Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fan Club

I balanced all, called all to mind
The years to come seemed waste of breath
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.




I remember a Christian Union meeting. The preacher was a talking about miracles. In her church, they had them all the time. On one occasion, she'd been at the ladies prayer group and prayed for all sick folk in the community, and when she got home, she learned that husband's headache had been healed in that very hour.

She looked up from her notes, and admonished us like a very severe piano teacher.

"Do you think it is possible to be too fanatical a follower of Jesus?"

The students at the meeting seemed reluctant to commit themselves on this point.

"I said, do you think it is possible to be too fanatical about Jesus?"

Slightly more affirmative noise from the floor. No. Probably. Depends.

"No? Well I don't. I don't think it's possible to love Jesus too much, do you? Do you?"


I remember a Bible study group, four or five of us sitting on cushions in someone's college room, drinking mugs of nescafe and eating bourbons and reading from the New International Version (only ever the New International Version) a verse at a time. As we tried to distinguish our Elihus from our Bildads, I let slip that I doubted that Job was a real person; that I wondered whether real people would have made such long, erudite speeches; that I thought that what we were reading was pretty obviously a play. I don't think that any one argued with me or tried to refute me; certainly they didn't accuse me of heresy. It was more embarrassed, as if I'd farted in front of the vicar. I'd broken the rules of the game; said something you just don't say.

Weeks later, someone said: "I heard you didn't believe the Old Testament is the word of God?" I guess he must have known that there were crazy people like me in the world, but he seemed quite intrigued to talk to one face to face.

I learned hedge my theological bets; never voice skepticism out loud, never stray too far from the consensus. Don't argue about secondary issues. Theology can grind down your weaker brothers faith. Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down you're rocking the boat.


I remember a prayer meeting. The guitars were swaying more than usual. Someone said "Can I pray for you?" He laid his hands on my head. Several other people joined in. They started to pray inaudibly. The guitarists played another hymn, or more likely, the same hymn for the fifth time. Something was obviously expected of me, but I didn't know what. Some helpful soul tried to prompt me. "Perhaps you are hearing strange words in your head right now?" I wasn't. After the meeting, someone asked me how I felt. I said something involving in the word "blessing" and everyone went away satisfied.

I now understand that they had been trying to induce a shamanistic state called "baptism in the spirit", and that I ought to have either fainted ("slain in the spirit") or vocalised wildly ("speak in tongues"). I am pretty sure that if I had known the rules, I would have improvised some kind of babbling noise and afterwards convinced myself that I had indeed been possessed by the Holy Ghost. In an emotionally charged atmosphere, it's not easy to say "I didn't experience anything, and I don't have the remotest idea what you are talking about."


I remember going to a park, in the spring, with guitars, and sitting in a circle, and singing hymns and reading out of the Bible, and people with kids looking at us with good humored curiosity. I remember thinking about lions and sandals and roman centurions, and hippy Jesus freaks in caftans, and thinking "This feels good. This is the real thing."


And let's be honest, I also remember sitting in a dark room with cheap beer in plastic glasses, watching a bad black and white sci-fi movie and knowing that in some sacramental way, this defined us all us "geeks", and that we would not, for all the world, change places with those "mundanes" who didn't know their DS9 from their B5. All groups do it. You can easily spend all evening at a committee meeting, passing resolutions demanding soft paper in the loos and five minutes more lunch time, and go home believing that your in the vanguard of the proletariat revolution.


I remember visiting the headquarters of some missionary organisation, with tracts and slides shows and copies of the Bible in Chinese. They sent missionaries to live in communities where very obscure languages were spoken, with a view to produce a text of the Bible in the local tongue. Maybe some of you might become the next generation of missionaries, they said. "I don't even speak French", I explained. Oh, but you wouldn't have to. We are talking about languages that practically no-one speaks: you'd have to learn it from the ground up. Two of my friends were very moved by this. For the rest of their time at college, they were going to choose courses that would be useful to them as linguists. When they got their degrees, they were going to become Bible translating missionaries. They felt sure that this was what God was telling them.

Felt sure that this was what God was telling them. And for a second, I pictured myself – sandals, toga, caftan, guitar -- in some exotic village, living in a tent, wrestling alligators and exploring Inca temples by day and translating the Bible by night. A sense of Cosmic Purpose -- well, at any rate, a clear Narrative Structure for my life. What could be more important than bringing God's word to the Lost? But also a sense of escape. Decide today that I will I spend the rest of my life translating the Bible into Oompa-Loompa and I would never again have to worry about the careers center or job applications or revision and finals. A clear Path laid out before me, and one that God approved of.

Honestly, only for a second.

But it makes me wonder. What if we'd been having our Bible studies and prayer meetings and house parties in a some communist state (this was when there was still communism)? Suppose we'd been running the risk of being arrested for our Christian beliefs? Suppose we had had good reason to think of ourselves as outsiders, victim of prejudice, an underclass by virtue of our religion? Keep them yelling their devotion / but add a touch of hate at Rome."

Do you think it is possible to be too fanatical about Jesus? Well, do you?

83 comments:

Chestertonian Rambler said...

Hmm...not sure if you had a point, but definitely worth responding to.

As a Christian, I think it is certainly possible to be too fanatical about what you think Jesus is. I also think that it is a bit of a category error to talk about a Christian life in a way that opposes reason and deliberation to Christianity. Jesus at least was certainly not fanatical enough about Jesus not to wish that his father could take his cup from him.

Of course, the problem with answers to questions like this, is that they must either take the form "I see where the concept of 'being fanatical for Jesus' which I had recieved from my particular Christian tradition is wrong," or they must involve themselves with deep theology, which requires either very similar views or lots and lots of discussion.

Incidentally, I think the word "geeks" translates to "nerds" in the States. As far as I can tell, "geek" is the subset of "nerd" which is particularly skillful with computers. That could be a local Texas thing, though.

Tom R said...

Good point about the long speeches. My own take is that the Biblical accounts are less like a verbatim transcript, or Hansard, than like a "documentary". Everyone knows that a documentary is not a literal depiction; there's a certain amount of artistic licence to give background -- and especially to convey, to the audience, things that the real-life protagonists themselves wouldn't say, because it's too obvious.

Science fiction does this a lot (and usually clumsily) because there's a lot of invented back-story to get across. You don't start a 1950s Cold War thriller by having the British agent tell the West German agent "Your people and mine have fought two bloody wars in the last 40 years, but now we are allies against the Soviets". "Yes. And against their puppets in East Germany. How it grieves my heart to see my country divided". (Change the names and this is nearly word for word the first 5 minutes of the Babylon Five pilot episode.

wibble said...

Well, there was a time, nearly the first three centuries of church history when Christians had good reason to think of themselves as outsiders, victims of prejudice, an underclass by virtue of their religion. And there were groups of Christians who met in communist Europe, and now there are groups of Christians who meet in communist China, who meet those standards as well. Are they too fanatical about Jesus?

Porlock Junior said...

Geeks aren't necessarily computer types, at least on the West Coast; they're just weirder, more fanatical about something, whether computers, Star Wars, or whatever, than other nerdish types. At least that's mu understanding of the usage, from the viewpoint of the wrong generation.

Fanatical? So: Jesus Geeks? Don't ask me.

The introduction of "geek" into English-language usage is credited to Joy Gresham's first husband. Just thought someone might be interested.

Paul Brown said...

Since I'm not a Christian I'm not really qualified to judge other people's levels of Christianity in either sense of the word, but I do sympathise with feeling that you should've spoken in tongues because it was expected. At school I joined in with hymns not because I actually believed in anything that I was singing, in some cases I didn't even understand it, but because everyone else was.
I could almost hear God's voice saying, "you hypocritical little git - you're only joining in because you don't want to offend anyone". Even now I can't decide if it makes me a better person or, I suspect, a worse one.

Dotan said...

I'm on to you...
This is a parable leading into an in-depth analysis of "Batman Begins", right? Like that football-fan anthropology thing for "Revenge of the Sith".

Andrew Rilstone said...

You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you
When he hears you speak
And says, "How does it feel
To be such a freak?"
And you say, "Impossible"
As he hands you a bone



Cambridge: a person, especially a man, who is boring and not fashionable

Oxford: 1:an unfashionable or socially inept person. 2 an obsessive enthusiast.

Websters: 1 : a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake 2 : a person often of an intellectual bent who is disapproved of

Roget: Eccentric -- beatnik, case, character, coot, crackpot, creep, customer, fly ball, freak, fruitcake, geek, gonzo, goof ball, heretic, hippie, kook, loner, looney tunes, maverick, nonconformist, nut, nutcake, odd person, oddball, oddity, original, queer duck, rare bird, screwball, three-dollar bill, weirdo, whacko, wombat, zombie

Roget: Authority -- auger, bookworm, brain, cereb, cognoscenti, egghead, expert, grind, grub, guru, intellectual, ivory dome, learned man, maestro, maven, pencil geek, philosopher, prof, savant, scholar, solon, spider, teach, thinker, tool

Online Etymological Dictionary: "sideshow freak," 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck "a fool, dupe, simpleton" (1515), apparently from Low Ger. geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Gmc. and Scand. meaning "to croak, cackle," and also "to mock, cheat." The modern form and the popular use with ref. to circus sideshow "wild men" is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham's novel "Nightmare Alley" (made into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power

One who spends his lunch-time reading dictionaries on the internet.

Charles Filson said...

There are 10 types of people in the world; those who understand binary and those who don't.

The former are called geeks...at least in Minnesota. (The other bookend of I35. The first being Texas.)

rambler tom and wibble said it pretty well.

I thinkt that it is possible to be too fanatical and consider yourself a Christian. I think that being extremely fanatical and eally trying to be a Christian will make you strange and geekish, but not in a scary way. (maybe a bit spooky)

I think that if you are a fanatical Muslim it would be really hard not to be scary to non-muslims.

Fanatical Christian in the best sense equals Mother Theresa. People who desperately want to show Jesus' love to the world. In the worst sense it is people who want to convert everybody, control governments and pass laws to make everybody behave in a moral fashion.

Now, I could be wrong about this, but fanatical Muslim in the best sense seems to be a person who wants to convert everybody, control governments, and make the world Dar Islam. (Under Islamic Law)
Muslims in the very best sense seem to be those who want the same, but will also follow the Koranic commandment to kill anybody who will not convert. And to kill random people just to prove that Islam is the best religion.
There was this one Christian guy called torquemada who had similar ideas, but he sort of fell out of fashion when the common person started to be able to read the Bible for themselves.
I have the impression that as more Muslims are able to read stuff like: O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. [al-Ma'idah 5:51.11]
Or
- Regarding infidels (unbelievers), they are the Muslim's "inveterate enemies" (Sura 4:101). Muslims are to "arrest them, besiege them and lie in ambush everywhere" (Sura 9:5) for them. They are to "seize them and put them to death wherever you find them, kill them wherever you find them, seek out the enemies of Islam relentlessly" (Sura 4:90). "Fight them until Islam reigns supreme" (Sura 2:193). "Cut off their heads, and cut off the tips of their fingers" (Sura 8:12).

Then there is Sura Sura 48:29 which calls for ruthlessness to unbelievers, and Koran 5:33 which calls for crucifying unbelievers and cutting off their hands and feet.

I can't see this comparing to fanaticism in Christianity.

Here is a nice quote from Sheik Omar Bakri, founder and leader of the Islamic Religious Court in London:

"In my method of education, I am opposed to the idea of integration. We do not believe that it is permitted to integrate into the societies in which we live. I am not a supporter of seclusion from society, and I am not a supporter of integration into it. I am a supporter of interaction with society, by means of my religion and my belief, in order to change the environment, not to be changed by it...The life of estrangement will lead... to [a] change in the situation of the country in which we live, as the Muslims changed the situation in Abyssinia and Indonesia. Allah willing, we will transform the West into Dar Al-Islam [that is, a region under Islamic rule] by means of invasion from without. If an Islamic state arises and invades [the West] we will be its army and its soldiers from within. If not, [we will change the West] through ideological invasion from here, without war and killing."

Dan Hemmens said...

Where you're going wrong, Charles, is in defining "The perfect Christian" as a forward thinking, modernist individual with an enlightened set of views inspired by the Bible, while defining the "perfect Muslim" as a fundamentalist zealot who wants to kill everybody.

Would you, by similar extention, define the Perfect Jew as somebody who genuinely wants to kill every single man, woman, and child in London, burn it to the ground, and salt the earth, in accordance with the principles laid out in Deuteronomy?

Sam Dodsworth said...

I think that being extremely fanatical and really trying to be a Christian will make you strange and geekish, but not in a scary way.

Er...

You might also want to consider the distinction between Islam and Wahibism. And generally stop being offensive.

Charles Filson said...

Sam,

What exactly is offensive?

BTW: there was an important typo in my post. In stead of:

Muslims in the very best sense seem to be those who want the same, but will also follow the Koranic commandment to kill anybody...

