Is the Bible the word of God or manmade? A Kenyan minister and I were debating that point on Facebook, recently. During the course of our exchange, I pointed out European missionaries had brought Christianity to Africa. For some reason he refused to accept that reality and the documentation I provided. “I follow my own interpretation of the Bible,” he insisted. Naturally, I smiled into my computer screen. “You’ve made my point. Religion is ‘manmade’.”
He unfriended me soon after. My sin was that I had spoken the truth. I have no regrets. If religion can assume as many shades of truth as a chameleon, I’m not to blame. When Martin Luther split from the Catholic Church, giving rise to Lutherans, other protests followed and went all the way to Kenya where a pastor admits he preaches his own interpretation of God’s word.
Day by day, the Mother Church continues to show cracks. Pop Benedict, though he resigned from his holy office, continues to reside at the Vatican. From his elaborate apartment at the center of politics, he strives to protect conservative views that conflict with the teaching of the left leanings Pope Francis. “Pope Versus Pope,” by John Cornwell, Vanity Fair, October 2018, pgs. 135-139, 159-161)
Why Pope Benedict retired if he still wishes to hold influence is a mystery. Some speculate he may have had intentions to resign even before he took office. They point to the construction of his apartment and his selection of trusted friends to hold high holy offices, friends who continue to be a source to him.
Perhaps all the pedophile scandals, the lawsuits that followed and serious questions about the financial dealings of the Vatican bank were distractions Benedict had no wish to face, believing his role was to serve as the protector of conservative doctrine. (Ibid pg. 160) We may never know his reason. But his conduct behind the scenes suggests two Popes rule in the Vatican.
I’m not sure how spiritual life got so complicated. I am sure humans are to blame. Where money and power reside, aspirations both good and bad will converge. I think it’s wise to remember God, if a deity exists, brought us into the world naked. All the palaces, silks and ermine robes are human embellishments.
People who believe spiritual truth comes in a direct line from God to the church, whatever its denomination, know little of history and understand even less of human vanity.