This story is one I heard at the University of Kansas. It was in a Medieval History class I was enrolled in (being as I was bound and determined to be a History teacher). This class was taught by the best history professor I have ever had, and I’m sorry to say, I don’t recall his name after all these years.
He would start out every class with a Medieval Joke or a story. And as best as I can, I will attempt retell one of my favorites.
There were a couple of merchants who were friends, one a Catholic the other a Jew, and they were in constant discussions as to the superior nature of each their chosen religion. At the time around the 13th century Catholicism was on the rise and there was a consistent stream of conversions and the Jewish merchant was always amazed. The two friends were each attempting to convert the other and neither succeeding. On one occasion the Jewish man who was intending a trip to Rome for business, told his Catholic friend in a bit of an amusing way that if what he found in Rome could convince him of the superior Catholic church, he would convert. Upon hearing this the Catholic man was fraught with fear as the Rome of that period was as corrupt as could be, with Bishops, Cardinals and Priests selling dispensation, granting favors and indulgences. While themselves participating it drunken debauchery and whoring. A generally poor example of the nature of the Catholic church. But knowing this the Catholic merchant did not illustrate this for his friend, hoping that such things might not be observed during his trip. So the Jewish merchant made his trip, and upon his return came to his friend and confessed that he would convert to the Catholic Religion. And his friend was perplexed, and ask what had been the determining factor. His friend then went on to describe the worst fears of what he had heard of Rome. The Catholic man was shocked at what he heard, and ask his friend that in the face of such corruption's, how could he want to convert to such a church. And the Jewish man said, it was because of such chaos that he determined that for a religion to grow as it had, then it must be the one true religion as nothing else could explain the rise of this religion. And the Jewish man converted to Catholicism.
Now this is interesting as it has a universal applicability to politics and religion in that with all the political corruption’s of democratic governments they continue to grow. Even in the face of fumbling presidencies corrupt politicians and bungled opportunities, when democracy has a chance, it will succeed even in the face of such chaos. Errors are corrected, politicians are convicted, presidents impeached, and bungled opportunities are recovered.
They are not without pain and require much work by honest men. And as it’s been said before;
Democracy is the the worst form of government, except for all the other’s