Christians persecuting Christians

Bishop Hill December 2008

We most often think of religious persecution as one religion persecuting another. For instance Christians against Muslims (the Holy Wars). But we must remember that one of the reasons that there are so many different Christian denominations around today is that in the past Christians were persecuting other Christians over differing beliefs.

I recently took a trip to Bishop Hill in Illinois. I had been there before but decided to go back again and learn some of the particulars about this Christian sect. Bishop Hill was founded by Swedish Lutherans who were trying to escape the Lutheran Church of Sweden which was, at the time, was a government institution and very conservative. It had a prescribed ritual worship focused on the confession of sins and absolution. The church was under stress from the rising demand of common people for education and self-expression. New ideas held that opinions should be based upon reason rather than revelation or authority. Those who left to go to America in the middle 1800’s became know as the Swedish Lutheran in America, Augustana Synod. They were more democratic than the church they left but, at the same time, they became intensely Lutheran. As was common of many of the churches founded in America they went back to the early Christian principle of holding all property in common. I’m not sure if any from that sect are still active?

There are literally hundreds of communities around the United States that were formed under similar circumstances. Most no longer exist but some do; mainly those that still exist are of Amish and Mennonite affiliations. Some of them disappeared due to practices such as celibacy with the Shakers, others just lost membership due to perceived daily hardships. I have visited many of these communities and overall I envy their dedication to living out God’s words in their daily lives. If only I had such zeal.

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