Should read Now, I could be wrong about this, but fanatical Muslim in the best sense seems to be a person who wants to convert everybody, control governments, and make the world Dar Islam. (Under Islamic Law)
Muslims in the very worst sense seem to be those who want the same, but will also follow the Koranic commandment to kill anybody who will not convert. And to kill random people just to prove that Islam is the best religion.


which if you'll notice flows much better with my comments, and is probably less offensive.


Dan,

No I would not. The Jews, as I pointed out in another thread, had a reformation. I don't actually hear Jewish leaders suggesting that they should burn down London and salt the earth. Can you show me a similar comment to Bakri's by a Christian or Jew that did not elicit massive condemnation from the west? Can you even show me an equivilant comment?

I find nothing to compare with
Mohammad abu Faris, Jordanian Islamic Leader at AIP Conference, Chicago Illinois, 1996

"We were blamed in writing that we do not comply with what our religion orders us to. It orders us to fight the Jews and we did not kill them, and we did not perform our religion. Therefore, had we claimed that we do perform what our religion orders us and obliges us to do while we are not doing it then they would have been right. They wrote that our reality contradicts our religion…..There is only one way to liberate Palestine and Al-Aqsa, and that is the fighting, that is the Jihad, that is the slaughtering, that is the butchering call it dialogue."

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Would you, by similar extention, define the Perfect Jew as somebody who genuinely wants to kill every single man, woman, and child in London, burn it to the ground, and salt the earth, in accordance with the principles laid out in Deuteronomy?

Huh?

Not that I disagree with the jist of your argument, but what are you talking about? The closest injunction to the one you describe is the order to destroy Amalek, but I don't see how London comes into the picture.

And while we're on the subject, Charles, what Jewish reformation?

Andrew, your description of the study group discussing Job reminded me, once again, to be grateful for mandatory Bible classes in Israeli schools. You get rid of the Mickey Mouse stuff - the stories, the wars, taking the whole thing literally - in grade school and move on to more interesting things. Junior high classes cover the prophets. Job is studied in high school (not very deeply, I'm afraid, as there isn't enough time), along with the laws, source theory, and a return to the creation story. Throughout, the Bible is treated as what it is - a remarkable document, encompassing literature, poetry, history, propaganda, law, theology, metaphor and myth. But always, a human creation.

With the exception of basic math and a bit of calculus, I don't think anything I learned in 12 years of public education was more useful than those Bible classes.

Charles Filson said...

I'm sloppily refering to Maimonides, and his Aristotelian world-view which changed the Jewish dialog for centuries. It was not truely a reformation, but it did lead to the liberalization of Torah that allowed for the modern view held by the Jews who call themselves 'Reformed'.
A liberal view where...well, I am sure you all know as much or more about this than I do.

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
American Ronin said...

I think, if we are going to accept that Jesus is Incarnate God who died and was reborn to purge man's sin and reunify us with Himself, and that rejection of him means damnation, then we really can't be too fanatical. Believe this, and you believe that Jesus is the most important thing that could ever be. The popular Sunday-school analogy I often heard in my youth was the collapsed bridge down the road. Can a man be too fanatical about warning other motorists that they're about to go into a ravine?

On the other hand, it's entirely possible to be fanatical in the wrong way. Single-mindedly striving to follow Christ's teachings of love, honesty and humility and convince others to do likewise is one thing. Single-mindedly using a belief in Christ as an excuse to kill, conquer, torture, rape, or shout rude things at homosexuals is quite another. The man at the bridge stopping and savagely beating other motorists with his jack handle to keep them from going over the edge, looting the bodies of those who have gone over the edge, and telling certain drivers that they deserve nothing better than to drive off the ravine.

The main problem, I think, is that the most fanatical of those who call themselves Christians are not really fanatical about Christ at all. They're fanatical about the religion of Christianity, usually their specific denomination of it, and generally some specific point of doctrine. Religion as a false idol opposed to the God it purports to worship. Giving us folk like Baptists who condemn all dancers to Hell, or those nice chaps in that picture of Sam Dodsworth's.

Louise H. said...

As another non-Christian I would definitely agree that you can be too fanatical about Jesus! There comes a point when we feel that we can no longer communicate with Christians of a certain enthusiasm; we and they are no longer speaking even close to the same language. (Which makes a bit of a mockery of the idea of witnessing.) They speak in terms of miracles, prayers and the evils of Harry Potter, we politely excuse ourselves and talk to someone else. Not secretly impressed or intrigued, but simply baffled.

Possibly that's just a plea for rationality in religion (if that isn't a contradiction). But the idea that the louder one shouts the better one is heard is definitely not true.

I too went to a college Bible study group for a while. The two things I remember from it is that one of the other students was working on weapons systems, and he gave the justification that if he didn't do it someone else would, and the church fund dedicated to sending Bibles to Ethiopia in the middle of the famine. Stupidity and hypocrisy isn't restricted to Bible study groups but the more Christians hold themselves apart from everyone else the more noticeable their foibles.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

I feel like a plagarist, here, but...

OED "fanatic"

1. a. Of an action or speech: Such as might result from possession by a deity or demon; frantic, furious. Of a person: Frenzied, mad. Obs.

2. Of persons, their actions, attributes, etc.: Characterized, influenced, or prompted by excessive and mistaken enthusiasm, esp. in religious matters.

B. n.
1. A mad person. In later use: A religious maniac. Obs.

2. a. A fanatic person; a visionary; an unreasoning enthusiast. Applied in the latter half of the 17th c. to Nonconformists as a hostile epithet.

b. A fanatical devotee of.


So, at least according to the OED, being a fanatic is a bad thing pretty much by definition. Unless the Union teacher was a huge fan of archaisms, and was referring to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Dan Hemmens said...

Not that I disagree with the jist of your argument, but what are you talking about? The closest injunction to the one you describe is the order to destroy Amalek, but I don't see how London comes into the picture.

I could be wrong, but I could have sworn that I'd seen a bit in Deuteronomy which basically says "if people in a city worship other gods, then you should kill them all, burn it down, and salt the earth."

I might be completely wrong, though.

Dan Hemmens said...

Can you show me a similar comment to Bakri's by a Christian or Jew that did not elicit massive condemnation from the west? Can you even show me an equivilant comment?

Perhaps, if I could be arsed to trawl through a whole bunch of insane, right-wing, fundamentalist websites. But I don't have to.

You are taking the statements of the lunatic fringe of Islam and saying "that is what Islam is like." Essentially, you're pursuing a No True Scotsman argument:

"True Muslims want to convert the world to by means of force and bloody revolution."
"Lots of Muslims don't want to convert the world by means of force and bloody revolution."
"Then they aren't true Muslims."

Now, if you're only talking about Muslim fantatics, then yes, you're probably right. And Christian fantatics are just as bad. "We have a religious mandate to kill Jews" and "we have a religious mandate to kill queers and abortionists" are very much the same thing.

You're defining "fantaticism" differently for two different faiths. You're defining fantaical Islam as "wanting to kill everybody who isn't a Muslim" (even though, according to a lot of prominent Muslim scholars, there's bugger all to support that in the Koran) and defining fantaical Christianity as "a deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ."

Sam Dodsworth said...

Sam - What exactly is offensive?

Dan Hemmens has covered this very well, but since you asked me specifically... Suppose I said "I could be wrong about this, but fanatical Christian in the best sense seems to be a person who wants abortion and sodomy to be capital crimes, and for nothing that contradicts a literal reading of the Bible to be taught in schools", and supported it with quotes from (say) Jerry Falwell and Fred Phelps?

I'd elaborate on this, but I find that I'm too inclined to get angry - particularly after the latest set of attempted bombings here in London. Suffice to say that don't think the kind of generalizations you've been making help anyone except the terrorists, and that I have trouble applying them to the Muslims that I know here at work.

lizw said...

I think American Ronin has it exactly right. You can't be too fanatical about Jesus, but history is littered with people who were too fanatical about him in the wrong way.

Kevin said...

I've just been struck by a juxtaposition of articles, loosely connected with the themes of the day...

The first is a translation of a quote from an Indian traveller:

"I have been wandering for the last two years. Though I was not particularly selective about the places I went to, almost everywhere I saw groups of human beings organzied into religions, castes, linguistic or ethnic entities killing, burning, looting and raping one another. As
individuals, the victims are not responsible for what was being done to
them. It was their identities, one kind or the other, that made them vulnerable to the wrath of others. Most of the people I spoke to told me that they were fighting for the assertion of their of their
identities. But when I asked them why people who fought for their identities were intent on destroying other people's identities, they had no answer...."

I guess the one thing many people will fight for is to prevent the destruction of the culture.

The second is this:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/07/20/news/edpfaff.php# link.
Liberals and conservatives, pro and anti-war westerners, we are all pretty much equally implicated in the changes which drive terror.

Gavin Burrows said...

[i]Dan Hemmens said...

You are taking the statements of the lunatic fringe of Islam and saying "that is what Islam is like." Essentially, you're pursuing a No True Scotsman argument:

"True Muslims want to convert the world to by means of force and bloody revolution."
"Lots of Muslims don't want to convert the world by means of force and bloody revolution."
"Then they aren't true Muslims."[/i]

...and of course the other way around. The murder of 53 people on the Tube by Islamic fanatics, while of course indefensible, seemed to get more publicity than the news that an average of 25 people have died [i]daily[/i] in the occupation of Iraq, most of them at the hands of the 'Christian' occupying armies.

I read about an anti-war demo in the States where some counter-demonstrator held up a sign saying 'For Dubya and Jesus' or similar. The demonstrators chanted at him "Who would Jesus bomb?" "Iran" he replied. "If Jesus was here now he'd bomb Iran." (Which produces a nice South Park-like mental picture.)

[i]Andrew Rilstone said...

Cambridge: a person, especially a man, who is boring and not fashionable

Oxford: 1:an unfashionable or socially inept person. 2 an obsessive enthusiast.[/i]

At first I thought these definitions referred to residents of Cambridge and Oxford respectively, and was about to agree.

Mike Taylor said...

I very much like Dann Hemmens's observation:


You're defining "fantaticism" differently for two different faiths. You're defining fantaical Islam as "wanting to kill everybody who isn't a Muslim" (even though, according to a lot of prominent Muslim scholars, there's bugger all to support that in the Koran) and defining fantatical Christianity as "a deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ."


And there, folks, we have the answer to the original Christian Union preacher's question (if anyone remembers back as far as Andrew's actual article): is it possible to be too fanatical a Christian? I guess pretty much every Christian would agree that, no, in the "deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ" sense, it's not possible. But that isn't really what people mean when they talk about "fanatical Christians". They mean people who are fanatical about a church, or a denomination, or a specific issue (pacifism, abortion, vegetarianism, what have you) rather than about the person.

Anyway: none of this excuses Andrew from the monstrous abdication of responsibility that is if total failure to post a deep, penetrating and insightful summary/review of the recently ended Doctor Who.

Andrew Rilstone said...

((The trouble is, my opinions on the end of "Doctor Who" would pretty much repeat what I had already said: looked gorgeous; Chris and Billy brilliant; plot holes big enough to drive a stardestroyer through; too much deus-ex-machina; and RTD really ought to grow up and get over the lavotary jokes. My plan is to wait til the boxed set comes out, and then see about watching the whole thing again and doing a critique in detail. Meanwhile, I am watching Billy Hartnell from the beginning, in order, including the episodes that don't exist. I will doubtless have somethign to say about this in due course...)

Kevin said...

Louise H.
Stupidity and hypocrisy isn't restricted to Bible study groups but the more Christians hold themselves apart from everyone else the more noticeable their foibles.

You remind me of a thing I heard:

1. The views of any closed group become more homogenous over time.

2. For a sufficiently closed group, these views may become isolated from reality.

Which fits in with my experience of some Christian groups. That roughly defines my conception of the word 'fanatic': divorced from reality. It doesn't really help though, because you then just ask 'whose reality'.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

Could we please replace the word "fanatical" with "devoted" or even "extreme?"

The difference is that, the way I see it, the very word fanatical seems to imply a sort of blindness or recklessness. I haven't ever heard the term used for, say, a scientist who devotes his entire life to the pursuit of his research.

Basically, if you serve a cause effectively, you are devoted. If you serve a cause stupidly (though with apparent earnestness) you are fanatical. At least that seems to be the use outside this particular discussion.

(This Message Brought to you by the C. S. Lewis Society to Limit Verbacide.)

Abigail Nussbaum said...

The trouble is, my opinions on the end of "Doctor Who" would pretty much repeat what I had already said: looked gorgeous; Chris and Billy brilliant; plot holes big enough to drive a stardestroyer through; too much deus-ex-machina; and RTD really ought to grow up and get over the lavotary jokes. My plan is to wait til the boxed set comes out, and then see about watching the whole thing again and doing a critique in detail.

Oh, that's just not fair. I've got a whole response to the deus ex machina thing all worked out in my head and I've been waiting for you to talk about it forever.

