Church arrest a sacrilege
IN the Book of Exodus, 3:5, it is said: “Do not come any closer”, God said, “Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground”.
I intend quoting extensively from the Holy Bible in this column in an effort to demonstrate to the not-so-conversant with the Holy Scripture and its teachings, the sacrilegious nature of the conduct of the members of the police in the short episode I shall recount below as told by the cleric involved.
On Sunday, 28th August, some terrible, hopefully not-to-be-repeated occurrence happened on the holy ground of St. James and St. Mary Anglican Cathedral in Maseru.
As the priest was about to enter the Cathedral to convene holy mass at 0820hrs, two police officers in the company of a church warden, in possession of a court order, tried to prevent the cleric from conducting Mass.
However, the priest, after requesting with the two officers to either produce a warrant of arrest or wait for him outside until the service had ended, nevertheless proceeded in a procession to enter the Cathedral.
An announcement was made to the congregation that as promised, mass would be held, however, before then an announcement was made that the congregation should remain calm as there were police officers who would be entering the cathedral to carry out their duties, and that they should not be surprised.
That was when 10 armed police officers descended on the sanctuary and informed the priest that if he did not volunteer to hand himself over to the police for arrest, they would arrest him forcefully inside the church.
For those not so conversant with religious parlance, a sanctuary is the part of the chancel of a church containing the high altar.
It is not for nothing that in every day English, a sanctuary is used to define a place of safety.
The cleric was taken from the church sanctuary under arrest before he could even deliver mass.
In the ensuing small commotion before his arrest, a girl who had been taking cellphone pictures of the episode was reportedly chased away by police who shouted unprintable expletives at her until she disappeared from the scene. The shocking pictures later went viral.
All these incidents unfolded in full view and earshot of the entire church congregation, among them children and respectable citizens, as well as the elderly. It happened on holy church grounds! If this is not sacrilege then tell me what it is, please!
Sacrilege and desecration defined
Sacrilege is defined as violation or misuse of something regarded as sacred. Desecration is the act of depriving something of its sacred character or the disrespectful, contemptuous, or destructive treatment of that which is held to be sacred or holy by a group or individual.
According to Wikipedia, desecration can include sacrilegious acts of sacred books, sacred places or sacred objects. Desecration generally may be considered from the perspective of a particular religion or spiritual activity.
Desecration may be applied to natural systems or components, particularly if those systems are part of naturalistic spiritual religion.
In Exodus quoted above, Moses tried to approach a bush that was on fire but did not burn up, a strange sight indeed. As he tried to approach, God called Moses to remove his sandals as the ground he was standing on was holy ground.
In a similar vein, church grounds, particularly the sanctuary, are holy ground. The police therefore could have held back their descent on the church even if armed with a court order.
It is very wrong for police officers to have descended on holy church grounds especially the sanctuary, to effect an arrest.
The significance of removing one’s sandals in the Christian doctrine is repeated several times in the Holy Scripture.
The rationale behind removing one’s sandals cannot be over-emphasized as sandals gather dust from wherever one has travelled including probably treading on evil ground.
However, while this might not be to impute that the police are sinners but it merely goes to demonstrate that they ought to have held back on their descent on the church.
Church grounds are obviously not the ideal place to effect arrests. That is why Mark 6:9-11, when he send the Twelve, Jesus said: “wear sandals but not an extra shirt.
Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them”.
The theme behind this parable is that the church is holy ground therefore anybody who enters its sanctuary must remove all sin, if at least ideally. Let alone armed swearing police descending on the sanctuary. It is desecration.
I Kings 2:28-29
In I Kings 2:28-29 it is said: “When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord (church) and took hold of the horns of the altar. King Solomon was told that Joab had fled to the tent (church) of the Lord and was beside the altar. Then Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada, “Go, strike him down”.
The lesson behind this incident is that the tent (church) of the Lord is inviolable and indeed a place of refuge.
It is therefore sacrilegious for the police to have descended on the church grounds, particularly armed and especially to the sanctuary of the Lord. The place is sacred.
In John 2:13-17, it is stated that when it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
It was when he entered the temple (church), that he found hordes of merchants selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
He whipped all the offenders and overturned the tables scattering the money and said these telling words that signify the holiness of church grounds and their inviolability: “Get these out of here! Stop turning my father’s house into a market!”
Tolling the Bell
It is therefore plainly sacrilegious to invade the grounds of the church by armed police who were even reportedly swearing.
Furthermore, once the bell has tolled as in the cathedral, it means that God himself, has spoken, calling the faithful to begin the church service.
No ordinary human except the ordained cleric and those helping him are allowed to perform religious ceremonies once the bell has tolled.
In Psalm 24:3-4, it is said in relation to the sacredness of God’s Temple: “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, who do not put their trust in an idol or swear by a false god. they will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob”.
This is probably why the cleric reportedly informed the police that they had no right to be in the church’s sanctuary.
This is because the cleric is God’s representative to conduct Holy Mass so by demeaning the cleric and God’s Temple, the police were by extension demeaning God Himself. Shame!!!
In Matthew 5:23-25 again because the altar is sacred no one is permitted to approach it if he is not clean in deeds and spirit, it is said: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person, then come and offer your gift”.
This fortifies my view that the altar is not for us ordinary mortals, for we are sinners. That is why the cleric, before they approach the altar pray for divine intervention and asks God to cleanse them.
Having expounded what the Holy Scripture stipulates in relation to desecration, it is now appropriate to explain the position of the Law of Man, in regard to flouting of a court order.
Again here the police were at fault. They had to effect an arrest on the cleric if he had been given the opportunity to show cause why within a specified period, he cannot be arrested for failure to comply with a court order.
The hasty decision by the police was illegal in that the cleric did not pose a danger to anyone, nor was he a flight risk nor did he demonstrate any likelihood to be violent towards the police.
Finally, there was no urgency in their arrest. The plausible conclusion that can be drawn from this is that it was on the face of it, calculated to humiliate him and to cause distress in addition to instilling fear.
I Peter 4:12-19 In conclusion, they should read I Peter 4:12-19 wherein it is said: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and God rests on you.
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God…..
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.