Turkish Delights and Cruise-tology

The more things change the more they stay the same. As I was trolling through Drudge this morning ...

France charges Scientologists with fraud:

http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL820153620080908?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=22&sp=true

Turkey evicts Orthodox Christianity, well almost:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/09/08/opinion/edgage.php

It was a strange study in contrasts, these two articles. On the one hand, you have a religion (I use that term loosely) founded by a sci-fi writer in the 1950s. On the other, you have the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It was also founded in the 50s, the zero-50s AD by Andrew. Andrew who? The Apostle. You know, Peter's little brother?

A French judge is taking the Scientologists to task and trial for selling a French woman a Hubbard starter pack. The Turkish Prime Minister, Erdogan, and all those who have preceded him have slowly stripped the Patriarch of all power and lands. Bartholomew I isn't even allowed to order basic housekeeping and maintenance on the few buildings he has left.

These situations raise, in my mind, interesting what-ifs. Unsettling and new in the French case; tired and been-there-done-that in the Turkish case.

The French woman spent 140,000 francs on "purification packs," which she claimed were fraudulent. The judge condemns the Scientology leaders for "illegally practicing as pharmacists." What if the same woman had asked the Church for a refund on her rosaries, because she claimed they were fraudulent. What if she had sued the Church for prescribing the Blood of Christ to
forgive her sins? What justifies fraud when the metaphysical meets the physical?

This is unstomachable from two directions: judicial and commercial.

This is the Miracle on 34th Street conundrum. The existence of God (or Santa) can't be proven in a courtroom. "I'd like to enter into evidence Hebrews 11:1, 'Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.'"

I have an uncle, a intelligent person, who often jokes that the Church fails the consumer. It doesn't offer enough bang for that buck you put in the poor box or the fees you pay for Baptism. It's an upside-down world that would assess the Church through cost-benefit analysis.

Now, I grant that Scientology reeks of fraud, but what separates one religion from another in a liberal society? Religion is just that tired old rag, that thing we're permitted to have in a free society, so long as everyone else gets one and we don't make trouble.

Back to Turkey, can you imagine if Italy were to confiscate all the Vatican's land holdings? Oh wait. That's already happened a dozen or so times. Mussolini, Gustavus Adolphus, the Visigoths -- who hasn't seized Church lands?

Christians are at their best when land and rights are being stripped from them. This has always been case. It's the eye of the needle, the way of the cross.

I'm waiting to see how the 300 million Orthodox Christians respond to this hardly-new news. Or, how Europe responds to this as it considers admitting Turkey and its 1.1 million troops into the EU.

It comes down to faith in the unchangeable, doesn't it? Whether this world changes or stays the same, it will attack the Church. I don't have faith that the Church won't falter. I know it will. I have faith that it will not fail.

What other institution has weathered so many extinctions? Left to a single man or no one at all. Wait three days. It will come back stronger than before. We must not fear those who seek to destroy the Church; treat those two impostors, triumph and disaster, just the same; and build, build, build.

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