You know, it's only because of you that I watched the show in the first place. You ought to to be a little more diligent about providing me with a forum to discuss it. :-)

To bring this, ever so slightly, back on topic, I agree with Louise when she says that from the non-Christian perspective, it is certainly possible for Christians to be too fanatical about Jesus without resorting to burnings and inquisitions. Which is a problem because, as American Ronin points out, if you truly believe that everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is damned, it's impossible to try too hard to save their souls. For a true believer, there really is no such thing as religious pluralism.

Which leads me, once again, to be grateful for the fact that Judaism is a) not particularly concerned with the afterlife and b) anti-missionary.

Sylvia Drake said...

Andrew, I wish you'd start watching Battlestar Galactica or something so I'd occasionally have more than a tangential familiarity with what you're writing about.

Anyway:

Geeks aren't necessarily computer types, at least on the West Coast; they're just weirder, more fanatical about something, whether computers, Star Wars, or whatever, than other nerdish types. At least that's mu understanding of the usage, from the viewpoint of the wrong generation.

Essentially correct. Geekdom (coastally and in online fora, anyway) is cultural, and involves a deep and thoughtful involvement in things that most normal people don't care about and a tremendous command of [obscure] facts. There is also a tendency towards "fandom" overlap, such that geeks of my generation all know Picard from Sisko and are at least semi-fluent in netspeak, even if what they're really geeky about is Linux or anime. (I imagine it was always like this, but more so since The Internet.)

There is a growing understanding, among my peer group at least, that geekdom, while it may in some cases lead to insularity or derive from loneliness, does not necessarily equate to social ineptitude. Sometimes it is nearly invisible until a room full of perfectly normal-looking people suddenly, with no obvious prompting, recite a Homestar Runner cartoon in unison.

Charles Filson said...

Dan and Sam,

I was not under the impression that the Islamic Religious Court and the AIP were lunatic fringe. If they are then they are very well attended lunatic fringes. The last AIP held in Chicago drew tens of thousands.

Just like Jerry Falwell does. If you claim that Jerry Falwell is the lunatic fringe, then you have to claim that a huge number of christians are on it. (Which is probably true.)

But let's grant Sam's argument that "fanatical Christian in the best sense seems to be a person who wants abortion and sodomy to be capital crimes, and for nothing that contradicts a literal reading of the Bible to be taught in schools". In truth this is a good description of the dark side of fanatical Christianity (except Sodomy being a capital crime, I don't think this view is actually held, though many do want it to be a crime.)

This is pretty main-stream extremeist Christianity. By that I mean that there are congressmen who support this view and people say it in public in large groups. Some preachers preach this view from the pulpit.

Then There are even those people who blew up abortion clinics.
In the case of the abortion clinic bombers, they were universally disavowed by every Christian with an audiance and many without, and in many cases they were turned in to the law by their own congregations. This is not main-stream. (Unless you can find a Christian Leader or Institution that has publically endorced this behavior.)

On the Muslim side: Iran's Legislator routinely chants "Death to America, Death to Britain, Death to the Zionists" after passing measures. (According to the Beeb)
Any time there is an Al-Quds Day celebration the same chants are spoken by "hundreds of thousands of Muslims" according to Al Jazeera. I recall the images of Muslims dancing in the street after 9/11.
These are not fringe people. This is the leadership of Islamic Nations and large crouds of Muslims. (hundreds of thousands) I can't recall the last time a mob in America or Britain or France or Germany...or heck Japan or Russia broke out into chants of "Death to 'X'-Nation"
I can't recall ever seeing this happen. We are not talking about the fringe of Islam, we are talking about the core. The fringe are the people who reject this behavior. At least according to Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera.

I studied Arabic entirely for the purpose of reading the Koran in Arabic. I have also read it in English. I would encourage you to do the same.

The Christian abortion-clinic bomber has to stretch and abuse the text to justify the bombing. In most cases they don't even try. They just pull out Psalm 129 that says that fetuses are people, and then extrapolate from there. All I am saying is that the Koran spells out in plain language what I have already quoted with Sura addresses. RTFM man. Read the book. Don't take my word for it. There is beautiful stuff in there, but the stuff I quoted is not twisted and abused. It's what is written.

Can a Christian be too fanatical? Yes. Absolutely. I can be a fanatic buhdist and decide that I have to kill everybody in order to free them from Samsara into Nirvana, but this would be twisting the text of Buhdism. My point about Islam is that you don't have to twist the text to get justification for killing unbelievers.

Sylvia Drake said...

And a brief response to the actual post (totally free of all Islam references!):

In an emotionally charged atmosphere, it's not easy to say "I didn't experience anything, and I don't have the remotest idea what you are talking about."

This is something I am a little familiar with on a smaller scale--occasionally, living in the liberal bastions that I do, one will be accosted by someone who insists that she is curing one's headache by waving her hands around and demands that one respond accordingly, or be called upon to feel the energies a spiritually charged rock of some sort that is being passed around in martial arts class, or encounter some other suddenly imposed social expectation of someone else's "correct" spiritual response.

I don't know that I have much of a point, except that your description here is very apt, and that I always find your Jesus-related entries to be enlightening reads although/because they relate to something pretty far removed from my own culture.

Charles Filson said...

Point taken Sylvia, I should drop Islam and address Andrew's point. I was sort of anticipating his underlaying theme, perhaps wrongly.

And, for a last comment on Islam, I do appreciate that there is much beauty in Islam, but I am very afraid, after reading the Koran, that unless Islam finds a way to disregard the knottier parts of their texts (as many of us Christians and Jews have) then it is hard to see Islam not being a negative force.

When I was in high-school I went to this thing called FCYF: free church youth festival. It was like a music and drama competition for evangelical churches. I played Satan in this really cool play called the lie. I was chastised heavily by some for the role. ;-)

One of the speakers at one morning chapel asked us all to sit quietly for a moment and listen for God to speak our names. My best friend said he heard the crashing of waves and my youth pastor said he heard the ringing of bells. Another person said he heard the roar of the lion and so on. I said that I had heard nothing. I think that the look that I got was similar to the one Andrew said was like he'd farted in front of the vicar.
I guess I should have said that I heard the cry of an eagle or maybe the howl of a wolf or something really cool.
I still sort of wonder if they actually thought they heard something, or just made it all up.

But what does it mean? Does it mean that I have an underdeveloped God spot in my Temporal Lobe? Does it mean that maybe some of us are either fortunate in that we aren't delusional, or that we are unfortunately handicapped in some way that makes us unable to feel Raike healing or the voice of God?

Louise H. said...

On the road to atheism I lingered for several teenaged years with the Quakers. Their meetings were based around the idea that in silence we can hear God and that we are moved to speak in response. (Obviously some people were moved to speak a lot more frequently than others). I never got the impression there that the Voice of God would manifest itself in any overt form. No fanaticism there!

I have heard God, and the experience moved me deeply, but then I have also heard the voice of a willow tree (on several occasions) and while illicitly trespassing on Silbury Hill I heard pretty much the whole world speaking to me. I'm not convinced that this sort of religious experience is really very meaningful. As Charles suggests, your tendency to experience God directly and overtly is more likely to be a product of your temporal lobes and an active imagination than the miraculous intervention of a deity.

Charles Filson said...

Just for the record, I am a deeply spiritual person who finds the existance of a higher power nearly self-evident in creation (or whatever the equivalent phrase for an existance that just happened is.) and I attend church weekly...I just find the people I sit next too sort of strange.

I won't go into my reasons for believing in god here. They are wrapped up in Lewis and Haldane, and 11 dimension string theory, and other such articles of faith, but suffice it to say that it isn't a belief in God that I find strange and spooky. Heck, unless I am willing to claim to know everything about the Universe I can't say that one thing or antoher is absolutely correct: either there being a God or there not being one, and I am not quite that arrogant. What I find strange and spooky is what people do wtih their religion. The way that so many people think that God is the most important thing in the world, but then don't bother to talk to other people about God. They devout their lives to Jesus and never read Calvin, Augustine, Chesterton, Lewis, or even people like McDowell and his contemporaries. In fact, I encounter people in Christian churches who have no idea what the council of nicea was or did.
What astounds me are not fanatics, but people who are fanatically loyal without being fanatically studious. Why would a person do that?

Paul Brown said...

Is it possible to be too fanatical about Jesus? Yes

I think that the point is it is possible to be too fanatical about / devoted to / insert preferred term anything at all. Human beings have a remarkable and apparantley unlimited talent for taking things too far; liking the Star Wars films is a perfectly healthy thing to do; dressing up as a Stormtrooper is a little on the extreme side, but still falls into the category of harmless fun; verbally threatening people for disagreeing with your interpretation of how a lightsaber works is too far.

I was tempted then to type "over the line", but the concept of lines doesn't really apply; one end of the scale is clearly fine and the other end is not and there is no actual point at which you cross over into a different state. The only real measure is where the rest of the population / group / gang etc are on the scale.

This is often why people that most of us would regard as "fanatical" in the negative sense of the word don't see themselves that way; they are part of a group that occupies a similar place on the scale as themselves. Within their own population group they are the norm and, when they encounter others not of their group, it is the outsiders who are clearly crazy as they are "off the scale".

To me Brother Gipp as madder than a bucket of fish and some of the views he espouses (particularly the anti-homosexual ones) are actually dangerous if anyone shoudl choose to act on them, but I also imagine that he would have a similar opinion about me.

[Off topic - feel free to disregard]
Going slightly off topic for a moment, Charles, 11 dimensional superstring theory isn't true in the absolute sense; it isn't meant to be true and those who created it and study it do so with the knowledge at the back of their minds that it isn't true. Like the Copenhagen Interpretation of Shroedinger's equation, the point isn't to be true, the point is to make the maths work so that we can get stuff done. As an analogy, turning the key does not actually start your car; rather it sets off a complex chain reaction, the end result of which (as long as you didn't buy a Rover ;) is that your engine runs. The distinction is a minor one, but when basing your philosophy off it you should bear it in mind.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

I think what I was trying to get at was the difference I see between being fanatical about and devoted to. Star Wars actually forms a good example.

It strikes me as generally a sign of excessive devotion to Star Wars to watch it a million times, to burn copies of the Special Edition and DVD's on sight, etc.

But verbally assaulting someone about the mechanics of a lightsabre isn't a sign of devotion, but a sign of fanaticism. It springs from devotion, but is misguided as well as too extreme. It is fanatical because the mechanics of a lightsabre really don't have anything to do with the purpose of Star Wars, which is mythic entertainment.

Therefore, I would say that fanaticism about Jesus sounds good to those who actually believe in Christianity, but leads in a lot of screwed-up directions. Because you can justify anything that you emotionally decide is a "Jesus thing." "Lord, we bless these whips and hot irons in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit..."

I also believe that devotion to Jesus, properly channeled, is what we are made for. But that seems as much as to say that I am a Christian. And theodicies are long.

Charles Filson said...

Paul,

I might have misunderstood your point. You are not suggesting that supersymetry and superstring theories themselves are not intended to describe reality are you? You are simply refering to an addition of the 11th dimension to 10th dimensional string theory?

If you mean that supersymmetic string theory in general is not meant to describe reality, then I will have to disagree with you stronly. This is like saying that Einstein never meant for special relativity to address reality, that he only made it up to fix some problems with general relativity. Which would be a more or less true statement except for the 'only' part. In fact the same would be true of the addition of an 11th dimension.

However, this is really immaterial to my personal philosophy of everything except for this: while studying theorhetical physics...and participating in a study group on string theory, I came to the realization that I knew almost nothing about 'reality'. Then I realized that the brightest minds in physics don't even know what the universe is made up of, or what something as simple as gravity is for that matter.
I not making the claims that some have that there is some scientific requirement for God or gods. That would be as silly as arguing that there is some scientific principle that neccesitates the exclusion of god.
So really, string theory doesn't say anything to me about God at all, but it did convince me that the universe cannot be simply explained by physics, and that even the brightest minds in physics haven't a clue regarding the fundamental structure of reality.

Helen Louise said...

Is it possible to be too fanatical for Jesus?

I want to answer both yes and no. I think it's an unfair question. On one hand, 'fanatical' suggests a kind of mindless, blind obsession that's hardly very Christian. On the other hand, if you're doing it for Jesus, how can anyone object?

I don't think it's possible to place too high an importance on Jesus. If we're going to take him seriously about what he says, then we're going to do some fairly radical things. As Paul might say, we'll appear foolish in the eyes of the world. But we'll only appear foolish... we shouldn't actually *be* foolish. And there are a lot of very earnest, very silly Christians in the world. I've occasionally been one of them. 'Fanatics', you might say, mindless followers who grasp hold of anything that seems holy, and end up worshipping a charicature of God rather than genuinely learning, or even wanting to genuinely learn, about the real God.

