Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Christians: the religious minority it's cool to revile

I'm warming up from a theme touched upon in the post below. Since shit hitting fan circa September 11th 2001, a number of people have asked the question: when did the left abandon it's traditional position on organised religion? Being rather elderly - but in the apparent minority of people possessing a memory, I can tell you it was in 1988. What happened in that year was the publication of a book called the Satanic Verses by a British subject who goes by the name of Salman Rushdie. On the publication of this book, a foreign government called upon British subjects who were of the same confessional division as this autocratic revolutionary regime to murder this writer, should they have the opportunity. In Britain, public gatherings were held where people burned a copy of this book they had never read and reiterated the call for the author to have his life terminated.

I remember being absolutely amazed by what I then saw and heard from some of the valiant defenders of free-speech in Britain's liberal media: Mr. Rushdie had brought much of this on himself, they said - he should have been more sensitive to the feeling for the sacred amongst those who now wish to murder him. That he, and not they, had been brought up with the religious traditions that they affected so much solicitude for didn't appear to have occurred to them.

That this represented an abrupt break from the previous attitude, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever. The reason for my confidence is this: earlier in the year, a film had been released - Martin Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ. Christians did not call for Mr. Scorsese's murder but some did want the film to be banned because of it's controversial idea that Jesus was tormented by fantasies of a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene - played by the gloriously sensual Barbara Hershey.

In various bastions of cultural sensitivity like the Guardian and the BBC, articles were written and debates held. Oh, how those right-on liberals sneered - and how pleased with themselves they felt, these heroes of the Enlightenment. Imagine wanting to ban a film that they'd never seen, they said - how this obscurantism so pained and amused them simultaneously. This was before they had learned to be oh so terribly sensitive and understanding to the religious disposition so it never occurred to them that the juxtaposition of Hollywood eroticism with what millions of people consider to be sacred might be reasonably considered offensive.

And that's pretty much the way it's remained since then, as far as I can see. People like Christopher Hitchens and Polly Toynbee are treated today as if they are barking simply for maintaining what was - and I can assure you this was the case from long (and sometimes bitter) experience - the standard attitude of the liberal-left toward religion. Those considered mad have been consistent; everyone else is all over the place. In a tedious post on another blog, on which I posted some quite boring and obvious comments, Mr. Hitchens might as well have deep-fried a few babies to have as a garnish to his sirloin steak because he appeared - and indeed allowed himself to be photographed - with evangelical Christians! Oh, the depths - what depravity is this writer capable of? Mr. Livingstone, on the other hand, is right, justified and wise to appear on stage with a reactionary cleric who believes that there is no such thing as a civilian - if that civilian should happen to negate their humanity by being a Jew.

So things have changed quite a lot in my lifetime. Pre-Satanic Verses, the biggest form of religious oppression your average liberal could imagine was a religious person actually having the audacity to say what they believed to be true. This became the case at some mid-point in the 1980s - I don't quite remember when - but I distinctly remember 'imposing your values on someone else' becoming on a par with child-abuse in its heinousness. Yet if expressing one's views on abortion, for example, constituted the imposition of values on unwilling parties, the right-on brigade were doing fair bit of this themselves. Take the issue of women priests, for example. Lots of pontificating, and I use the word advisedly, was heard on this subject. Whether the Anglican or the Roman Catholic church, liberals agreed: of course they should allow women priests. After all, shouldn't the clergy be more representative of the 'people' in all it's diversity? In fact, the Sex Discrimination Act should be slapped on the churches in order to drag them into the modern age.

In these very misinformed and boring debates, no one was on hand to say that in both Roman Catholic and Anglican theology, the priest when dispensing the sacrament is not supposed to represent 'the people' but Christ. And no one gave the answer I would have given to the question of whether a church should have women priests, which is: "I'm not a Catholic nor an Anglican - so I don't care and it really isn't any of my business".

But what is my business, or rather I choose to make it so, is the fact that this new heart-warming solicitude with the religious feelings of minorities isn't exactly evenly distributed. If there's somewhere in the world where there are Americans killing Muslims, Jews killing Muslims, Muslims killing Americans and Jews, even Muslims killing Muslims - you'll get various forms of outrage, column inches and maybe a few marches demanding more time and an end to the outrage that is Starbucks or something like that.

But if you're indigenous Christians being persecuted and murdered in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? I'm afraid it seems no one gives a damn: not our present Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems more concerned with how the overthrow of a blood-soaked tyrant will play with an ecumenical audience; not much of the prowar left, who ignore you for the most part and find your co-religionists at home handy whenever they feel stung by accusations of 'Islamophobia'; and certainly not the newly religiously-sensitive hard left. With the last, their subtle and nuanced understanding of religion doesn't apply to you. Y'see, it's all about power. You may be personally impoverished and persecuted but it's not about that for the heroic class-warriors; it's what you symbolise.

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