By Kelvin Ugwu
Following my post addressing Reno Omokiri’s attack on the Catholic Church, a friend by name Matthew, posted this on the comment section.
“The only area you didn’t throw light on is that area that Reno claimed that the Catholic have killed more people than the Islam. I will like to be tutored on that Padre.”
I ignored that part of Reno’s claim simply because there is always this issue between us Christians which I personally don’t like: the denominational fight amongst us.
When the story coming out from one Christian denomination favours us as good, we all immediately realise we are Christians. When the story does not favour us, we no longer remember that we are Christians, our emphasis will now be on denomination. Note this, we all are guilty of this.
The era in which Reno Omokiri was making allusion to is generally referred to as the dark ages, for obvious reasons.
According to Reno Omokiri, “No other religion has been spread by violence as Catholicism.”
Key word: CATHOLICISM.
Concerning the Saxon wars of 772–804 AD, Reno Omokiri said:
“The Frankish king Charlemagne forcefully converted the Germanic tribes of Europe into Catholicism during the Saxon wars and massacred whole tribes that refused to convert.”
Key word: CATHOLICISM.
Concerning the North crusade of 1260-1410 AD, Reno said:
“The Baltic and Slavic nations were forcefully converted to Catholicism during the Northern crusades.”
Key word again: CATHOLICISM
Concerning the Spanish Inquisition of 1478 AD, Reno said:
“During the Spanish Inquisition, Jews and Muslims had two options: Forceful conversion or exile from Spain and Portugal. At a point in time, you could not even buy and sell in much of Europe if you were not a Catholic.”
Key word: CATHOLIC.
Concerning what the Spanish conquistadors did in South America from 1492 AD which was even more political can religious, Reno said:
“That was beyond forceful conversion to Catholicism. That was genocide, the like of which the world has never seen before or after then. Whole races were wiped off the face of planet Earth.
Key word again: CATHOLICISM.
If you are an objective student of History, and even if you read up by yourself all those stories of killings Reno alluded to, one thing you will notice is that all those places he used the word “Catholicism” the appropriate word is “CHRISTIANITY.”
If you noticed, I indicated the dates of those wars or killings to point out something. Within that period, there was nothing like Catholic, or Lutheran, or Anglican, or Methodist, or any Church in terms of denomination in the way we understand it now. Lutheran became the first after Catholic in 1517. People did not even know that there will come a time in which there will be different denominations. Every fight, every killing, every forceful conversion was done in the name of Christianity.
Why did Reno decided to situate it as a Catholic thing and not Christian thing? Some of the wars were fought politically to conquer territories, why did Reno decided to emphasize on Catholic? At that time, the religion of the emperor is usually the religion of his subjects, and if an emperor is a Christian, he will most likely force everyone to be Christian. Why did Reno used Catholicism instead of CHRISTIANITY?
The answer is simple, to make you see how bad and evil Catholic Church is. If not, instead of saying “No other religion has been spread by violence as Catholicism”, he would have said “No other religion has been spread by violence as CHRISTIANITY.”
But he knows that if he had said so, it will also indict him. So, to exonerate himself from a history that is largely a history of all of us Christians, it was safe for him to use “Catholic.” How smart!
Yet, and very ironical,
The “Catholic church” collected together what we have today as the bible. But when talking about it, we don’t say Catholic but Christians.
It was during the dark ages that the structure of what we have today as collages and universities was made, thanks to Catholic monks. But we won’t look at it as Catholic instead we will prefer Christians.
It was at that period still that we got the calendar we are using today, some of the greatest breaks in science, art, painting etc came at that time by Catholics. But do we call them Catholic? No! We say Christians.
As typical of us, once it is good, it belongs to us. Once it is not, it belongs to them.
Truth be told, some of the things that happened that era were very terrible of which the church has even apologized. Still, it is important we understand that at that time people saw it as something heroic to fight and die for what they believe in. Their faith was so sacred to be toiled with. That same concept is still in Islam, that is why someone can kill you for insulting the prophet and feel good because he is doing it for God.
Last year, some Christians wanted to burn down Netflix because they presented Jesus as gay. Did you not read where pastors were advocating for boycott as a sign of being a child of God? How many signed a petition against Netflix? More than 2Million. Now, compare our 21st century reaction to that simple event to how it would have been in the 13th century, then you will understand that what we condemn is largely in all of us.
Again, there was this fear and threat of Christianity going into extinction. The Islamic world was coming forcefully. Have you asked yourself what has happened to great cities in the bible like Ephesus, Constantinople, even Antioch in which the followers of Christ where first called Christians? Can you find Christians there today? Those cities are now 99% Islam.
Even the whole idea of forceful conversion was as a result of what they believed. To them, and even till today, we see those who are not followers of Christ or “born again” as people destined for hell. So anything we can do to convert them so that they will be saved, is seen as heroic.
People go to Catholic Churches to convert the members because to them, they are doing a great work of saving them whom they consider as already condemned to hell. Catholics too, do the same.
Imagine that in your house, your 7 year old child decided not to go to church and he say to you that God does not exist. As a typical Nigerian church parent or African, what do you think will happen to that child?
Is that not the same thing emperors of those days who have powers over everyone in his territory did? Today, we will call it forceful conversion, but we forget we too have that tendencies (though subtle) once the person is under us.
The truth remains that no denomination today started from scratch, except the denomination now known as the Catholic Church, so there were mistakes, growth and learning. Is it Anglican that started in 1534 and took so many things from the Catholic? Or Calvinist of 1536? Or Methodist of 1784? Or the Adventist Churches of 1840s? Or even Pentecostal churches of which they all started from 1990s?
Martin Luther after breaking away from the church founded his own church after the popular 95 thesis posted on the 31st of October 1517 on the door of Wittenberg’s castle church. What that means is that what we called the Catholic Church existed alone for ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN YEARS. Look at today, just within the space of 500 years, we have lost count of the number of denominations in our world.
The question is, has all the denominations made Christianity better? Everyday we hear horrible stories of what people do in the name of Church. No control, no check and balances. Anyone can just wake up and open a church and begin to quote bible passages, the same bible that he or she does not even know how it was canonized. Even Luther at his dying bed was said to have regretted breaking up because the variations he started seeing was not what he intended.
We accept that in the history of the church, there were mistakes, there were terrible things, there were learning and growth also. But still, THE HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY. Whatever affects her, affects all.
Reno is not an authority in talking about church or Catholic Church simply because he pose at the Vatican to take photograph. No!
Let’s focus more on what unites us, not what divides us.