"Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that you make war among your members?" James 4:1
There's been a lot of passion and anger on either side of the new movie Angels & Demons (a companion film to The Da Vinci Code, also based on a Dan Brown novel), and interestingly enough, this conflict exists within the plot of the movie itself.
In the film, the Catholic Church (and specifically the Vatican) is under attack from a secret society, the Illuminati, on the occasion of the conclave to select a new Pope to lead the one-billion million Catholics around the world. And so the Vatican turns to an old adversary, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to consult on resolving the mystery.
What Langdon soon discovers is that the Illuminati (the "enlightened ones," as they call themselves because of their love and appreciation of science over religion) are striking back against the Church because of the conflicts and divisions they have had in the past. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," seems to be the motive behind the threat to destroy the Vatican, getting revenge for scientific oppression.
At the same time, the young Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) in temporary charge of the Vatican while a Pope is being selected seems to be up to the Illuminati's challenge. He believes that war is upon them and the Church must act as "God's warriors" against this elusive threat.
Division and strife often create even more division and strife. War begets war. Hatred is matched with hatred. These truisms are not just apt for the plot of Angels & Demons, but also true about our very own families, workplaces, neighborhoods, countries, and yes, even our sacred religions.
One side of any division demonizes the other. Just like the title of the movie, internal conflict can draw stark contrasts between us and the other side. We are angels, righteous and true, while the opposite side must be demons, irrelevant and ugly. Of course, this drama sells a lot of books and movie tickets (and Dan Brown has profited much from creating this mess).
In the early church, there was already disagreement and division. In a letter we now have in our Bible, St. James asks the first-century Christian community, "Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that you make war among your members?" (James 4:1) He implores them to "not speak evil of one another" (cf. 4:11) and to make peace, not war.
Even in the release of this film, there has been some hateful accusations being hurled across the aisle (from both sides). Just like the characters of the movie, the opposing sides prepare for war.
"Put away your sword!" Jesus tells his disciples when they see themselves as God's warriors (cf. Matt. 26:52, Luke 22:38). Christians are meant for peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, not war and infighting. In Angels & Demons, the Vatican Chamerlengo believes a warrior Pope would be ideal for the Church. But this crusading philosophy has no place in a faith founded by the Prince of Peace.
Within our own struggles in life, whether it be in the workplace, in our families, or in our politics, how quick are we to make angels and demons of the two sides?
"Put away your sword!" Jesus implores us, and seek a peaceful common ground on which to build the Kingdom of God. Let us pray we will all seek that peace our world so desperately needs.