Monday, 4 July 2011

Speaking out but loving our neighbour

It is important when speaking out against injustice that we do not lose sight of the humanity of others. I am increasingly hearing people denouncing Islam for its oppressive and discriminatory practices- ironically those speaking out are often the type of Christians who are not above discriminatory attitudes and behaviour themselves. Andrew Brown gets the balance just right in  Sharia and the scare stories  where he mainly focuses on the lack of balance and reason certain conservative Christian groups show towards Muslims, as evidenced in the comments of  Michael Nazir Ali, whilst also deploring certain aspects of Islam.
It can be hard  for all of us to balance strong views with a sense of perspective and an refusal to jump to conclusions, or make sweeping generalisations about others.  I know it is an area that I struggle with constantly.  However, when we lose sight of the human face of those who oppose us, then it degrades and lessens all of us.

1 comment:

  1. I think the real issue is how we perceive something as ‘different’. As I hope I demonstrate in my own blog, there are no easy answers when it comes to complex questions or issues. A failure of many extreme groups (both Left and Right) is that they have a tendency to lump people together under convenient headings. Therefore Right Wing Christians such as Anglicanmainstream or the Christian Institute have created a pejorative taxonomy – ready-to-wear labels to which they add their own definitions, designed to neatly divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’: the righteous and the damned. Thus I find myself reading about ‘the gay-lifestyle’ – a term that appears frequently in the informative posts and articles the two organisations produce that are designed to make the sympathetic reader surrender to the comfortable, unchallenging, seemingly commonsense worldview of their authors. The approving readers can sagely nod their heads in disapproval of the homos, content that they are blameless because they are simply not the ‘other’, they are not different. Yet what is this ‘gay life-style’? Many of my friends are homosexual, but I can’t think of any whose lifestyle bears a resemblance to the inference of these Right Wing groups – but when your motivation is to cause hurt, distrust and prejudice, truth is not an issue.

    The poufs are a tiny minority – Muslims not so. There are around 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and just as with Christianity, there is no one ‘Islam’; it is a diverse religion, with many different expressions and cultures. Are the Christians of the Phelps’ hate camp ( the same as the monks of Pluscarden Abbey ( If not, why do many Christians presume ‘Islam’ is homogenous when their own religion is so heterogeneous? The sad – indeed terrible and dangerous – thing is that Michael Nazir Ali knows this – he knows Islam is not a monoculture; yet he, along with his creepy Christian friends, chooses to discuss Islam using a pejorative shorthand: Muslim = a threat to free speech, oppressors of women, democracy and human rights. The irony, as you note, is that the very crimes such Christians accuse Muslims of are often the very same crimes they are committing themselves in some shape or form. It is curious how those opposing a group or faction have a habit of becoming a mirror image of what they claim to be fighting.

    For my own part, I am wary of any movement that seeks to paint complex issues as black and white – particularly when there is the inference that one party is ‘good’ and the other ‘bad’. Right wing Christian groups spend a good deal of time and effort trying to lay the blame for social ills at the feet of others. This is not Christian, the message of the New Testament is that we are not saved by ‘good works’ or even by leading a ‘holy life’ – effort expended on outward righteousness is of little value; even less so when it results in a sense of superiority. Salvation comes from an acknowledgement of our need of God and an awareness of our own internal poverty.

    You are right, that we have to love our neighbour and despite the calumny and wickedness of some of these groups, I cannot hate them, for that would accomplish nothing. All I can do is write my little blog pieces and (with my academic hat on) feed into the general discussion of the issues of contemporary religion. Yet we cannot be complacent, it is no coincidence, in my view, that our native and the US Christian Right has chosen to campaign on issues that dovetail nicely with a good portion of long-standing British or Western cultural prejudices: the homos and the Muslims. Such Christians realise (consciously or unconsciously) that they have failed to capture hearts and minds through preaching and witness and so are trying to align themselves with well worn prejudices, hoping those who hold similar prejudices will be attracted to their pernicious cause. Therefore, neighbour or not, we have to fight otherwise so much of what is good will be lost.