There was an odious man named Frank in our fundamentalist church when I was a boy who had a brood of badly behaved children. When one of them would act up, Frank would haul the miscreant out of the sanctuary and wallop him. When he would re-appear with the unfortunate sprog, Frank would mutter sanctimoniously, “Sometimes we need to administer love to our children.”
The memory brings to mind another fracas at church in an earlier time. At the Council of Nicea, Bishop Nicholas of Myra punched the heretic Arius in the face. Arius had been asked to defend his doctrine that Jesus Christ was only a created being and not God incarnate. The future Santa Claus, fed up with this nonsense, got up and administered some love. St. Nicholas is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. Some work. Some wonder.
Nicholas was not the only one of the Fathers inclined to physical expressions of orthodoxy. St. John Chrysostom was so troubled by Christians who advocated teetotalism that he preached a homily encouraging the faithful to revolt:
Most of us would hesitate to follow John Chrysostom’s robust advice. Explaining to the sheriff that we had struck the progressive Christian because he had “blasphemed the King of Angels” is not our style. Our new beatitude is “blessed are the milquetoast for they shall inherit a peaceful life.” We prefer to do battle with words, not swords, for we are sure that fingers tapping keyboards are more effective than fists striking faces.Paul is not ashamed. . .in writing to Timothy, to bid him take refuge in the healing virtue of wine drinking. Not to drink wine? God forbid! For such precepts belong to heretics. . . .Should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow, and if any should accuse you, and drag you to the place of justice, follow them, and when the judge. . .calls you to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels!
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