The trouble is, none of us are perfect. I think we often want God to give us a show, making the Holy Spirit into some kind of stage hypnotist. I do believe God is all powerful but I suspect he's also a lot more complicated than some Charismatics would have us believe. So he does have a plan for our lives, and he does, I think, use speaking in tongues and other oddities as a way of helping us to communicate with him, but I also think that he's a lot more interested in our daily lives than whether we fall over or babble during an emotional meeting. (I've had a similar experience to the one you described, actually. And I've also experienced times when I felt sure God was very very close, and I do speak in tongues.)

I find it interesting that someone extrapolated from you saying that Job is a play to you believing that the OT isn't the Word of God (though it isn't, Jesus is the Word of God!). It's intriguing that there are people who believe that Song of Solomon is an allegory but Job is entirely true. There is certainly a lot of truth in Job. I find his friends annoyingly familiar, and the ending makes a lot of sense in light of God's character. But like you I don't think that it's historical. It could, perhaps, be a dramatisation of an actual event, but written poetically and with some guesswork. This doesn't ruin Job at all for me - I still think it's an amazing book. The Prodigal Son wasn't a 'real person' either, but the story about him is still my favourite parable. It's not true, but it demonstrates truth.

Anyway, sorry about the essay. I really enjoy your blog, particularly these kind of thoughts.

Gavin Burrows said...

Charles Filson said...

Iran's Legislator routinely chants "Death to America, Death to Britain, Death to the Zionists" after passing measures. (According to the Beeb)
Any time there is an Al-Quds Day celebration the same chants are spoken by "hundreds of thousands of Muslims" according to Al Jazeera. I recall the images of Muslims dancing in the street after 9/11.
These are not fringe people. This is the leadership of Islamic Nations and large crouds of Muslims. (hundreds of thousands)… The fringe are the people who reject this behavior. At least according to Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera.


The amusing thing here is that in denouncing fundamentalism you’re engaging in fundamentalist thinking yourself! Because you imagine these attitudes to be decreed by the Koran (which I imagine has a lot to say on the subject or America and Britain), it deterministically follows that Muslims are obliged to carry out such decrees.

I don’t imagine it counts for much whether the Koran or the Bible say the things you say. I don’t imagine they’re the neat and coherent instruction manuals imagined by their adherents, for one thing.

Let’s say it was found to say in Deuteronomy that we should smite down London. There’s plently of similar stuff in Deuteronomy about killing witches and the like, after all. Do you imagine that the majority of Christians who have posted to this site would shrug, say “in for a penny…” and start work on the plastic explosives? I may disagree with their professed faith, but I would wager very few of the Christians I know would go and do such a thing. And I’d say much the same thing for the Muslims. I don’t find your mechanistic ‘monkey-see-monkey-do’ model of religion borne out by the religious people I know.

One question. If you can’t see political reasons for the relative growth of Islamic Fundemntalism, if it’s all just inbuilt there in the Koran, why has there been such a growth in recent years? Muslims finally got round to reading the small print?

Charles Filson goes on to say...

Just like Jerry Falwell does. If you claim that Jerry Falwell is the lunatic fringe, then you have to claim that a huge number of christians are on it.


This is hilarious! So Falwell’s views can’t be extreme because they have so many adherents? (No-one ever supported Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini?) But Islam is extreme, despite being one of the largest (and the fastest-growing) world religions.

So Falwell doesn’t advocate blowing up abortion clinics? Well his tax exempt status would take a bit of a knock if he started, wouldn’t it? He supports legal bars on abortion clinics, which seems to me the next step along. Plus his support for anti-gay discrimination and much of the other stuff that Islam does that’s supposed to be such a big deal whenever rightists think they’re arguing with liberals.

P.S. As Al Jazeera is itself a Muslim station which does not hold with the doctrines that come out of your tarring brush, I find it unlikely they ever said what you ascribe to them here.

Charles Filson said...

Gavin,
Do you read Al Jazeera? I read it daily on the internet in English and weekly in Arabic for language studies. If you find it strange that they would claim that "hundreds of thousands" of Iranians chanted "Death to America, Death to Britain, Death to the Zionists" in their last Al-Quds day coverage, then I can only conclude that you do not read it.
Are you actually suggesting that these chants do not come out of the Iranian Parliment from time to time?

Next, you completely misunderstood my posts on Falwell. It seems willfully since you clipped my qoute. Specifically where I said that "This is probably true". The argument was not that Falwell was not extreme...only that his extreme was commonplace, or at least widely held. If many many Christians did not agree with Falwell, then he would have no audiance. If you read carefully, you will see that I am not making the claim that he is not extreme, I am making the claim that he is not fringe...however extreme his views are.
Falwell probably represents a large portion of Christians. Hitler, (to extend your example) having been elected, represented a majority of Germans at the time. Though most probably would not have agreed with all he did over time.

And there in lies exactly my point. If there is no outcry (and there was a Muslim outcry against the recent bombings in Egypt) then the silent Muslims support the terrorist attacks. Just as the White Americans who didn't speak against racism in the 60's (and before and since) were giving their tacit approval to it.

Then you go on to say: So Falwell doesn’t advocate blowing up abortion clinics? Well his tax exempt status would take a bit of a knock if he started, wouldn’t it? He supports legal bars on abortion clinics, which seems to me the next step along.

This is amazing that you would actually make this claim. Opposing legal abortions is a step toward bombing clinics? I would hope you don't really believe this. Is a ban on carrying hand-guns a step toward bombing gun manufacturers? Is a ban on pollution a step toward bombing auto-makers? Is an indoor smoking ban a step toward murdering smokers?

But let's buy your argument. You are arguing that Falwell would advocate bombing abortion clinics except that he would loose a tax benefit. (Nice accusation that, BTW.) When I talk about Islam, what I am saying is that Islamic clerics and leaders make such statements (As I posted) publically with no fear of backlash. There isn't one. And that is the difference.
So why can't falwell argue for bombing abortion clinics and keep his audiance, but Mohammad abu Faris can call for Slaughtering and Butchering and not loose his?

Why do you suppose that is?

One question. If you can’t see political reasons for the relative growth of Islamic Fundemntalism, if it’s all just inbuilt there in the Koran, why has there been such a growth in recent years? Muslims finally got round to reading the small print?

I can't see where you are getting the premise for this question. When did I say that there was no political reason for the spread of Islamic Fundamentalism?
Political reasons can go hand in hand with the Koran.
Also, where are you getting the idea that Islamic Fundamentalism is growing? Are you suggesting that Islamic Fundamentalism is new? Do you mean to tell me that no state has tried to implement Islamic Law in the past? What do you mean by the Spread of Islamic Fundamentalism? Do you mean that there are more bombings now than prior to 9/11? This is simply not the case.

My initial point about Islam was that Koran specifically tells Muslims not to befriend poeple of other faiths. It specifically tells them to kill people of other faiths (or no faith at all). You can't disagree with this. It's there is black and white.
It is really hard to get around stuff like: Ma'idah 5:51.

My point was that you can be too fanatical about anything, but that there is no moral equivalency. Fanatic Christian Fundamentalists who follow the fundamentals of their faith would find no Fundamental Biblical support for murder. The very best they could do are the refernces to God telling the Israelites to kill all the cananites in the promised land, and that could be easily refuted.
For Muslims, if they are fanatical about their faith. They can find sura that tell them to kill infidels...and there is no good counter-argument to be found in the Koran.

Fanaticism is scary in any form, but Christianity has mechanisms for defusing the scariest of possibilities. Perhaps these were developed over time. Islam has a long way to go to develop these mechanisims, and I see no progress from Arab media.

Please Gavin, don't take my word for it. Please please please read the Koran, and the Christian Testament. (New Testament, but I prefer to refer to it as Hebrew Scriuptures (OT) and Christian Testament (NT), as this is less offensive to some Jews.)

Charles Filson said...

Helen,

I hold the opinion that the Bible is a creation of men, but inspired by the Holy Spirit. That it was made up of early oral tradition or cuneiform tablets (parts of Genesis anyway) that have been altered and redacted through the ages. I hold that the Holy Spirit has worked through this process to bring us truth through the text.

Is this what you are saying? In other words, I don't think that Job was a real guy who actually gave long flowery speaches, but I do believe that the idea that Job portrays, that bad things happen even to the righteous, is a holy idea that is from God.

Is that a fair summation or am I missing what you are saying?

Gavin Burrows said...

It seems more and more likely that Charles Filson is a prime example of the type of fanatic discussed on this thread. To wit:

[i] Do you read Al Jazeera? I read it daily on the internet in English and weekly in Arabic for language studies. If you find it strange that they would claim that "hundreds of thousands" of Iranians chanted "Death to America, Death to Britain, Death to the Zionists" in their last Al-Quds day coverage, then I can only conclude that you do not read it. [/i]

As I’ve already made the point that the salient question is why they would chant these things, it should be fairly obvious I don’t deny such a thing. The point is that when ostensibly Christian extremists do such a thing as, for example, invade Iraq or bomb an abortion centre this is nothing to do with Christianity. Whenever a Muslim does anything similar it is supposed to be everything to do with their religion. This is absurd and quickly becoming tedious.

[i] The argument was not that Falwell was not extreme...only that his extreme was commonplace, or at least widely held. If many many Christians did not agree with Falwell, then he would have no audiance… Falwell probably represents a large portion of Christians. [/i]

Making something of a nonsense of your claims above?

[i] Opposing legal abortions is a step toward bombing clinics? I would hope you don't really believe this. Is a ban on carrying hand-guns a step toward bombing gun manufacturers? Is a ban on pollution a step toward bombing auto-makers? Is an indoor smoking ban a step toward murdering smokers? [/i]

You are saying violence is OK providing the State carries it out on our behalf or licenses it out. “First I will ask you to stop living your way of life. Then force you” vs “I will try to force you from the beginning” would be absurd enough but we’re not even talking that. If women are prevented getting abortions by legalistic or monetary means (pricing them too high for average wages etc) what is the net result?

[i] So why can't falwell argue for bombing abortion clinics and keep his audiance, but Mohammad abu Faris can call for Slaughtering and Butchering and not loose his? [/i]

Same argument I already gave. The Mullah from Iran who advocates such a thing risks no penalties. The one in the UK or America may risk prosecution or even deportation, but is probably getting no tax-exempt status to start off with.

[i] Also, where are you getting the idea that Islamic Fundamentalism is growing? Are you suggesting that Islamic Fundamentalism is new? [/i]

Relatively spreaking, yes. How can you have a ‘return to the fundament’ movement at the time of the fundament?

[i] Do you mean to tell me that no state has tried to implement Islamic Law in the past? What do you mean by the Spread of Islamic Fundamentalism? Do you mean that there are more bombings now than prior to 9/11? This is simply not the case. [/i]

Can you see no connection between the growing support for Fundamentalism and the invasions of Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq? (Though passed by by liberal commentations, the West’s lack of interest in stopping Muslims being massacred in ex-Yugoslavia was a major magnet for the fundamentalists.)

[i] My initial point about Islam was that Koran specifically tells Muslims not to befriend poeple of other faiths. It specifically tells them to kill people of other faiths (or no faith at all). You can't disagree with this. It's there is black and white…
Fanatic Christian Fundamentalists who follow the fundamentals of their faith would find no Fundamental Biblical support for murder. [/i]

So it doesn’t say in the Bible “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”?

Helen Louise said...

Charles,

Yes, that's pretty much what I'm saying, but I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if Job really is a real person. Although if we bump into each other in Heaven I'll be terribly embarrassed.

Charles Filson said...

Making something of a nonsense of your claims above?

I think you still misunderstand what I initially stated. Please reread it. I am granting you that Falwell is both extreme and main-stream, and that he opposes violence. I also claim that the Mullah from Iran that you mention is both extreme and main-stream and advocates violence. I am not sure what nonsense you are talking about.
You agree that he risks no penalties. He risks no backlash and no public loss of support. This is the difference. This is my point which you seem to grant. We appear to be in agreement.

The point is that when ostensibly Christian extremists do such a thing as, for example, invade Iraq or bomb an abortion centre this is nothing to do with Christianity.

Gavin, Christianity was never given as the reason for the invasion of Iraq. Or can you show me such a reference to this effect?

Could you also show me the last time that an abortion clinic was bombed, and show me the Christian responce to this. Show me Jerry Falwell's support of it. Show me any public support.

BTW, Falwell would not lose his tax exempt status if he called a abortion clinic bomber righteous or gave it tacit approval. You did know that didn't you? He has tax exempt status due to our separation of church and state (which is frequently misunderstood.) As long as he didn't tell people to bomb clinics, he would be protected from any sort of legal recriminations by our first amendment. But his followers would
stop giving him money. That is the difference between him and the Mullah from Iran that you mentioned.

Or Gavin are you actually suggesting that Christians in western countries would be praising suicide bombers and bombing abortion clinic every day if they thought they could without a backlash?

Basically Gavin we seem to be in agreement. You agree that a Mullah from Iran can preach violence and destruction with no backlash or penalty from his surrounding culture, whereas Jerry Falwell would suffer that backlash from his. The difference: 88% of people where Falwell live are Christian, and 98% of people in Iran are either Shi'a or sunni Muslim (89% and 9% respectivley)

Surely you are not arguing that there is some defect in the Iranian people themselves that makes them violent are you? It must be a difference in the religion. Mustn't it?

