Colosseums and Cathedrals

Colosseums and Cathedrals April 13, 2024
I watched a documentary last night about the excavations in Rome and the Colosseums being unearthed in the surrounding area.
The more they uncover, the more they learn about the history and purpose of this practice. In the early 300s, Emperor Constantine moved to unite the church and empire, and the next emperor canceled the gladiator fighting.
However, the principles and purpose of the coliseum continued into the future and morphed into religion and our cultures. No, we no longer have gladiators, but our modern practices still mimic the first-century Roman coliseum in several ways.
1. It’s the Spectacle
Several times in the documentary, the host said, “They came for the spectacle.” This is still true in sports venues, concerts, religious services, and festivals. They come for the spectacle, and the more spectacular, the better.
2. Not just Entertainment…
It’s not just entertainment. We might even call it community, but we should be honest and admit we like to be entertained, even in church. We like it when it amazes us and plays to our need for excitement. There’s no doubt we get a dopamine rush because it presses our buttons, but we shouldn’t confuse that with Spirit, God, or even significance. We like to be entertained.
3.’s also about Control
The early coliseum reminded people of punishments for opposing the empire and their status. Sports competitions remind us of our inadequacy, so we need to support them and attend them, much like the American Church, where we are entertained and then told what to think, how to live, and what to believe.
Like the Roman coliseum, there is a class structure, with certain people sitting in certain places. You might be allowed to provide volunteer labor along with your contribution and merch purchase. You can be in the group if you behave and don’t question things.
The edifices in Rome are a direct result of patriarchal ego, much like our churches, sports teams, etc. I’m not totally against any of it, but it’s worth considering how holy and healthy we consider almost anything, just like they did in the first century.
Karl Forehand

An Open Letter to Pastors for Consideration

Evolving From Religious Trauma

Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward,  Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community.  He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston.  His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply! You can read more about the author here.


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