I am lying, awake, irritated by the sound of the neighbour’s central heating exhaust and worrisome thoughts about the ‘biosecurity’ of our ducks’ pen. (As if things weren’t bad enough, Avian Flu is on the march as well) I have been reading a book for my Theology course which tackles the morally ‘problematic’ texts of the Old Testament, the bits that seemingly advocate violence, rape, slavery, homophobia, genocide… One suggestion, and I suppose an accepted understanding, is that things are better than then. That we have somehow evolved to be more morally mature.
I am not so sure.
It’s not just central heating and ducks that are keeping me awake. The escalating rise of Covid infections; the health service (that I work for) on the brink of overwhelm; an attempted fascist coup in the United States; the many unfolding ramifications of the shit show that is Brexit, as well as all the other global atrocities, such as the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Plague, war, division, exile, genocide: these themes are – quite literally – Biblical. Not to mention misogyny, homophobia and racism, it’s all still there. Human beings have never really stopped inciting or exacerbating this crap.
Of course, it wasn’t God doing all those things in the Old Testament, it was human beings! God was the justification, or at least the way in which they made sense of it all. And it is human beings who continue to behave the most jaw-droppingly appalling ways. Sadly God is – for many of them – still the justification.
If God was the kind of God they seem to think God is (and I don’t believe in that God) I think God would be rather pissed off.
Violence done in the name of God is a common atheistic argument against religion. And I see the point. Except for all the ways in which religious people (many more than those who commit violence) promote peace, love and unity in the name or practice of their faith. Human beings also behave appallingly in the name of other things that are not religion. Violence is about people. As we are seeing in the USA at the moment, God has been invoked in ways that many people of faith find deeply disturbing and offensive. And it’s not OK.
I said today on a social media post that neutrality is no longer an option. I was talking about the unspoken but generally accepted rule that religious leaders should stay away from the subject of politics. Particularly those who preach. This is in the week following an insurrection in which people were visibly and prominently wearing and carrying emblems and insignia that glorify white supremacy, antisemitism and genocide. That isn’t politics, it’s immorality. And if there’s one thing that religious leaders are qualified to comment on, it’s morality. I have been heartened to see many taking a stand on this. Calling for more than unity, namely: action; accountability; and zero tolerance of the kind of bigotry and hatred that history has taught us does not end well for anyone.
In truth, the Bible has many more passages in its entirety that promote the themes of liberation and social justice, as well as love, hope, faith and unity, than the other more troublesome parts. Taken as a whole, it gives a lot of hope for humanity. Love and compassion are the overriding themes of most faiths, because, despite our worst behaviours, love and compassion are also the overriding instincts of human beings for one another. Hope is possible because we know this is what we are capable of, and what most of us actually want and value.
Love, Compassion, Unity, Hope. Yes, but does this mean tolerating fascists? Most definitely not.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.