Where’s Waldo?

I first learned about Waldensians in a class on the Middle Ages. In the centuries before the Reformation took place, some Christians in Europe resented the wealth and ostentation of the Catholic Church—the only show in town. In response the Waldensians preached a radical simplicity, including poverty. The established church, enamored of plutocracy and power, didn’t appreciate this challenge. To the average peasant, I suspect, the sincerity of the Waldensians was a bit more obvious than those who represented an institution enamored of its stature. When Catholicism learned about Waldensians and their imitation of Jesus’ lifestyle they did what came naturally. They killed them. Accusing those who insisted on helping the poor and needy of heresy gave the justification to the church’s decision to eliminate them.

What occasioned the most surprise, as I was recently reading about them again, was the discovery that the Waldensians still exist. The church has often been thorough in its elimination of those who cross it (note the antics of Rick Santorum), but somehow some Waldensians managed to live on through the persecutions of the trials of heresy. Yet the church still likes to bluster and condemn many to Hell, even if just metaphorically. I must admit that such posturing worries me. It is not in vain that the church has frequently insinuated itself into politics. Anyone who has been awake in America since the 1980’s can’t have helped but to have noticed.

Ironically, the three major monotheistic traditions began as counter-cultural movements. Once the religions gained political power the oppression of others began, thus starting the cycle all over again. The Waldensians are an excellent paradigm of what occurs when a religious body attains too much power. Heresy is so dangerous because it highlights hypocrisy. Claiming divine sanction for human weakness is a charade easily understood by those who take the time to watch closely. The revisionist history of America that we hear presidential hopefuls espousing are warning signs. The church may not have reached all the Waldensians in the Dark Ages, but it still keeps on trying. Fortunately the followers of Peter Waldo are sometimes hard to find.

5 thoughts on “Where’s Waldo?

  1. Funny that you think the church is so powerful. From inside organized religion looking out, the pews are empty and it feels like the barbarians are at the gates. It’s no longer the fifties when “everybody” went to church. Now when I venture out on the streets of suburbia on a Sunday morning, I pretty much have the road to myself, except for the joggers and bikers who are not on their way to a service. Churches everywhere are closing down – even the Crystal Cathedral is shutting its door. I have a lot of friends who go to church, but the non-churched, even in my own circle, outnumber me. Could it be that you are remembering the “good old days” of Christianity in America and projecting them onto today’s much reduced collective congregation. And what you have to fear from Santorum is beyond me. Romney’s walking all over him (even though it’s an expensive walk), so what’s wrong with Santorum giving voice to an insignificant minority like Evangelicals. If Mr. Santorum is striking a chord in America, you’re going to have to look further than Evangelicals, because there’s not enough of us to elect anybody.


    • I disagree, in North Texas, the first question anyone asks is what church you attend. If you get a chance watch the ABC tv show “GCB”. It may be satire, but it is quite close to reality in my world. The thing I find scary is not a church on every corner, but the opinion of one church over another. If you are not a conservative republican fundamentalist, you are a baby killing commie. There are no Democratic Christians here!
      Of course there are exceptions 🙂


  2. I guess I’m going to have to find you and introduce you to my circle of friends. I’m like their token conservative. I’m frequently schooled on the heartlessness of conservatism, but I have a hard time squaring that with who I know I am. I have great compassion for people, for the issues they face and their problems. At the same time I am a student of history and am passionate about our Constitution and Bill of Rights. I recently joked with one of my liberal buddies and said Conservatives were like the parents of the nation. Sure we’d like everyone to get everything they want and to get it for free – the parents are just wondering who’s going to pay for it.


    • I would love that 🙂 I really am moderate, but sadly where I live, north of Dallas, that is worse than liberal(not literally, I’m joking). Life is so not black and white you know, I try appreciate what everyone has to say, and admittedly, my opinions may change depending on my situation in life. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Easter, I am going to follow your blog, btw my real name is Jenny.


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