Insight on the News
Churches and Peace
● “Caravan” magazine of New Delhi, India, recently described a religious controversy between two “Christian” sects in Kerala state. The Orthodox sect and the Jacobite sect, says the journal, have, since early in this century, been feuding both outside and in court over matters of leadership and church property.
“It is disgusting to hear, during the controversy, the provocative speeches of these priests,” observes “Caravan.” “Though they claim to be the real followers of Jesus Christ, they ignore his most important advice: love thy neighbours as you love thyself. Not only do they make derogatory speeches against each other but also resort to physical violence. They preach that belief in religion will lead to real peace. But they themselves are spreading hatred and sowing seeds of discontent which are bound to spoil the peace.”
The above comments from an Indian observer do not seem overstated.
Worship of the Son? or the Sun?
● In an article on sun worship in “Saturday Review” magazine, the noted science writer Isaac Asimov describes various ancient festivals associated with the winter solstice (December 21—when days begin again to become longer than nights). He notes that the Romans celebrated this “with a week-long Saturnalia [for the agricultural god, Saturn] from December 17 to 24. It was a time of unrelieved merriment and joy. . . . gifts were given all round.”
Asimov goes on to relate that in the third century, “the worship of Mithra, a sun-god of Persia, was becoming popular, especially among the soldiers. The Mithraists celebrated the birth of Mithra at the winter solstice, a natural time, and fixed on the day December 25 so that the popular Roman Saturnalia could build up to the Mithraist ‘Day of the Sun’ as a climax.
“At that time, Christianity was locked in a great duel with the Mithraists for the hearts and minds of the people of the Roman Empire. . . . Sometime after A.D. 300, Christianity managed the final coup of absorbing the Saturnalia, and with that it scored its final victory over Mithraism. December 25 was established as the day of the birth of Jesus, and the great festival was made Christian. There is absolutely no biblical authority for December 25 as having been the day of the Nativity.”
How, then, should a Christian view a holiday so deeply rooted in the worship of unbelievers? “Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done,” says God’s Word. “You must leave them and separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with what is unclean, and I will accept you.”—2 Cor. 6:14-18, “Today’s English Version.”
“Peace” at Mount Sinai?
● “U.S. News & World Report” predicted the possible signing of an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty toward the end of December, most likely around Christmas. The news journal added: “At that time, Sadat wants to meet with Begin and Carter at the summit of Mount Sinai, where the Bible reports that Moses made his covenant with God and received the Ten Commandments.”
Whether or not these national leaders are able to make such a peace agreement, the “spectacular” of choosing Mount Sinai as the location could accomplish nothing, other than bringing their peace move into the limelight. It is of interest that, in writing of two ancient “covenants,” the apostle Paul referred to “one from Mount Sinai, which brings forth children for slavery.” (Gal. 4:24-26) Could a peace treaty signed at the same location have any more desirable result?
Actually, whatever peace moves the nations may make in this “time of the end” can bring them only closer to the fulfillment of the prophecy: “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.” (1 Thess. 5:2, 3) However, this will open the way for that other “covenant” mentioned by Paul to have its glorious fulfillment. That unchangeable covenant contains the Divine promise that “all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves,” not by any human peace-making efforts, but by means of the Christ.—Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:8, 16.