aspects of their lives with them since their origin. There is a variety of different languages, art forms, music, etc. that characterize a certain people. The aspect that has managed to stay alive throughout the ages is religion. From its origin to the present it has also sparked the most controversy. On one hand the religion characterizes a culture and having the same religion is a symbol of spiritual unity. On the other hand there is a controversy because a person’s religion revolves around his individual beliefs and sometimes may not reflect the beliefs of the people as a whole. This essay will analyze a single religion, its origin and how it has split up into various sects, all having the same underlying faith but emphasizing different aspects of it. The aim of this paper is to prove whether Christianity religion has unified or divided the people in the past or present.
First of all we will start with Monotheism, which means the belief in only one god. Monotheism originated with the Hebrews, who started in Sumer and migrated under the leadership of Abraham, whom God made a covenant with as described in the Bible. The Bible also tells of how God created heaven, Earth and all life in a process that took six days. The seventh day was blessed as a holy day and it was the day in which God rested. Of all God created his most prized possession was man whom was to have dominion over all creatures of the Earth (Genesis 1-2). Along with that it is believed that the Hebrew’s God made a covenant, or promise to the people that he will protect and guide them as long as they serve Him. Now the Bible still exists and is the basis for modern day Christianity and Judaism for many years.
Also Monotheism has had an influence on the lives of those exposed to it. The Hebrews have accepted the belief in one God and use the ten commandments, which are a set of ten laws that defined how those faithful to Him should act in their own communities. On one hand monotheism has unified the Hebrew people and on the other it caused turmoil in the ranks of the Egyptian Empire, which believed in polytheism. The Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV made many changes that went against tradition. The most controversial was converting the Egyptian Empire from Polytheism to Monotheism. Amenhotep wanted to worship the Sun God, Aten, so he had any reference to all other gods removed from the temples of Egypt. He also changed his name to Akenaten to show that Aten was whom he worshipped. Akenaten’s reign was short and his religion did not last. It has been said that Akenaten was poisoned. This is a prime example of how an individual’s beliefs contradict with that of the people and a possible result of the conflict.
Another religion that has affected its members is Christianity, which is an offspring of Monotheism. Christianity is a world-renowned religion that originated in Hebrew times, when the stories of the Bible actually took place. Christianity has its rivalry from the Jewish people, who in early days believed that “all nations of the world hate Israel ” as said by Jonathan Sarna in his portion of the book, Uncivil Religion: Interreligious Hostility in America.
There is no precise definition of Christianity because people who call themselves Christians worship under a denomination, or religious sects. The one idea that is common among all denominations is that there is one central God and he has a son named Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross to die for the sins of the world. Then three days after his death he was resurrected and ascended into the Promise Land, or heaven as it is commonly known. Also all Christians use the Bible as a guide for life and living. Their main goal as Christians is to live the way that Christ did during his lifetime and to receive Salvation, which will insure them a safe journey to the Promise land. Christianity was a powerful world religion until individual beliefs split it into various factions. This religious separation is especially in the United States.
Initially there are the Baptists. Their name originates from their belief in “baptism”. Baptism is the ceremony in which a person is dipped in water as a sign of washing away one’s sins. Baptist churches are usually under the wings of a pastor. This man is like a shepherd who guides his people in the path towards Salvation. The pastor is a minister who is called by God to preach and teach “His Word’, or the Bible scriptures. The Baptists ascended English roots with the vision of “ freedom of religion, freedom of choice, and freedom to change the world” (Marty 43). Even though the Baptists may have thought that becoming an individual denomination would be the solution to their problems, in America they are separated into even smaller factions. In the US there are several types of Baptist churches. The most common of these being the Southern Baptists and the First Baptists.
Another denomination of Christianity are the Methodists. They believe in experiencing “a ‘warmed heart,’ to become holy, and then to spread holiness” ( Marty 60). A man named John Wesley, who preached to rouse the emotions of his followers, founded the Methodists. He felt that the Church of England was “too staid and its members were passive and relaxed” (Marty 61). It was Bishop Francis Asbury who implemented the idea of spreading the Methodist religion to others. Now, venturing out and witnessing their faith to others is an important part of being a Methodist. This act of spreading the Word of God and their governmental skills has allotted for the success of the Methodist religion in the US. Today Methodism is America’s third largest church. The actions of John Wesley reflect the underlying theme of the affects of an individual’s belief on the church as a whole.
Next there are the Pentecostals. This denomination of Christianity believe in “ the baptism of the Spirit, an onrush of grace apart from the baptism with water” (Marty 105). The Pentecostal church also believes in speaking in “tongues”, which is the language of God. It is said that speaking in tongues allows a person to speak directly to God. Healing is also a major part of the Pentecostal faith. Pentecostalism is a religion characterized the middle and lower class people, meaning if all the different Christian churches were placed in a single city, the Pentecostal church would be in or near the run-down part of the city. From the years of its origin to the present Pentecostals have split up themselves into different denominations of their own.
