Sectarianism is a very well used word, especially in Northern Ireland. It would seem if one lot desires to demonise another they will say, ‘they are sectarian’.
The truth of the matter is that all Christian denominations, big or small, are sectarian. And it is essential to remember where the word sectarian comes from. It stems from the root word ‘section’. From section we derive sect, sector and sextant and other words including sectarian.
We become a section of the whole when we are separated from the whole. The whole in this case is the early Christian church at Jerusalem.
The human race has been divided and sub-divided from the beginning so in a sense it is sectarian. The Jews were divided from the Arabs, the Romans from the Greeks.
Very early in the history of the Christian church it was divided into a number of sects, the largest of which were the eastern Orthodox church and the western Latin church. Then the German reformation divided the Latin church and the Protestant part of that German reformation fragmented into a disgraceful number of smaller sects, most of them seemingly very devout and sincere. However, no difference what size the Christian denomination is, it is a section or a sect of the whole.
No one can fault anyone from belonging to whatever section they want to belong to. And it is the law of our land that all have a right to exist.
Then why all the quarrelling? Just this: If one or more of the denominations adopts an attitude that they are the true people and all others are inferior.
This is a huge cause of offence. It is certain to result in conflict. It is wrong to believe that any one person or any one denomination has all the truth.
We are all learners. It is evident that all denominations have failed. So no one person or one denomination is a perfect example. The only two true examples we have left are God as He is seen in Jesus Christ and the Bible.
If an adult decides they wish to join a certain denomination that seems reasonable. They have every right. But if a child who cannot think for itself is made to join a denomination without knowing what it stands for, this is surely wrong.
It seems very clear and plain that the cure for sectarianism when it becomes aggressive is humility and prayer. The time has surely come for the leaders of our four largest denominations to admit that they have failed and call a day of national repentance. I shall be the first there.
James K Gardiner Coleraine