The history of the Church seen by a sociologist: a struggle between mysticism and politics | RCF

The history of the Church, a struggle between mysticism and politics

A fight between mysticism and politics, a perpetual tension between the teaching of Jesus and what the Catholic Church has made of it: this is how Olivier Bobineau interprets the history of the Church. Like a constant tension between “peace and war”, “grace and violence”, “agapè and political strategy”… With his comic strip “The Incredible History of the Church” (ed. Les Arènes) Olivier Bobineau, sociologist specializing in religions, seeks to recount 20 centuries of Church history.

The history of the Church is so abundant that Olivier Bobineau compares his work to “a little political encyclopedia”, but also “religious, sociological, economic, social, cultural, and even artistic”. His objective with this comic strip, illustrated by Pascal Magnat, is to “make it possible for readers to understand the 4,500 books that wander through [son] spirit”. It is also “the desire to make 20 years of academic and scientific work accessible”.

The history of the popes within the Church

Around 500, the power of the pope was “theorized”. The comic shows how the role of the popes was built. How they became “responsible for the salvation of people, but also for the salvation of kings, that is to say including States”, explains Olivier Bobineau.

By making religion a political instrument, some popes have committed excesses. The sociologist cites the example of the cadaveric council, the posthumous trial of Pope Formosa by his successor, in the 9th century. “Stephen VI dug up his predecessor to impale him and judge him in the name of the God of Love.” He reproached Pope Formosa for having freed himself from the tutelage of the Roman aristocracy…

“From the council of 909, the monks will say enough is enough, we are corrupted by politics, we need the Gregorian reform!” Reform which allowed the monks to consolidate their power. 500 years later, in 1517, Luther’s 95 Theses prompted the Church to react. And to create a “parochial civilization” with “a real framework, a local man who is called the priest”, from the Latin cure, which means “the care”. This “parochial civilization” ended 500 years later with the declining influence of the Church in society.

A new way of seeing Jesus Christ

“The Incredible History of the Church” presents another face of Christ, very different from what we tend to imagine! “He’s not that blue-eyed blond Venetian Renaissance Jesus Christ at all!” The sociologist bases himself on the work of archaeologists, to describe a Jesus “small, swarthy, frizzy hair”, but also “generous, kind, present, jovial…”

Jesus is presented as “a reformer in relation to the Semitic and Jewish tradition in which he was born”. But the revolutionary character of Christianity is “agapè”, believes the sociologist. That is to say, unconditional love, “love beyond measure”, specifies Olivier Bodineau.

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The history of the Church seen by a sociologist: a struggle between mysticism and politics | RCF

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