Jesus would shiver…

By Dave (So if you’re going to complain, complain to me directly)

I recently had the privilege of taking a short look through the rare book room at the local university library. During this all-too-brief perusal of the fair-sized collection of musty tomes, I only had the opportunity to leaf through a few of them.

One was The Book of Martyrs, an enormous book (complete text versions of which can be found online) chronicling the deaths of Christian martyrs through the ages, each one accompanied by a picture.

Pretty crazy.

Another — and this is the one I want to focus on — really struck me.

It was another large, heavy, smelly book. Any trace of the title had been long since rubbed from the spine. I was intrigued and opened it up to the old-style title page that followed the author’s address to the patron who had commissioned the book.

The page basically looked like this:

A Demonstration

of the

Messias

in which

the TRUTH of the

CHRISTIAN RELIGION

Is proved, against all the enemies thereof;

But specifically against the

JEWS.


I stopped reading there, copied down the text (making a note of font size, capitalization and colour) and spent the rest of the day thinking about it.

In reading the title, you can’t help but be struck by the pettiness of it. It smacks of fifth grade sensibilities: “Here’s a note in which I, Dave, prove that I’m cool. All you jerks who say I’m not should shut up, but especially Stevie.”

To see such a childish phrasing on the title page of such an austere looking publication was a little shocking. What I found the most interesting about this page, however, was how simply it summed up what — in my personal opinion — is one of the fundamental problems of organized religion.

As a preamble, allow me now to rank the four most important items on this page strictly in terms of the typographical emphasis they have received:

4th place: “TRUTH.”

Truth, granted only slightly more distinction than commonplace words such as “the” or “but,” is merely typed in caps.

3rd place: “CHRISTIAN RELIGION.”

CHRISTIAN RELIGION, apparently somewhat more important than truth — typographically speaking — has a similarly sized font, but also bright red colouration to add to its capitalized lettering.

2nd place: “Messias.”

Messias, while denied the luxury of caps, enjoys red colouration as well as a noticeably larger font size than that of Christian Religion.

1st place: “JEWS.”

JEWS. Capitalization, bright red lettering, and an almost out of place font size that dwarfs even that of Messias.

One would think that a book that finally, beyond a shadow of a doubt, proves the truth of the Christian faith would want to vaunt this achievement above all else rather than giving top billing to a more-or-less unrelated group.

This tendency to almost politicize faith is a major pitfall seemingly endemic to organized religions. The right to one’s own belief is a fundamental one that I would never deny, but to turn what should be a positive and reflective experience into self-conscious flag waving seems counterproductive — especially when folks start worrying about whose flag is biggest and take to burning the flags of their enemies.

To use the Christian religion as a vehicle for self-discovery if fine by me, but the claim that god’s final word has been captured on paper — to the discredit of all other faiths — seems an asinine one. There is surely much wisdom buried within the pages of the bible (as is the case with many other holy books), but mindless jingoism runs in exactly the opposite direction from what I like to think Jesus would have envisioned when he said, “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”


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Comments
2 Responses to “Jesus would shiver…”
  1. Me thinks Jesus would do more than just shiver…since he himself was a Jew.

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