Schism is a Greek word which can be roughly translated as 'shit-throwing between people who were once united but are now bitter enemies'. This definition can include families, political parties or sporting activities. Some of the bitterest schisms are often between those who once adhered to the same religious credo but are now praying that their God inflicts former colleagues with unspeakable illnesses and a run of bad luck at the lottery.
Those who are in a schism don't see their group as the 'schismatics' but will call their former friends (or at least united behind a common purpose) by that label. A more neutral word would be 'fork' but it is hard to think that the 'other lot' are or were ever true believers in the first place and will sell out at the next opportunity.
This tendency for humans to split away from each other probably lies deep inside some evolutionary trauma back in Africa. Possibly this is how the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons first emerged in a dispute about whose turn it was it was light the fire or fight the local cave bear, or can explain how the Indo-European language spread from Ireland to India, united only by a few legacy common words like Mama/Mom/Mater/Mutter and Mercedes-Benz. Yet so poor is the documentation that archaeologists have filled in the gaps with hours of television speculation and generous expenses.
When thinking about a 'schism', the Christian church is a prime example of what people think along these terms. The Greeks can be to blamed for this for their constant egg heading about 'theology', 'politics', 'ethics' - well pretty much anything. They were a nation of born brain speculators. Combine this with the advent of an off shoot of Judaism - the Jesus Christ cult - and a belief that there was only one God and you had plenty of fuel to light quite a few fires. As indeed the Christians were apt to do very often for 2,000 years.
Jesus may have been a great teacher but he was a distressingly bad chronicler of his own beliefs. Nor were his immediate followers any the wiser. Was he a man or a man-god or a god-man or someone with a very pungent stash of magic mushrooms. The New Testament wasn't any clearer either so for the next few centuries Christians bickered and feuded about who was in the right and who was sitting on the devil's knees have his tummy tickled.
This wouldn't have matted until the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great decided Christianity would work as a big bottle of glue to stick his domains together. If Constantine believed that then he was obviously a few gold bars short of a full load. This was evident at the First Council of Nicaea in 323 AD. An attempt to find a common formula about the nature of Jesus saw one group - the Arians - thrown out and labelled as heretics, schismatics. Since Constantine chose to go with the God works in threes (Man, Superman and a Cloak), the Arians who supported the idea of Jesus as just being a very special bloke - it was they who got hunted down with the full force of Roman law (an extension of a state's entertainment policy with gory public executions).
So what was started with the Arians in the 4th century, spread in the 5th Century with new theological dividing lines. There were the Nestorians who argued that Mary couldn't have mothered a god since the almighty had 'no mum' but only Jesus's human form. They were condemned at expelled by the later church councils. Then another group went the other way and denied Jesus suffered paid on the cross and that he had no problem reconciling his 'human bits' with his 'divine status' and that he had one spirit. These were called the Monophysites. In fact neither the Nestorians or the Monophysites called themselves that, in their eyes they were still mainstream Christians ('Catholic and Orthodox') and it was the others who had 'fallen into error' regards their ideas. And so on.
Later religious schisms would later be more about authority than theology. The Easterners rejected the Papal stance that in fact Jesus had meant anyone who succeeded St.Peter to have the final say about what was true belief and what was base heresy. So over time the 'Greek Orthodox' split away and then the Protestants.
Schisms in politics can be just as deadly as those in religion. Friends once united in a common purpose (like deposing kings and cutting off their noggins) then fall out what they want to do next.
In 1776 the American Patriots were all boys together, up against George III and his Loyalists, Red Coats and German Hessians. But having agreed on what they didn't want, friendships were rendered and accusations manufactured. So the Patriots split between those who called themselves 'Democratic-Republicans' and the others who adhered to 'Federalism' - which of course made them closet Monarchist restorationists. This was at least Thomas Jefferson's view but it was his colleague Aaron Burr who tired of endless discussion and decided to sort out his differences with Alexander Hamilton. They had fought against the British but now each was convinced the other was either an agent of France (Hamilton) or a George III fan boy (Burr). There was only one way to settle it. Hamilton lost and quite politics (and life) for good.
Shooting fellow colleagues wasn't just restricted to the Americas. In Britain two Tories took exception to each other around the cabinet table. In 1809 Lord Castlereagh objected to George Canning taking snuff whilst discussing his plans to defeat Napoleon and challenged him to stop. When Canning refused and teased his colleague about his broad Ulster Irish accent, the prickly minister demanded a duel with pistols. Canning missed deliberately but Castlereagh shot him in the groin. Canning survived with a changed voice but resigned. Neither men worked with each other until Castlereaugh did a very Un-British thing and cut his own throat.
These isolated incidents aside shows that even at the height of strong disagreements and a political and social schism, politicians rarely took to shooting or arranging the death of foes. Unlike say France where the Jacobins took power in 1792 and then proceeded to kill all their opponents (fellow Republicans) and then each other until Maximilien Robespierre was himself terminated to end the argument. True also in Russia where the Bolsheviks physically eliminated their declared foes and then their former colleagues (the Mensheviks) before going to take each other out and would end with Leon Trotsky sporting a piece of rock climbing equipment sticking of his head when former 'buddy' Joseph Stalin. That was the end of the debate.
If you had asked anyone what 'sporting' was in the 19th century, they would have told you 'shooting guns at animals' or boxing. That were the only two sports people recognised under that name. Fox hunting too was a sport. The status of Cricket was uncertain as a game that took five days to start and finish (if at all) seemed less like a sport and more of a game of chess. The Scots played golf and the rest cheated at cards.
One particular game was to become the exception. What were the rules for kicking a pig's bladder about?
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This page will be re-checked on 21:32, 6 May 2014