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By Grace Hansen

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I have cried tears of personal pain there and sung songs of eternal joy there. I have listened to comforting words from the pulpit and deeply disturbing words of challenge, too. I have heard scripture read and have felt scripture read me. I have gathered around the communion table with my family of faith to share the sacred meal, the Lord’s Supper. And I’ve prayed there for miracles, both simple and elaborate. 34 A Gift of Meaning Is my experience unique? Not at all. Different religious traditions share something similar.

How was Falwell wrong? I hesitate to count the ways for fear of losing track, but let me at least start to point. Falwell’s problem is that he has pledged allegiance to but one interpretation of the enigmatic idea of Antichrist and declared that view the truth. Christian history, however, is replete with many ideas on the subject. That said, it is true that in one strain of Christian thinking— represented by the sixteenth-century Catholic prelate and scholar Robert Bellarmine—the Antichrist is a Jew who arises from the biblical tribe of Dan.

The Catholic tradition says those elements become the substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It’s a doctrine referred to as transubstantiation, which says that only the appearance of bread and wine remain. There are many shades of understanding among Protestants, but generally they view the bread and wine less literally, though many affirm Christ’s real presence in the sacrament. In some traditions—the Anglican, for instance—communion, also known as the Eucharist, is the center of worship.

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