Finally:

Serbia was invaded to stop genocide. You were aware, weren't you, that Muslims were being killed in Serbia and the invasion by Nato forces was largely to protect Muslims? I am pretty sure that most Muslims know this too. Or don't you give them that much credit? Are you saying that any intervention by the west...even to defend Muslims will lead to more fundamentalism?

As far as Afghanistan goes, you do know that it was the seat of Islamic Fundamentalism don't you? It was lead by the Taliban. Islamic Fundamentalism was already there. The invasion of Afghanistan did not create fundamentalism there, or elsewhere.

Which brings us to when you said that Islamic Fundamentalism is new becasue How can you have a ‘return to the fundament’ movement at the time of the fundament?. (By new then, I assume you mean it is the Fundament or foundation...new being 1400 years old, is that right?)
But yet you also claimed that Fundamentalism was growing due to political pressure. If it is in the Fundament, then it is the same as it has been.
In other words saying that Fundamentalism is the norm...but this seems odd since you claim that fundamentalism is growing. Or you do you mean that Islamic Fundamentalism is the normal mainstream of Islam, and that there is a reformation in progress that political pressure is causing to derail and backslide? If that is the case, then I'm not sure what you are arguing against at all. I would agree with you: the Fundament (those we call Islamists or Islamic Fundamentalists) are the mainstream of Islam. I would agree that political pressure helps cause a backslide of any reform taking place, becasue Muslims are easily pulled back to the fundament of the violent verses in the Koran.

So we seem in total agreement as far as Islam goes. The only place I can see that we might still disagree is that the Christian Scriptures are less prone to lead one to violence. We had our Torquemada, but we also had a reformation and developed mechanisms to combat violence within the church.

So obviously there have been Christians who have been very evily fanatic. Why is this so much less prevalent in Christianity then it is in Islam? Is it that we have had a reformation? And if so, then why has Islam not had a reformation? Younger? Less developed part of the world? more illiteracy amoung Arabs? I don't know. Any ideas?

Charles Filson said...

Helen,

Well, Job has been established as a relatively common name in Sumeria around the time of the middle kingdom of Egypt (around 2000BC) which is about the time that Job was written, so it is possible it is based on a real guy, though if it was I doubt that we have the first draft available to us. I mean, he does speak really well off the cuff. ;-)

Do you believe in a literal Heaven then? I'm just curious. I am not certain that I do, but I have also not rejected the idea. I just wonder why you do.

Helen Louise said...

Charles,

Funny, I was thinking about Heaven just this morning. I don't know. Jesus talks about eternal life, but I've no idea what it'll be like. But yes, I like to think that Heaven at least exists, even if it isn't what a Tom Stoppard character called "the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views".

Andrew, hope you don't mind your blog comments descending into some kind of message board :)

Gavin Burrows said...

I’m not sure how much point there is in replying to Charles Filson’s arguments, which are simultaneously self-referential and self-contradictory. For example, we were originally told the Koran was a kind of Hate Manual whereas the Bible was a Book of Love, and given selective context-less quotes as ‘proof’. Challenged on this position, he has now retreated to the following “Reformation save” position.

…Muslims are easily pulled back to the fundament of the violent verses in the Koran.The only place I can see that we might still disagree is that the Christian Scriptures are less prone to lead one to violence. We had our Torquemada, but we also had a reformation and developed mechanisms to combat violence within the church.

Now it seems the Bible did have the passages in it I and others have been saying all along, but some more liberal-minded folks came along later and re-wrote or re-interpreted it. (We aren’t told which.) The idea that world religions are static bodies of doctrine has now been amended to the idea there may be a ‘Reformation’ every few hundred years.

Surely you are not arguing that there is some defect in the Iranian people themselves that makes them violent are you? It must be a difference in the religion. Mustn't it?

In other words the Iranian people are deep down nice folks who don’t really want to hate, but unfortunately are compelled to by the fact that their religion lacks a ‘Reformation’. (The fact that the Mullahs actually rule Iran, and frequently have to put down popular dissent by brute force seems to escape him. Their police clubs may conceivably carry more weight than some words from the Koran.)

Of course this is still ridiculous! At the risk of repeating myself, religions just like any other form of human activity change and adapt all the time. And they are no more monolithic geographically than they are historically. How many fundamentalist Sufi Muslims have you heard of? Charles seems to be confusing ‘religion’ with ‘job description’ here.

Gavin, Christianity was never given as the reason for the invasion of Iraq. Or can you show me such a reference to this effect?

Are you seriously suggesting that the Church in America played no part in Bush’s election? Most commentators agreed they were the killer app that (finally) pushed him into his slender majority despite being such a screw-up? And ridding the world of Fundamentalism was given as a reason for invading Iraq and Afganistan, despite the fact that Iraq was a secular state and the country had little history of fundamentalism. Now of course they’ve created the very situation they were against.

As far as Afghanistan goes, you do know that it was the seat of Islamic Fundamentalism don't you? It was lead by the Taliban. Islamic Fundamentalism was already there. The invasion of Afghanistan did not create fundamentalism there, or elsewhere.

Yes, but the invasion fed fundamentalist propaganda elsewhere!!! (And the Western-backed Northern Alliance was equally fundamentalist, a fact normally glossed over. Their differences with the Taliban were ethnic and factional, not religious.)

Serbia was invaded to stop genocide. You were aware, weren't you, that Muslims were being killed in Serbia and the invasion by Nato forces was largely to protect Muslims?

And the massacre of Sebrenica was an example of this? Again this is ridiculous! Serbia was first contained then invaded by a Western Europe that saw it as a Soviet-style state, and the breakaway states as more likely to look West and deal with them. (Largely borne out by what happened.) Far more talk was made of ethnic Kosovans than ethnic Muslims, who scarcely got a look-in in the media. The West’s refusal to protect Muslims in Sebrenica and elsewhere, despite having invaded the country, was a major recruiting sergeant for the fundamentalists. (Coupled with their absolute lack of intervention over Chechnya.)

Which brings us to when you said that Islamic Fundamentalism is new becasue How can you have a ‘return to the fundament’ movement at the time of the fundament?. (By new then, I assume you mean it is the Fundament or foundation...new being 1400 years old, is that right?)
But yet you also claimed that Fundamentalism was growing due to political pressure. If it is in the Fundament, then it is the same as it has been.


Charles presumably is also one of these people who believes the past had big ‘Ye Olde…’ signs over everything. Fundamentalism (of whatever stripe) is a movement based on a back-to-basics rhetoric, but to actually go back 1400 years is quite obviously impossible. It’s a sheath for a political programme!

…why has Islam not had a reformation? Younger? Less developed part of the world? more illiteracy amoung Arabs? I don't know. Any ideas?

Well if it’s all down to what’s written in the Koran, “illiteracy among Arabs” would seem to be a positive advantage, surely! This would seem a fitting place to leave Charles’ lack of knowledge behind and embark on a genuine discussion on the nature of Islam and how it differs from Christianity. All I’ll say for now is that excessive povery, often draconian rule and constant Western intervention have fed to make the Middle East a tinderbox for fundamentalism.

Charles seems to me a classic case of becoming what you hate. The more he rails against these enmity-ridden fanatics, the more I see a mirror between him and them, able only to see conflict in difference. He seems built to demonstrate the old saw about there being enough religion to make hate, but not enough for love.

Charles Filson said...

Gavin,

What you are doing is very dishonest. You are taking my statements and intentionally misunderstanding them in order to try to 'win' the argument. You are contradicting yourself and making a mash of things.

My comments regarding the reformation are not that the reformation changed the Christian texts, or that mechanisms were build to supercede the Christian Texts. The reformation established the primacy of the Text over the church head. Have you read 'Institutes of the Christian religion' by Calvin or are you speaking out of your nether region?

I challenge you to two things:

1) Find me a quote from the Christian Scriptures where Jesus or any of the authors advocate violence.

2) Find the mitigating 'context' that you refer to in the Koran that will alter the meaning of the verses I posted.

Short of showing me these your arguments amount to name calling and ignorant statements which serve only to confuse the issue.

I do not hate Muslims. I recognize a few simple facts. Their scripture was not written for today. A fanatical adherence to the text of the Koran will demand violence on the part of a Muslim in the worst case. In the best it will demand that he attempt to convert any nation that he lives in into Dar'Islam. A nation under Islamic law. There is no mechanism in Islam to ignore portions of the Koran. Not at this time.

You have said nothing to address this issue.

I assert that in Christianity this is not as dangerous (though still knotty) becuase Jesus was a pacifist. A fanatical adherance to Christianity will lead to a degree of pacifism. I have not gotten a pacifist impression from reading the Koran. Have you? Have you read the Christian Scriptures and the Koran?

And Gavin, you claimed that Islam is in the time of the Fundament. So there cannot be a back to basics movement. I am not sure what you are trying to say. Are you suggesting that there is no such thing as Islamic Fundamentalism? You have already claimed that western political policy is making more fundamentalism. I confess that I do not understand your argument here. When you said it was relatively new, because it was in the time of the fundament, I assumed you meant that this was the 1400 year old fundament. What was your point? Did you have one?

Finally, you keep making assertions without backing them up. I am not sure where you get the idea that I hate Muslims.
They way I feel about Muslims is that they are the allies of Christians in many ways. They have a strong moral code and we agree on much. I would rather live in a world filled with Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Christians devoid of Atheists than in a world with Atheists devoid of Muslims.
What keeps us separate is that their scriptures have some rather violent things in them, as do the Hebrew Scripturesm, and they have not yet come up with a method of ignoring those knotty bits.
Rather than attempt to demonize me so that you don't have to actually think about these issues, I challenge you to read the Bible, read the Koran and read Al Jazeera daily. Then you and I can have a reasoned discussion. Degenerating into name-calling and sophistry is immature and not very useful.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I am suppressing this terrible urge to say "Yes, but did Princess Leia ever know her mother?"

Gavin Burrows said...

First Charles Filson tells us:

My comments regarding the reformation are not that the reformation changed the Christian texts, or that mechanisms were build to supercede the Christian Texts. The reformation established the primacy of the Text over the church head.

…then a few short sentences later…

I do not hate Muslims. I recognize a few simple facts. Their scripture was not written for today.

So are we supposed to believe the Bible was written for today? And what sense are we supposed to make of your earlier complaint that Islam lacks a Reformation, when we’re now told such a thing is about going back to “the primacy of the Text” (i.e the fundament) and that in the Koran’s case this means going back to a killing handbook, because…

A fanatical adherence to the text of the Koran will demand violence on the part of a Muslim in the worst case.

And Gavin, you claimed that Islam is in the time of the Fundament. So there cannot be a back to basics movement.

No, I said the opposite. If anyone else found my comments on this hard to follow I’ll try to rephrase. But I tend to think it’s just Charles.

Find me a quote from the Christian Scriptures where Jesus or any of the authors advocate violence.

Several have already been posted on this board. I posted the “shall not suffer a witch to live” one myself, which I suggest might draw the teeth from your “challenge”.

Find the mitigating 'context' that you refer to in the Koran that will alter the meaning of the verses I posted.

Well that’s irrelevent. The point isn’t what is written down in the Koran or the Bible. The point is what the people who define themselves as Muslim or Christian draw from those traditions, at least here in the UK where I’m likely to run into them. Andrew’s blog, for example, seems somewhat light on entries entitled Top Twenty Tips to Frag Them Witches and heavier on entries entitled Fifteen Continuity Lapses to Be Found in Revenge Of the Sith But Who Cares Coz It’s Crap Anyway. Perhaps a very, very scathing review of the re-runs of Bewitched on DVD is forthcoming containing such proclamations but I’ll wait to see it. I can’t see why Muslims are supposed to be so different, and most of the Muslims here I run into or read about simply aren’t. (For example a lot of the Muslims demonised by the tabloids as advocating terrorism have actually said things like “maybe the Palestinians do have a bit of a time of it”.)

…let’s ring-fence this one! Let’s talk about the majority of Muslims who live in the Western world, i.e. the Muslims we are likely to have the most in common with. Life in Afghanistan, I would contend, is slightly different to life in Sussex. Without this ring-fence I half-expect Charles to go back into his Iranian baying demon hordes rhetoric, even after giving up on it after being challenged on it in my previous post.

The central thing you’re being challenged on is your narrow, functionalist definition of the way religion works. While forming numbered lists of challenges back to me full of things already answered, you are consistently ignoring this central point.

…your arguments amount to name calling and ignorant statements which serve only to confuse the issue.

By our words are we truly known.

Charles Filson said...

Gavin, I think that you reacted from impulse (though what impulse I cannot tell) and stereo-typed me incorrectly, and are now locked in an argument with yoru own straw man. Why don't you tone down the attacks and bring this back into the relm of a discussion.

The whole issue of the fundament was something that you brought up. This is not my argument at all. I confess I may not understand what you were trying to get across here. What was your point?

