Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reflection - How the Irish Saved Civilization – Thomas Cahill

First, I did not know that civilization was particularly doomed at one certain point in history. I know civilization always seems to be on the brink but I never figured there was one point in time where history as I know it would not exist. Now that I think of it there are many times where my current context hung in the balance. The battles between the Greeks and Trojans, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Korean War, I guess these are all things that have shaped my context and made my world what it is today, but the fact that historical Christianity would have been totally lost if it were not for the people of Ireland it quite remarkable.

An image I picked up early in the book and something that I believe effects my ministry directly is the example, or non-example, of Ausonius. Churches, like Ausonius and more recently the financial institutions of America, sometimes become too big to fail. Not even the churches themselves, but their ministries and ideologies get so comfortable with what they do that two things happen: they lose touch with the climate of the outside world and they become embedded in their methodologies. I my short life time I have seen church after church fall victim to self important mentality (Children's security? Why would we need that? Everyone knows everyone!), disregarding their direct physical community and surroundings and just feeling like they have it made. No church, no individual, no ministry ever has it made. The first lesson I learned from this book was more of a warning: Never think you've got it.

Something that I found quite interesting on page 151 was the line “Ireland is unique in religious history for being the only land into which Christianity was introduced without bloodshed.” This is quite interesting to me. As an American, Christianity is as much a part of my roots as violence. I also find it fascinating how Patrick evangelized Ireland - he took the Roman system but made it the country's own. Truly, the story of Patrick is one that really pulls at my heart. Abducted at a young age into slavery; one day able to escape only to return to the land that held him captive to set them free! What an incredible story. Speaking of story, it was the Irish oral tradition, their desire to keep important stories going, which helped save civilization. What an incredible story that is!

I feel that part of this story, the part about the lack of bloodshed in the spread of Christianity to a people, is so strange. Why? Why is Ireland not the norm when it comes to the spread of Christianity and violence? How is it that a religion of peace has been perverted to such an extent that it is acutely used to justify war and bloodshed and in turn war and bloodshed is used to expand this religion of peace? Maybe in the world that we live in the military is a just means of security, but how can Christianity be so intertwined with that means? I think it was because of Patrick's persecution and emission in the native culture that he was able to state his case in a display of good example and compassion. Maybe it is that we have not been persecuted that we do not know how to sympathize, or maybe we as Christians have for song long held places of privilege that, like a bratty child, when it comes to getting our way the only thing we know how to do is lash out. I personally never wish to be persecuted but to know the depths of despair, to be able to fully empathize with the lowly, the other, to know a culture and be aware of my surroundings to such an extent that I just breath it in and breath out Christ; That is what I want.
To sum this book and how it will impact my life, I have come to a few conclusions: I need to keep a more watchful eye on my life to make sure I am not getting to comfortable and susceptible to attack. Always be learning, always grow and never think I have it made. I need to love my culture, to be absorbed in art, in music, in my traditions and in scripture; to never miss out on the things that are shaping me. I need to steep my foundation in Christ more and more. As Greg said in class, “If you are struggling, you have already fallen.” If and when I fall like Rome, I want to know Christ and his mission so well that I will have something to hold on to; not fall back on but to shield me from the storm. I don't believe I will be the one who single-handedly saves my civilization, but I want to be someone on watch, someone with the hunger and wisdom to help stop the downfall in the first place.