Autocratic anti-church struggle

Unable to refute the key role of Christian principles in progressive advances, from abolition of slavery to workers’ rights, or the geographical congruence of human rights with the historic arc of Judeo-Christianity, Barry Ward (May 9 letter, “Worthy fight to right the church“) resorts to historically ill-informed potshots.

Ward claims “it was the struggle against the church in the 16th century that furthered the cause of human rights.”

Really? The 16th-century struggle against the Roman Catholic Church was conducted by and for absolutist monarchies to clear the way for autocratic nation-states, free from the moral restraints that Montesquieu notes Christianity had imposed.

Ward’s cherished Enlightenment included Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan,” which, rejecting Christian virtue for a materialist explanation of nature, justified absolute monarchy.

Thank God it was Montesquieu, not Hobbes, who most influenced the U.S. Founding Fathers.

Ruiji Izumi wisely noted in his May 5 letter (“The ‘right’ stand against ‘wrong “) that all religions have wrongly persecuted dissenters at some point. When the Christian church has done this, it has not lived up to its principles.

Yet Ward misreads the 13th-century crusade against the Cathars. Historians acknowledge the “crusade” was largely a political conflict between the French monarchy and separatists aligned with Aragon.

True, the pope condemned Cathar belief as heretical — understandably, given that the Cathars held the Old Testament God, Judaism and the material world to be of Satan. That God created the material world and people good, per Judeo-Christian belief, indeed obligates us to care for them “here and now.”

thomas clark

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Starviking

    And the crusade against the Cathars gave us one of the Church’s most memorable quotes:
    “Kill them all, let God sort them out”
    – said by an abbot in response to a soldier’s question on how to distinguish the Cathar and Catholic populations of a town just conquered.