inquisition | John 9.13-16
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. John 9:13-16 | ESV
Some of them, being somewhat unnerved by this whole turn of events, led the formerly blind man off to the Strict Sect faction among the religious authorities to see what they would make of all this – plus, it was the Stop Day when Jesus started making clay and opened the eyes of the blind man (and the rules were clear: “Thou shalt not make mud or mortar on Stop Day”). Then they began pressing him – along with the Strict Sect types just how it was he came to see. “He rubbed mud on my eyes, and I went, I washed and I see.” Some of the Strict Sect immediately scoffed, “No way is this man from God. No way. He doesn’t observe the Stop Day rules!” Others hesitated, “Wait a minute. How can a man who is no more than a rank sinner keep doing such signs?” Situation normal. Split down the middle over Jesus. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”
It’s one of the funnier bits from the classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus parodying a not so funny segment of church history. Sometimes, when we can’t weep anymore, all we can do is laugh.
That impeccable source of authority we know as Wikipedia summarizes the history of what we have come to know as the “Spanish Inquisition”:
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (Spanish: Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición), commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition (Inquisición española), was established in 1478 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Christian Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The Inquisition was originally intended in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave. Various motives have been proposed for the monarchs’ decision to found the Inquisition such as increasing political authority, weakening opposition, suppressing conversos (Jewish converts), profiting from confiscation of the property of convicted heretics, reducing social tensions, and protecting the kingdom from the danger of a “fifth column.” The body was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the previous century.
Not our finest hour (three centuries! would it were but an hour!).
And a clear reminder that inquisitions are not the exclusive property of any race, religion, or creed.
They are human.
It’s what we do.
One of our most fundamental instincts is to protect ourselves, our perceived interests. And the fundamental instinct of those with power is to protect that power, generally under the auspices of “the greater good.” So we should not scratch our heads too hard nor condemn these “Strict Sect” inquisitors too loudly.
It’s too easy for all of us to miss the miracle as we instead grill (too often in our history quite literally) those whom God has touched, to treat as suspects those who are in fact witnesses to the Divine Glory.
How I would like to stay with the blind man at the pool and revel in his restored sight with the better angels of our nature…but alas, instead, this week we must visit inquisition scenes that strike lower notes we wish would remain untouched.
By all of us.
How do we avoid the “inquisition spirit” that would put on trial those we should be celebrating?
Abba, rewrite marrow deep in me your divine DNA of “Love God” “Love People.” Keep such love from ever being shaped in my hands into a weapon that would tear others down or reduce them to suspects before the bar of my own judgments. Through Jesus.