Saturday, 23 June 2012

Sowing Seeds That Kill

God is love and those who live in love live in God
You know how it is when a couple of random events  seem to connect? Well, it was like that yesterday. The first random event was to see a picture posted by somebody on Facebook having a pop at the Westboro Baptist Church. The other was in sitting down and watching  a film with my wife, dare I say, during the afternoon! We watched "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (sic).

Anyone of you who has read my stuff over the years I have peddling it know that I struggle with 'hatred' and its fruits (as we all do, I think). I spent a fortnight at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem at a clergy conference concerning the Holocaust and how it is best 'taught' (I even wrote a little blog-ette during that time which you can find here if you wanted too). What I have learned is that without a jot of doubt that the greatest hatred can be traced to the smallest event, fracture or mis-understanding. Documents, where they exist, would also demonstrate the the Jewish Question in the 1940s is one such flimsy house of matches rooted in little if anything of substance - yet remember how that panned out. 

Not long ago, I was sat with some other Christians doing that whole 'praying out loud in circles' thing when someone prayed that the "lies of the enemy" might be exposed - referring to those of other faiths. I know, and have known for years, that there is a stream of consciousness in some brands of Christianity that regards Muslims, Hindus and others as the "enemy". This is one of the extremes.

The other extreme is made manifest in the interesting folk of the baptist church I referred to above (and this is their website that genuinely exists and for people who genuinely hold these views). If ever a deep seated, vigorous and bilious hatred of life existed - it is there, sadly. Let us not forget that they are a church, home to those who confess the name of Christ as Lord. They would condemn me (and likely have me killed given the ability) as a paedophile simply because I am "a priest". They rejoice at the deaths of those who made that sacrifice on behalf of innocent people that they didn't know - and will even deign to invade the funerals of such men and women, imposing their horrific theology on the families in their grief. I wonder if, had they been a Muslim organisation, whether they would have already been shut down or its leaders imprisoned for incitement to hatred? That I do not understand. Instead we send over Jeremy Kyle and laugh at them behind our hankies, writing them off as freaks and not worthy of effort or interest. 

The simple fact is that much of the visceral hatred that scars our world is seeded in faith. This we know. However, we look at the Muslims and we point a finger, forgetting completely that most antisemitism can trace its roots back to Christianity and its great theologians. I wonder how much of it we see and say nothing. Is praying for a man or woman of another faith in reference to them as 'enemies' - is that the first tiny step? I sense that it might be, and it frightens me in ways I cannot properly convey in words. Equally, I didn't make the challenge at the time, so I therefore share the responsibility - and that is perhaps worse. 

I wonder, if every Christians challenged a statement or action that smacked of "we [as Christians] are better then them, and they are bad because...", that we may just have within our feeble grasp a way of saving the lives of real people, either now or in a generation. Why has a world-wide church of hundreds of millions of people not consigned the Westboro folk, in all their diabolical bigotry, to the "court" public response? Who knows, eh. 


  1. David, I agree with a lot of what you write here, especially about the roots of antisemitism (though it existed in the Greek and Roman worlds long before "Gentilised" Christianity came along). However, I think you may misunderstand your praying friend/colleague's intention.

    "The enemy" is probably not Muslims, Hindus etc. as individuals but the teachings of the religions which (in this world-view) will be seen as errors, lies or distortions originating from "the enemy" i.e. the devil/Satan. This may seem to be a fine distinction, and one that is certainly lost on the likes of Westboro Baptist Church. Nevertheless, it is certainly possible to view the "isms" in this way but still treat individual Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others with humanity, respect and love, and many who think this way do manage to do this.

    That said, I too have been in prayer meetings where people have prayed in this way and felt distinctly uncomfortable that the theology was masking an underlying cultural xenophobia, much of it due to ignorance or poor teaching. And I wish that people who think, pray and speak in this way could become much less defensive and much more open to genuine dialogue and an easier relationship with others. This CAN be done while still bearing witness to our own faith in Christ.

  2. Talk about rogues! How in thunderation this itsy bitsy collection of mean-spirited funeral crashers ever have an audience is beyond me.

    I realize Jesus was very direct with the seven churches of Revelation, but were there an 8th, it would surely be these - those who first drown, then toss the baby out with the bathwater. Not sure how to word that theologically ...

    Now I have to repent of looking down my nose at the people looking down their noses :)



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