"Thou shall not suffer a witch to live." Is not from the Christian Scriptures. It is from the Hebrew Scriptures. I understood the quesion to be "Can one be too fanatical about Jesus?" This is why I am specifically talking about the Christian Scriptures. If we want to talk about the Hebrew texts in the bible, then we can find much more damning stuff then an injunction not to suffer a witch to live.

Christianity has been predicated on the primacy of the "New Testament" (Thus the name) Christians also uniformly trim the edges of our beards and eat lobster. This is becuase we decided that the Christian Scriptures...the ones about Jesus and his apostles, supercede the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jews found other ways to work around these types of statements.

Gavin, I am not sure what challenge you are talking about to the Iranian Al-Quds day demonstrations. You said: As I’ve already made the point that the salient question is why they would chant these things, it should be fairly obvious I don’t deny such a thing and then you claim that the government is forcing them to say this...without any substantiation to your claim. You agree that these are common chants in countries of Dar'Islam, but deny that Islam has anything to do with them. I don't understand where you are coming from. Why are these chants commonplace in the Islamic world then? If it is not Islam what is it? Perhaps I missed your answer?

But you have also not answered many of mypoints. Perhaps you missed them as well. You haven't directly addressed any of the quotes from recognized Islamic leaders, or addressed the issue of the root of fanaticism in Islam. You have said nothing substantive about the Koran or the Hadith or Sunnah. You have not addressed the differnce in the statements of leaders except to say that Jerry Falwell would loose his tax exempt status if he said what he really thought, which is quite an assumption and untrue as well. He would not loose it. But then you never address this difference in the worlds. Why can't falwell, assuming that he really wants abortion clinics blown up, come out and say this, but Omar Bakri can call for slaughter and have no backlash?

You accuse me of a narrow view of religion and its functions, yet you have not demonstrated an understanding of my views. To set up views and accuse me of them is worthless to discussion. You might as well talk to yourself. Try instead asking me what I mean and developing an understanding instead of assuming. Unoless ideas themselves are scary enough to you that you want to shout them down without understanding?

You said that your central issue is my narrow, functionalist definition of the way religion works.
But I don't recall giving a functionalist definition of how religion works. Could you please explain your understanding of my definition so that we can see where we are disconnecting?

Finally, I ask you again to explain where the Christian scriptures (and Jesus specifically, but an apostle or epistleist will do) call one to violence. Can you show me? You have made this claim, I assume that you are not speaking from ignorance. Perhaps there is a verse that I am not aware of.

Did you want me to post Koranic verses with context? I think that would take a lot of space. It is probably better if you just show me the mitigating context that you are talking about...or were you speaking from ignorance here as well?

Charles Filson said...

Princess Leia has one hell of a memory. That's all I can say about that issue. ;-)

Andrew Rilstone said...

"Thou shall not suffer a witch to live." Is not from the Christian Scriptures. It is from the Hebrew Scriptures.

Not all Christians agree with this exegesis.

e.g UCCF (Christian Union) doctrinal basis:

"The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour"

e.g Article VI of the Church of England

"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church."

and article VII

"The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for in both the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefor ther are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises."

Catholic Catechism " The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked."

I don't have Mr Calvin to hand, but I seem to think he believed in "scripture alone" not "the New Testament alone."

There aren't any specific injunctions to go to war in the New Testement; but it has always seemed to me to be odd to keep on talking about "the sword of the spirit" and "the armour of god" if Jesus was so straightforwardly pacifist.

"Then he said unto them, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one....And they said Lord, behold, here are two sword. And he said unto them, It is enough."

Charles Filson said...

Andrew,

I agree that Jesus was not an out and out pacifist. He was probably an essene, which would speak to the contrary, but the Jesus that survies in scripture with the one exception of the verse you quote is definately a pacifist. But while I have used that verse to argue against strict pacifism in the church, I am not myself totally convinced.
It has been pointed out to me that while Jesus told them all to go buy swords, when presented with two for the lot, he then told them it was enough. It is ever so possible he was speaking not entirely literally, and they, the apostles, missed the boat.

As far as the Anglican church accepting the Old testament. I agree that we all do, but not unequivically. I'm not sure that you could find a church that did not tacitly if not openly accept the primacy of the Christian Testment. Sure we all say that they don't contradict and Jesus did say that not a Jot or Tiddle would pass away, but then he also explained away Moses' teaching on divorce and then Paul came along and told us we could eat Pork Chops if we wanted to.

I am not Anglican, but I did do my boy scout religion as an episcopalian. I don't seem to recall many Epicopalians refusing to shave their faces or suggesting that a child who swears at his partens should be put to death.

This is what I am talking about regarding the mechanisms that we have for ignoring the knotty bits of the HS. Primarily the primacy of the NT.
I am not sure that I have ever been able to find an Islamic exegesis that is similar, nor have I recently heard a Christian leader like a falwell or Swindoll suggest that we should go about putting men to death for sleeping with other men.

Gavin Burrows said...

First Charles Filson tells us:
I assert that in Christianity this is not as dangerous (though still knotty) becuase Jesus was a pacifist. A fanatical adherance to Christianity will lead to a degree of pacifism.

Later we get:
I agree that Jesus was not an out and out pacifist. He was probably an essene, which would speak to the contrary, but the Jesus that survies in scripture with the one exception of the verse you quote is definately a pacifist.

All of his arguments are here. The Koran is nothing but a handbook of hate, the Bible nothing but a handbook of love. Well, when I say the Bible, not the Old Testament obviously, I mean the New Testament… well everything in the New Testament apart from that one quote. But apart from the hypocaust and the roads, what have the Romans ever done for us?

(The Old Testament tending to be packaged up with the New being some longstanding misunderstanding over at the book-binders’ place? And what about “Think not I come to bring peace on earth. I bring not peace but a sword.”??? Driving the moneylenders out the temple?)

…but all of this to-and-froing merely obscures his inability to reply to the central point that it’s absurd to see the Bible or the Koran as handbooks in the first place!!! Smarter religious folks of whatever stripe recognise this openly. But I’d contend even the fundamentalist types don’t literally apply this literalism, but play the game of selective quotes and interpretations to suit their own agendas.

Earlier on I said Charles was confusing ‘religion’ with ‘job description’. But even that doesn’t cover it. At work, don’t we tend to regard direct instructions as subject to interpretation and procedures as guidelines?

Charles, I believe I’ve put this central point clearly enough. (Certainly, I’ve had to put it often enough.) Anytime you feel like answering it, go ahead. But if you really can’t see what I’m on about here, please don’t assume that I’m not on about anything.

In the meantime, I have better things to do, quite frankly. The whole thing’s been like trying to persuade someone red isn’t green then slowly realised their whole argument was “why can’t you be colourblind like me?”

Ironically, had he put his arguments in a more nuanced and mitigated way I’d have conceded he had a degree of validity! In perhaps his most valid point, Islam does tend to be more concerned with outward acts of devotion than Christianity. The Koran was written over a much shorter time and is more instructional than parable-like (parabolic?). It’s less like another Bible and more like a great big Deuteronomy blown up to Bible-size.

The reasons for this at the time are clear enough. Mohammed needed to unite a vast and disparate piece of territory, which included a lot of nomadic tribes. Getting people looking the same way at the same times of day probably made sense.

Mohammed was also a military figure as much as a religious one, but this can be overstated. Islam was from the beginning an ‘open’ religion, like Christianity, more keen on conversion than slaughter. At the time this was unusual and most religions were an example of regional or ethnic identity.

Islam’s lack of formal separation between religion and politics seems to me less important, as what’s missing in form is often there in content. (As already mentioned, the Church is one of Bush’s main power bases.)

So overall there are certain tendencies that make Islam more fertile ground for fundamentalists than Christianity. However, I don’t have the deterministic notion that there’s an innate push from Islam to fundamentalism and from fundamentalism to suicide bombings or other acts of terror. (There’s also lots of counter-tendencies such as Sufism.)

But at most this can only provide the kindling, not the spark for the fire. For the spark I think we need to look to current political events. While I certainly don’t agree with the conclusions the recent suicide bombers came to, it seems to me more likely they went there from seeing stuff on the news rather than suddenly coming across the small print in the Koran. As numerous people have pointed out the ‘war on terror’ is in many ways the war of two fundamentalisms – Bush’s vs Bin Laden’s.

Paul Brown said...

nor have I recently heard a Christian leader like a falwell or Swindoll suggest that we should go about putting men to death for sleeping with other men

Please see Brother Gipp as linked to above, but then this to me is the difference between one who follows a religion and a fundamentalist of a religion. Someone who follows a religion can follow a "core" of that religion without necessarily agreeing with the entirety of that religion's holy texts (which are often self contradictory - more on this later). My sister in law and her husband are both Christians and yet my wife and I, both atheists, are good friends, spend a considerable amount of time together and none of us feel the need to try and convert the others; I recently worked with a practising, committed Catholic who had an open relationship with her husband which involved her sleeping with several boyfriends (I wasn't close enough to her to feel comfortable asking, but I'm assuming that birth control was used).

The difference for the fundamentalist, to my mind, is that he / she cannot ignore any of their religion, even parts that seem to contradict each other. If a text says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" then they have to obey, even if that mainly just consists of a website denouncing witches and encouraging others to kill them. When the same text says, "Thou shalt not kill" then they have to justify both statements together (often with an argument that dehumanises witches / satanists / communists etc. It's not just religions that have fundamentalists). The idea of obeying one command and not the other does not work for them. Their only other escape from contradiction is to declare one part of a text as "true" and the other(s) as heresy and thus the many sects are born.

The fundamentalist viewpoint is not only applicable to religions, but to any emotive standpoint such as government / politics, education and even fiction. The internet is filled with Star Wars fundamentalists who denounce the three new films as heresy and those who try to justify the whole together, even the parts that disagree.

One thing that does strike me, though, is that in five years or more of online discussion I have yet to see anyone say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong" or "actually, you're right - that is a good point" or in fact back down from any of the positions that they held at the outset - and by anyone I include myself as guilty as any other. Does the anonimty of online arguing encourage us all to be too fanatical about our own viewpoints and unwilling to open our minds to new ideas?

Gavin Burrows said...

Paul Brown said...
Someone who follows a religion can follow a "core" of that religion without necessarily agreeing with the entirety of that religion's holy texts (which are often self contradictory - more on this later).

Agreed.

The fundamentalist viewpoint is not only applicable to religions, but to any emotive standpoint such as government / politics, education and even fiction.

Agreed. I confess I used to argue against Christianity on the basis of all the bad things done in it’s name, until I realised the same was true of lots of ideas I held to. You haven’t dismissed an idea until you’ve engaged with it’s best proponents, any more than an army defeats an enemy army by just taking on the guys in the sick tent.

The internet is filled with Star Wars fundamentalists who denounce the three new films as heresy and those who try to justify the whole together, even the parts that disagree.

Well this corner of it. On slaveringpussysaleontoday.com I’ve heard the issue comes up less.

The difference for the fundamentalist, to my mind, is that he / she cannot ignore any of their religion, even parts that seem to contradict each other.

While this may be true of fundamentalism at an individual level, when it reaches a political level (such as the regime in Iran) I tend to see it in more Machiavellian terms. “You must agree, it’s in Scripture” while taking a somewhat selective approach to what’s in Scripture. The theoretically fundamentalist (albeit of a different brand) Saudi regime doesn’t seem to worry about strictures against usury and giving to the poor very much. In it’s early days ‘Al Quaida’ (which didn’t have that name then) brought this up, but their definition of giving to the poor was giving to… ahem… them.

One thing that does strike me, though, is that in five years or more of online discussion I have yet to see anyone say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong" or "actually, you're right - that is a good point" or in fact back down from any of the positions that they held at the outset - and by anyone I include myself as guilty as any other. Does the anonimty of online arguing encourage us all to be too fanatical about our own viewpoints and unwilling to open our minds to new ideas?

Good question. I did start to feel a familiar weary resignation over the Charles Forster debacle. I’ve launched into many such ‘debates’ only to realise there’s little point, as they were debates in name only. Then again you could argue real-life peer groups tend to be more self-selective, as like minds are drawn to like.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a 180 degree switch from internet debate, but part of the point of debating is surely to revise and sharpen your arguments rather than suddenly reject them. As people point out weak points you can a) shout the same points ever-louder, b) abandon them or c) refine them in some way. It’s like sparring. Plus a good argument can be like a good walk, you can enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

But good question. I guess the old saw about not posting what you wouldn’t say in person applies.

Charles Filson said...

Gavin,

You are right that I did not nuance my statements as much as I might have liked. I don't (contrary to the evidence) like writing essays on Andrew's board. Sadly if my friends heard me say something similar to what I posted here, they would have my devotion to interfaith relations, my studies into Islam and my thirst for the perspective of Muslims as a backdrop. I did not adequately demonstrate those here prior to posting my points.

