Struck dead. Struck blind. Power and the early Church.

I’m reading the Book of Acts right now and finding it a bit challenging. When Peter or Saul/Paul denounce someone, that unfortunate someone drops dead or is struck blind. Aside from blasting a fig tree (a disturbing enough story) Jesus was never an author or bringer of harm. He did his share of denouncing and confronting, pulled no punches at all, but he always left people the choice. Once Ananias and Saphira have dropped dead because, having sold all they had to give their goods to the new church, they kept half for themselves, they have no choice. They can hardly rectify their ways.

One could argue that it wasn’t Peter who struck them dead. He simply denounced them, told them they had lied in the presence of God. He didn’t tell them they’d drop dead. But hey, he was there when it happened. It’s a little dicier with Saul and the wizard. When Saul told him that he’d go blind now, was he speaking prophetically, or was there some causal relationship?

Jesus brought healing and strong warnings, never harm. When the sheep go astray the shepherd doesn’t kill them. He strives to bring them safely home, and if he can’t, he grieves for the loss.

Historically the Christian Church, not Christians, but the power structure of the Church, has done lots of harm, and at times has been Christianity’s greatest liability. Reading these stories I ask myself, did we start getting it wrong so early? Did it come to be about power so soon after Jesus died?

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One thought on “Struck dead. Struck blind. Power and the early Church.

  1. Good questions, Bill. Especially in the light of what is going on with ISIS and the middle east right now. One of my enduring questions is about belief, and the entangled relationship, in our human history, between religious belief and astonishing levels of violence.

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