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SECTARIANISM CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH

( THIS ATTITUDE CARRIES A GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING )


Sectarianism is like cigarette smoke - it can kill. Cigarette smoke can kill the one who smokes and those around, the "passive smoker". Sectarianism can destroy people by turning them into killers and those who share the sectarian smoke can become "passive victims" of its corrupting influence or its deadly bullets.

The death of Stephen the first Christian martyr helps illustrate the point. Those who hated the followers of Jesus and their idolatrous theology had had enough. They dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. As they did so, those who had witnessed against Stephen laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. Scripture tells us that Saul was giving approval to Stephen's death. There is no record of Saul ever involving himself in executions - maybe he was able to say that his hands were clean, an undefiled Pharisee! On his own admission though, we know taht he hounded, arrested, imprisoned and cast his vote against the Christians when the death sentence was pronounced. The smoke of the sectarianism he generated turned others into killer and was destroying him - a religious man - as he sought to destroy those he had come to despise. Saul's religious clout allowed the sectarianism to go unrecognised - after all God was on their side.

As I write this piece more families have recently plunged into mourning because killers have been at their work. Some one is encouraging them. Some one is helping them believe that it's not so bad a thing to kill one of the other side.

It's for the greater good of community and country. It's the kind of thing that is ineviatable in a divided community. Is it me encouraging them? Is it you?

I once heard a journalist admit that many times in his youth he "pointed the rifle in his head at the enemy." Some of his peers did it for real, but he just did it in his head, and he thought at the time taht wasn't so bad - until he realised he was breathing in the same sectarian smoke. A local poet once asked, " You never pulled the trigger, but did you point your heart? " It is very unlikely that anyone reading this article pulls the trigger or condones the killings, but do we point our hearts?

Difference or disagreement are not the causes of sectarianism or the fuel for its flames of violence and pretending we are all the same is not the solution. It is disdain, fear or hatred which fuels the sectarian fires. Am I throwing fuel on the fire, am I breathing in the smoke? Are You?

What do you think ? Are Christians just as sectarian in attitude as others ? How do we marry religion and politics in our culture ?



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