However I really don't think that you are being fair in regarding Luke 22:35-38, or to my explanation of it. This is not akin to Jesus ordering people to "Cut off the hands and feet of unbelievers". Jesus says times are going to be tuff, and that previously the diciples didn't need anything when they went on the road, but now they would need a purse and a napsack and a sword. I firstly think that it is possible that he is possibly speaking in Hyperbole and secondly suggest that this is not a strong argument for violence. If I fanatically follow this instruction of Jesus' I will walk about with a sword and do nothing with it.

Now I argue for the primacy of the New Testament because it is well established in christian churches. As I pointed out previously, I can find few Christian churhes including the Anglecan church that would suggest that the OT trumps the NT. Any that I have found will always place the teachings of Jesus over the OT.

---------------------

Now Gavin, I am not nor have a I ever been suggesting that all Muslims or all Christians use there works like a handbook. (There was an unfortunate error in my first post which I corrected as soon as I noticed it.) As Paul points out, to the Fanatic the holy work is a handbook. All I am suggesting is that the Islamic Fanatic finds instructions to kill those who are not like him. The Christian does not find these in his holy Book. Or finds them in a section that is widely held as trumped by a later work, which speaks to the contrary.

Have I answered your central point?

Gavin Burrows said...

This does admittedly sound like a more reasonable and considered Charles Filson.
I wouldn’t, for one thing, argue that most Christians see the New Testament as “trumping” the old. However, the Saducees were already established by Jesus’ time, in effect he was a heretic against them. It seems a little odd that if pacifism was such a major part of his doctrine that he’d use the images and terminology of swords and fighting so much. “I come not to bring peace but a sword” you could read as a metaphor for anything you want, but one fairly likely contendor would seem to be a sword. (Conversely Islamic terms like “Jihad” are often translated hostilely as “war” rather than “struggle”. Not by Charles here, but by many others.) And while you do down the Old Testament you don’t seem to be arguing for the New to be uncoupled from it.
Moreover, I tend to see pacifism as something of a modern notion, a product of the way we have distanced ourselves from violence in our daily lives. Like the way people will happily eat meat but readily admit they could never kill that animal themself. I doubt pacifism was much of a major notion around Jesus’ time and place.
Now Gavin, I am not nor have a I ever been suggesting that all Muslims or all Christians use there works like a handbook… As Paul points out, to the Fanatic the holy work is a handbook.
Well this is the cart+horse question! Does the fanatic come to the holy book, or does the holy book turn the reader into the fanatic? People have found instructions to kill in all sorts of things, including Beatles records (the Manson ‘Family’) and the barking of the neighbour’s dog (Son of Sam). This makes me turn to the second one. While you never said so outright, the logic of some of your earlier posts seemed to be underpinned by the first.
…and this may be as good a point as any to point out there are fundamentalists who are fanatical to the point of being annoying but not quite ready to kill you. I find it as annoying as the next man when the Witnesses come to call, but them whipping out an AK47 on me might take the experience to a whole other level. (Apparantly, David Koresh and the Branch Davidianis were some wacky offshoot of the Witnesses who did take it to another level. But not the parent body.)
Maybe the wikipedia entry on Islamic Fundamentalism will put it better than me…
Groups advocating Islam as a political movement are invariably responding to complex political and historical situations, usually with deep roots in the local environment. For example, the rise of the conservative Jamaat-e-Islami party in Bangladesh would not have been possible without widespread public reaction against the corruption of the secular Awami League government in that country. Unfortunately, this complex local political history is completely lost in the simplistic reductionism of terms like 'Muslim fundamentalism', which simultaneously explains everything and nothing by blaming Islam for being the religion of the majority.
Given the existence of undemocratic and corrupt regimes all over the Muslim world, it is not surprising that for much of the 20th century the dominant form of political dissent in these countries has been revolutionary Marxism rather than Islam as a political movement. However, the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War largely discredited leftist ideologies and Arab Nationalism there by strengthening Islamic parties. Continuing Western support for the Israeli settlement of the West Bank has also increased the anti-American sentiments which Islamism represents.

On a more theological level, fundamentalism may also be in part a reaction against the fashion of post-modernism and it’s assault on the primacy of the text. (“There is no there there” and all that.) You couldn’t really get a greater insistence on the primacy of the text than Islam. It’s been notable how Muslims tortured by American and British troops have at times protested as much about their Korans being mistreated as their own bodies. (Doubtless the reason the tactic was employed.) Catholicism mixed pagan idolatory with the fetish of the book. Islam gave the fetish of the book the weight of pagan idolatory, concentrated all into one object.
…and on that thorny subjects of fundamentalists not being of the fundament…
Many scholars of religion believe that, contrary to their own message, Islamic fundamentalists are not actually traditionalists. Typically, their message is that returning to the original version of the faith requires abandonment of a variety of traditional practices which they contend are medieval innovations, such as the practice of asking favors from "saints" (awliya). However, scholars of Islam hold that the result is that the fundamentalists are creating innovations; they are creating a form of Islam that never existed in the past.
Like John Major’s England of cricket greens and social deference, their past is at root an imagined one.

Charles Filson said...

Gavin,

Based on most evidence (that I have seen) Jesus was probably an essene. The Essenes were a slightly militant cult. They carried swords and didn't marry and so on. I think that the most truth lies in your statement that pacifism is a modern day creation.
It is more likely that Jesus would not have seen pacifism, or peace-loving, as a boolean choice. One can love peace and still do violence.
But contrary to the one passage where Jesus actually tells his diciples to go buy swords (Which I believe was hyperbole, though I would not argue that he was against swords. At least one of his companions carried a sword in the Garden of Gethsemani.) Jesus never in any case condones violence of any kind. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when sturck on one side, but unfortunately never tells us what to do when somebody else is being beaten to death. Had he answered this question we might know if he was a pacifist or not. Would he interpose his own body? Attempt to restrain the offender? We don't know.

I don't think that Fanatisicm arises from Islam or Christianity. To answer your cart and horse. Neither does it arise from Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings. Yet the Bible and Koran both claim to be instruction sets of one kind or another for living. A fanatic of Star Wars has to pretty much make up instructions...cut them from whole cloth. (Maybe he can borrow from comments about controlling one's feeling or trusting them or whatever.) The Christian and the Muslim (and the Jew) will look to their faith for direction, and then to their holy books. Islam as you have agreed, places their text very highly and as far as I know, has no mechanism for ignoring bits of the text that don't quite work. (Though most I have met in America do anyway. I have met very few Muslims, and most have been roughly my age so that might be why, who do not drink alcohol.)
So regarding your cart and horse, I would suggest that the fanatism comes first or there is a predisposition to it. The Manson family was certainly not unbalanced by a beatles song. There had to be something there already.

My point was never that Islam turns people evil. The contrast I am drawing is that the Fanatisism that arises from Christianity, while annoying, is generally not overtly violent.

The central point of the New Testament that is made by many, most I would say, protestant churches is that Jesus himself, despite his comments to the contrary, trumped the 'Law' or Torah. This was very much the Pauline doctrine, and I think you would really have to dig to find a Christian church that recognizes the laws of the OT as valid despite the Pauline Doctrine. (until it is time to discuss a man laying with a man.) You wouldn't find too many Chritians that would actually use the word 'trump' but offer them a Lobster Dinner and half-way through point out Leviticus 11: 9-12. You will quicly hear them tell you that Jesus did away wtih the need to follow the law.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Jesus never in any case condones violence of any kind.

"And that servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. And he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes."

"And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money waiting. And when he had made a scourge of small cords he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen and poured out the changers money, and overthrew their tables."


This was very much the Pauline doctrine, and I think you would really have to dig to find a Christian church that recognizes the laws of the OT as valid despite the Pauline Doctrine. (until it is time to discuss a man laying with a man.) You wouldn't find too many Chritians that would actually use the word 'trump' but offer them a Lobster Dinner and half-way through point out Leviticus 11: 9-12. You will quicly hear them tell you that Jesus did away wtih the need to follow the law.

I believe the usual line is that the laws of sacrifice and cleanliness were part of the covenant between God and Moses, and do not apply once Jesus introduces the New convenant. Article VII of the church of England: "Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral." As I said when I was talking about gay clergy, the difficulty comes in establishing which bits are "Moral" and which bits are "ceremonies and rites".

Sure we all say that they don't contradict and Jesus did say that not a Jot or Tiddle would pass away, but then he also explained away Moses' teaching on divorce and then Paul came along and told us we could eat Pork Chops if we wanted to.

It's Jesus who says the food rules don't apply...in the gospels, he says things like "what goes into the mouth does not defile a man"; in Acts, he appears in a vision specifically in order to stuff a pork chop down Peter's throat. But you knew that already...

Andrew Rilstone said...

What you are basically saying, is, regardless of the relationship between the Old Testement and the New Testement, the Bible is written by lots of different authors in lots of different styles, and this gives it a degree of exegetical potential, or to use the technical term, wiggle room, that the Koran does not have. Yes?

Gavin Burrows said...

Charles Filson said...
The Essenes were a slightly militant cult. They carried swords and didn't marry and so on. I think that the most truth lies in your statement that pacifism is a modern day creation.

I would suspect in such a time and place there was slightly more people carrying swords, and slightly less people dialling 999 on their mobiles. (Or 911, I don’t know the code for Ancient Judah.)

However, after posting my comments about pacifism I reconsidered. Maybe I was confusing principled Pacifism with reactive pacifism. “I’ve thought about it and all violence is wrong” vs. the sort of logic where four bombs on the tube are violence but thousands of bombs falling on Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t. One I can respect enough to agree to disagree, the other is frankly skewed to the point of autism.

Nevertheless, I persist in thinking there’s some link between the two and they’re a relatively modern creation which comes with the possibility of outsourcing violence. Anyone know anything about early Buddhism and pacifism?

Islam as you have agreed, places their text very highly and as far as I know, has no mechanism for ignoring bits of the text that don't quite work. (Though most I have met in America do anyway.)

This seems fairly telling as I’ve been arguing all along that your argument falls as soon as it hits the empirical level. People don’t respond to religion that way. Even the ones who say they do.

So regarding your cart and horse, I would suggest that the fanatism comes first or there is a predisposition to it.

One of the weaknesses of your earlier arguments seemed to me that you were assuming that people had some innate predisposition towards a religion, then were stuck with it. In the modern Western world at least it seems quite the opposite, it’s become a shopping mall where people buy into whatever seems to be the most saleable one. And ignores all the awkward bits just like they did the parking restrictions on the way into the shopping mall. New Age-ness is this par excellence, a hodgepodge of all sorts of semi-digested religious and spiritual stuff with lots of made up bits sprinkled on top.

Obviously it works differently in fundamentalist states where Islam is The Law. But one of the other weaknesses I found in your argument was a tendency to flit from one to the other.

Andrew Rilstone said...
What you are basically saying, is, regardless of the relationship between the Old Testement and the New Testement, the Bible is written by lots of different authors in lots of different styles, and this gives it a degree of exegetical potential, or to use the technical term, wiggle room, that the Koran does not have. Yes?

If so, I’d agree. But as said ‘wiggle room’ is only about opportunity, and motive always comes first.

Below’s an example of the Islamaphobia that’s been on the rise here since the London bombings. Even on a forum such as this, it probably pays to use considered language. This "backlash" is "exactly what those who promote terrorism want" police say, and I (for once) agree. It has occurred to me that the bombers may have deliberately targeted countries with anti-War populations (Britain and Spain). Currently us “infidel” aren’t behaving according to the script, we’re calling for the troops to be pulled out and saying you can distinguish between different types of Muslim. As the War’s been such a handy recruiting school for Islamic Fundamentalism, they’re hardly likely to want it over. And their whole stance is they’re the only true form of Islam. If even “unbelievers” get to know better the jig’s truly up.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4723339.stm
(No idea how you paste URLs in this format, good luck with it!)

Charles Filson said...

Andrew,

You said: "And that servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. And he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes."

"And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money waiting. And when he had made a scourge of small cords he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen and poured out the changers money, and overthrew their tables."


And I respond: You can't be serious? Your first quotation comes from a parable. Luke calls it a parable. Jesus is describing the behavior of a master and a servant. He is reminding the people of how the world behaves. He is constructing a hyperbole orientals of his time tended to do from time to time. He does not suggest that people do this, and he does not go on to say that he will behave in a similar fashion. I am certain that you had to know this.

Your second verse is right though. Jesus does behave violently here. I concede that point. I would still suggest that it is not out-and-out violence. It does not sound like he was trying to injure anybody or kill. He was driving people out of a place. I'm certain that you can see the difference.

Incidentally and completely without a point; the last time I was in London I stopped by Saint Pauls, and this verse sprang to mind when I saw the little gift shop in the back. Same went for Notre Dame.