Moreover there are the Lutherans. This denomination, named after its founder, Martin Luther, stresses God’s forgiveness over all else. Martin Luther was a German Monk who decided to leave the Roman Catholic in the sixteenth century. He believed that a person should seek to “ make faith active in love” (Marty 79). Lutherans have the tendency to be less involved in issues of social justice and more involved in charity. Just as many of the other denominations do, the Lutherans have had their own internal rivalries. Since many of them are of foreign ancestry when they migrated to America they had problems deciding on whether or not they should change to fit the American culture. Many came from Germany, a country with whom America has had a war with, which makes it even harder for them to deal with America. Most of all, they though that they would have to change their beliefs in order to conform to American society. The Lutherans separated into the Old Lutherans, who believed that they should not become Americanized and the American Lutherans who thought that they should. At about the Twentieth century the Old Lutherans came to realize that they had to change nothing in order to live in American society.
Another denomination of Christianity are the Mormons. The Mormons, founded by Joseph Smith are one of the most controversial of all of the denominations. Their beliefs have made them a sort of outcast to the other sects. The Mormons believe that humans are “growing into godhead or godhead” is believed to be a sign of Pantheism, which is the belief that all nature is sacred and infused with divine spirits. The Mormons also have the Book of the Mormons, which is their own version of the Bible, with the exception that Joseph Smith was the author. The Mormons also have very practices that are uncharacteristic of Christians. They believe in the “baptism of the dead” and “celestial marriages”, which unite a man and wife for all eternity (Marty 70). Also their temples are limited to only a select few who are seen as being in good standing. The Mormon faith seems more like a cult than any other does. Their practices are off-the-wall in comparison to any other Christian faith, but they stand strong in their beliefs. Whatever the case may be the Mormons are still around today but only in areas where they have some type of religious stronghold.
Furthermore, another denomination of Christianity are the Seven-day Adventists. These people take the words of the Old Testament literally and have worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. This idea of Saturday worship has given Adventists the label of being anti-Catholic. Adventists also believe “ that only when Jesus comes back after some bad times will good things happen” , meaning that people should take the initiative to do good but trying to change the world is useless (Marty 98). During the Seventeenth Century, Adventism was more of an obsession than a religion. Many people rallied behind those who tried to predict the date of the Second Coming of Jesus. All were wrong but they made up excuses for the delay. The Seven-day Adventists also stress health and medical care. Many of these churches sponsor some type of medical facility.
Moreover, another individual religious sect is the Salvation Army. Most people think that the Salvation Army is just out to do social activities but in reality they are a church body. The difference in this sect is that their faith evolves around military lines. They are always on the mission to help those who are in need. The Salvation Army differs from others in that they do not get involved in any practices that have brought about controversy. Baptisms and communions are not necessary for salvation so they are not observed. The Salvation Army church attire is a uniform and the atmosphere includes first rate band music and a lot of singing and clapping. Also the army believes that women and men are equal. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, encouraged women to preach as well as men.
The Army originated in England when William Booth and his wife broke away from Methodism when he started to preach to the poor people of that society. The Army came about with the idea that many of the unfortunate people ministered to found military discipline to be attractive. Then Booth came up with a military like system to run a church, uniforms included. Their Declaration of faith is better known as the “Articles of War”. From England to the US this sect has prospered and even though they are a church many will remember the Salvation Army for the works that they have done.
Many of the individual religious sects were formed because a person’s beliefs conflicted with the particular religion as a whole. Whether it be Catholic, Methodist, or Baptist, the separation has always been over the interpretation of faith but none have been as out spoken as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. These people reject all other churches as being under the devil’s power. This church is the only large church that openly rejects others. These ideas have to decrease the popularity of this faith but to them persecution is a sign of loyalty to God. The people of this faith rarely associate with non-Witnesses.
This sect was founded by Taz Russell, the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, who believed that Jesus had already come back but in a form that we as humans could not see. It was to be Jesus’ duty to “ build a Kingdom on earth, technically a ‘theocracy,’” meaning that God would be in control (Marty 107). It is said that those believers will witness the battle between God and His enemies but will not have to fight. Many distrust this sect because of its beliefs but the Witnesses can get some credit for their dedication and loyalty in waiting for the battle to begin.
Individual morals and beliefs have fueled a changing world for many years. If a person did not feel that a society as a whole was not perfect, then there would be no type of change. Many religious sects have originated from people who felt as if the religion that they are involved with did not emphasize their individual beliefs. This case has occurred many times in the era of Christianity. The underlying faith stays the same while the interpretation of certain aspects of the religion differ. From baptism to speaking in tongues, each denomination has their own individual standpoint on the religion, which may in some cases lead to conflict. Through all this it has been proven that religion has divided the Christian people as a whole.