill from here. No one likes to hear they’ve been wrong, whether they’re wrong or not. This reminds me of someone Meredith mentioned here once – Matthew Fox, a priest dismissed from the Dominican Order for his break with official teachings. About a year ago, he nailed some criticisms of the catholic church on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, like Luther. How can a religious institution determine whether it should listen to dissent and accept change, or should get rid of the dissenter and preserve its status quo?


4 responses

  1. I think religion by its nature tends to be a conserving institution — change is always seen as devaition from The Truth. Once the dissenter is dead it becomes safe to integrate the dissenter’s message into the body of official teachings. Most of the complaints Luther had against the Catholic Church have been integrated into catholic practice. When was the last time you saw somebody selling papal indulgences on the street corner?What it comes down to is this — most of the time — the only good (or safe) saint is a dead saint. Human beings can be awfully slow learners.

  2. It’s interesting that you bring up indulgences. I just read an article at the Tablet about how the new Pope has brought them back 🙂

  3. Thank you Crystal — I stand corrected in the amtter of Papal indulgences — unfortunately.My only hope is he doesn’t start auctioning them off on eBay.

  4. How can a person live with integrity or steal? Crystal, that’s the answer to your question as I see it. Institutions are just aggregations of people.A tired old tape is appropriate here once again. Constantine ordained that we must all believe the same thing; departure from the “same thing” became punishable by burning, drowning, etc. We’re a little better now; we just ostracize the person who departs from our conventions. Who has integrity? the conformist or the dissenter? We all live our answer to that question.

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