Gavin,

I was never making an argument that all people behaved this way. I think that you misunderstood. We were discussing fanatics. I think that this is where your early arguments went awry. We weren't discussing how normal reasoned Christians and Muslims behave. We were talking about how fanatics behave, and I was making the point that Christian fanatics, while spooky and strange, were generally not as scary as Muslim fanatics. This statement fits my personal experience. Then I ask why, and the answer that I come up with is the text. Jesus at his very worst, as Andrew pointed out, whipped some people with a lash made from ropes and told some stories about how masters treat their servants and compared this to God and man.
Mohammad at his best required mercy but at his worst he told his people to cut off the hands and feet of non-believers. He told them to never make a friend of a Christian or Jew, and to ambush them at every opportunity; to kill and main them.
There is a difference in the messages of the Bible and the Koran. I think that this difference is one of the principle reasons why Muslims who are turned fanatical for whatever reason find justification and much public support for murder.

Andrew,

Yes, you have, as usual, said it very well. Wiggle room. But I hold that there is a fundamental difference. Be honest, you had to really dig and stretch to find any sign of a violent Jesus, and could not come up with a command or suggestion to do violence.

Of course today's news reminds me that not all groups who thought that violence would get what they wanted were Muslim. I wonder, does anybody know if the IRA ever tried to use Christianity to justify their actions? How did they do it?

There are Christians, Jews and Muslims who live in Palestine (Non-Israel) who want an independent Palestinian state. The Christians are as oppressed by Israel as the Muslims, yet the Christians do not respond with suicide bombers...or any violence as far as I can tell. I do agree with Gavin that Political pressure and nationalism can be the trigger for terrorism, but Muslims seem to use Islam as a justification even when the trigger was nationalistic. They shout Allah Akbar (~Great God or ~God Almighty) or something similar while commiting their acts of violence. Did the Irish do the same? Did they yell "Praise Jesus" as they were gunning people down? I am honestly asking. I really don't know if the IRA ever used Christianity in the same way.

And Gavin,

I totally agree that raining bombs on a country is very violent and generally bad. In Serbia as well as Iraq. I also deplore now and did for 12 years the sanctions that did nothing to hurt the Baathists, but only hurt the people and got really cheap oil for the western countries.

Paul Brown said...

then Paul came along and told us we could eat Pork Chops if we wanted to

I did no such thing - I'm vegetarian.

Sorry. I tried to resist, but I couldn't. Some people, in such circumstances, would say, "God made me do it," or possibly even, "Satan made me do it."

They didn't, I did. To be more exact, "lack of self control made me do it." Every sin I have ever committed, I made me do it. Some of them were such fun I made me do them again.

Kevin said...

No, Irish Republicans were better known for shouting 'home rule, Rome rule'. So on the surface it is a religious (but not biblical) issue.

But actually, underneath, it comes down to the fear of destruction of culture, which is the point I made earlier and everyone ignored. Maybe rightly, since I am merely infering that Islamist militants are motivated in the same way as Irish Repulicans.

But, leaving that aside, I spotted an interesting irony today.

The conservative line on what motivates Islamist militants is that 'they hate our freedoms'. Let us for the moment accept that it is not false merely because it is said by conservatives. What exactly is it that they hate about our freedoms? Presumably that the hedonism, profanity, and promiscuity of western societies are an insult to God.

Which is surely something they have in common with the Christian right?

Charles Filson said...

Paul,

Lol.

Kevin,

When Bush says that: they hate our freedoms what he really means...or what his speach writers really mean...(Aside: for the love of god man, fire your damn speach writers.) is a common neo-con idea.

The Muslim line for about 1200-1300 years was that Allah loves the Muslimun a whole lot, and thus makes him the king of the world. If you follow all that Allah tells you then you will be wealthy and happy and so on.
However, in the last 100 or so years, the Muslim world has not kept up. To the Muslim this really sucks. Here are people who are morally depraved, but who are on top of the heap. It's tough on the whole 'We rock cause we are Muslim' line.
'They hate our freedoms' is pretty much what you have said. They hate our freedom to be depraved.

The Christian Right has always held that you are actually closer to God when you are being oppressed and think 'Woe to you when all men praise you'. The Christian expects to be on the bottom. Maybe this comes from the origins of our religions: Islam started with a rapid spread and military conquest. Christians began as a persecuted underclass in a persecuted underclass.

But this is what I mean when I say that Muslims have strong morals and should, in many ways, be the allies of Christians. The trouble is that both are exclusive religions.

Kevin said...

Charles:

That's an interesting observation. One of the things I've been trying to deal with over the past few years is the fact that when Christians achieve positions of great influence (e.g. US president, UK prime minister), they behave like shit-heads. And, more generally, when the church becomes a dominant force in a society, it becomes oppressive. (Insert your favourite example of church corruption in the middle ages here).

It seems like the church is only really the church when it is a (possible persecuted) minority.

Alternatively, maybe we behave like shit-heads all the time, and its only when we get some influence that anyone notices.

Gavin Burrows said...

Charles Filson said:

I totally agree that raining bombs on a country is very violent and generally bad. In Serbia as well as Iraq. I also deplore now and did for 12 years the sanctions that did nothing to hurt the Baathists, but only hurt the people and got really cheap oil for the western countries.

Indeed so. It made me laugh (in a grim way) when the Liberal Democrats and others presented the sanctions as a more humane alternative to invasion. Admittedly they went on for longer, but more people died from the sanctions than the invasion. Given a straight choice between death by swift bombing and slow starvation, I’d choose the first one. (Added to which they never actually stopped the bombing after the 1st Gulf War, just lowered the intensity a bit.)

I was making the point that Christian fanatics, while spooky and strange, were generally not as scary as Muslim fanatics. This statement fits my personal experience. Then I ask why, and the answer that I come up with is the text.

While I’d concede some degree of validity to the first point (now you’ve added the crucial specifier ‘fanatics’), it’s the last one where we disagree.

I do agree with Gavin that Political pressure and nationalism can be the trigger for terrorism, but Muslims seem to use Islam as a justification even when the trigger was nationalistic.

It seems to me you have this sentence back-to-front. This may sound a case of you say to-ma-to I say tor-mar-to, but I think it’s significant. A justification is ultimately a lot of smoke. It’s the trigger that causes the action that creates all the damage. This is why I reached for the cart-and-horse metaphor earlier.

Maybe this comes from the origins of our religions: Islam started with a rapid spread and military conquest. Christians began as a persecuted underclass in a persecuted underclass.

Interestingly, you’re arguing like me here! (Tho’ I’m a little lost. Are we talking Moses or Jesus?) (It’d also be interesting to speculate about how it works when that ‘persecuted minority’ gets the driving seat in the main world power.)

There are Christians, Jews and Muslims who live in Palestine (Non-Israel) who want an independent Palestinian state. The Christians are as oppressed by Israel as the Muslims, yet the Christians do not respond with suicide bombers...or any violence as far as I can tell.

A classic example of what I mean! The oppression is racial and nationalistic. Israelis have first-world lifestyles in the middle of the third world and one of the main reasons for this is near-slave Arab labour. Religion is invoked as a justification, but the desire to own swimming pools is the trigger. Israeli Christians simply do not get treated the same way as Palestinian Christians. (Who there’s too few of to make any kind of fuss, at least not as Christians.)

And what about the Falange? Commonly regarded as carrying out the greatest single massacre in the modern history of the Middle East and they were a Christian Militia.

Kevin said:

One of the things I've been trying to deal with over the past few years is the fact that when Christians achieve positions of great influence (e.g. US president, UK prime minister), they behave like shit-heads.

Again with this? Are there many examples of people achieving positions of great influence and not behaving like shit-heads? Perhaps we should be looking to the nature of power rather than their often-spurious justifications?

…back to Charles Filson …
…not all groups who thought that violence would get what they wanted were Muslim. I wonder, does anybody know if the IRA ever tried to use Christianity to justify their actions? How did they do it?

Well their enemies were Christian so it’s not comparable in that way.

Kevin said...

Gavin said
Again with this? Are there many examples of people achieving positions of great influence and not behaving like shit-heads? Perhaps we should be looking to the nature of power rather than their often-spurious justifications?


'Absolute power...'. I guess I shouldn't reject it just because it is a cliche.

Actually, I've just been overcome by the inclination to be fair to Mr Blair. It's such a novel sensation that I'll indulge it.

His faith does make a difference. He really cares about Africa, and has expended real political capital to do something about it. He cares about global warming, and is prepared to embarass his allies (at least a little bit) over it. He's acheived some real progress on debt relief (although trade justice was too high a mountain).

Right I've got that out of my system. How is it that this is the same man who lied to us about WMD? Does he have an evil twin? Or is it that going to war is a little thing you can tell white lies about? And isn't confession somewhat familiar to Christians? When will there be a politican who can admit it when they're wrong? Maybe the electorate would appreciate it, as a refreshing change. I know I would.

Gavin Burrows said...

Kevin said...

'Absolute power...'. I guess I shouldn't reject it just because it is a cliche.

Things become clich├ęs by being repeated a lot. And they get repeated a lot by…

Actually, I've just been overcome by the inclination to be fair to Mr Blair. It's such a novel sensation that I'll indulge it.

His faith does make a difference. He really cares about Africa, and has expended real political capital to do something about it. He cares about global warming, and is prepared to embarass his allies (at least a little bit) over it. He's acheived some real progress on debt relief (although trade justice was too high a mountain).

Right I've got that out of my system. How is it that this is the same man who lied to us about WMD? Does he have an evil twin?


I’m not going to be so indulgent. After Iraq I don’t find it particularly surprising that Bliar should be looking around for a foreign policy hit. True, that might not be so bad if he was doing what it says on the lid, but of course he isn’t. You paint a man doing what he can, feeling he must knock out debt before moving onto trade justice. In fact he’s used limited motion on debt to arm-twist Africa into even worse “free trade” “agreements”. The only countries which got deft relief had to agree to “opening their markets” by privatising water and other essential services. As a direct consequence the average African is worse off than in the Sixties, in some places considerably worse off. As the Guardian said yesterday, the current ‘famine’ in Niger isn’t to do with lack of food so much as hyping the price of food outside many people’s pockets, and an insistence that food aid is “anti-competitive”.

And of course “debt” was repaid a thousand times over via extortionate interest payments, despotic rulers (Western-tolerated) running off with sockfulls of loot and the rest of it. ‘Foreign aid’ was moneylending to begin with.

Blair’s policies on Africa are no less murderous than over Iraq. This is a good read. (And also gives me another chance to try making a working link in this format. If it doesn’t work paste the text into your browser. Yes I know, that’s so yesterday!)
http://www.redpepper.org.uk/
(You need to then click on the ‘Make the G8 History’ link, which doesn’t seem to have it’s own address for some reason.)

(Admittedly the story over global warming is slightly different.)

Thinking some more about Charles Filson (or quite possibly for the first time), I’d concede he’s not the fanatic he appeared as first off. But this emphasis on the text makes me think he’s not so much a religious thinker as a moralist. It goes like this: We all need to live by moral codes, or chaos will ensue and dead bodies line the streets and get in everyone’s way. Religion is the best means to draw these up and put them in a tidy little book. Shopping around, the NT seems to be the best contendor. If everyone read the NT, it would be best for society with only the real cockeyed Charles Manson types able to read instructions for mass murder into it. The rest of us will feel like murdering that guy who nicked our parking space, then remember what it says in the Tidy Little Book about offing folk being a no-no. The Koran, conversely, is too much of a lucky dip.

Now I’m not a religious type, but I’d venture this seems to me one of the worst applications of religion. You could criticise our legal system till you wore your keyboard down, but at least it admits to being devised by Earthly hands so to some degree provisional, adaptable and improvable. Me, I don’t particularly like Church or State, but all the more reason not to join them together into some Mecha-Godzilla hybrid.

Gavin Burrows said...

Right, I give up! Someone tell me the agreed coding here for an URL or I shall scream and scream and scream until I'm sick.

Kevin said...

I've only got a 50% hit rate, but here is my attempt....

<a href=http://www.google.com/>Google</a>
Produces:

Kevin said...

OK, my hit rate on links is down to 33% now. :(

One last try!

Kevin said...

Still trying...

Kevin said...

Still trying...

Kevin said...

Still

href=http://www.google.com>trying
...

Still
trying ...

OK, I haven't cracked it, but if you type a carriage return anywhere inside the <a href=...>, that seems to break it. Use a space and ignore the fact that it wraps.

I still don't know why my first attempt failed, however.

Kevin said...

So this should work...

Kevin said...

Try text before

and after...

Kevin said...

Try removing the final backslash on the URL
Google
and after...

Kevin said...

Ah, cracked it!
If you use:
<a href=http://www.google.com/>Google</a>
The whole of the link is lost due to the trailing backslash in the URL.

If you use:
<a href=http://www.google.com>Google</a>
It works. This is in addition to the rule about not including a carriage return in the <a..> tag.

Proof of the pudding...
Google

Sorry for all the posts, the problem doesn't occur until you publish.

Thanks for the link on Blair by the way.

Gavin Burrows said...

Sorry you were put to so much trouble, Kevin.

(NB I wasn't really going to scream and scream and scream until I was sick, but please don't tell him that!)

Baller said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.