Fear is now greater than Faith
The appalling attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka have shown another side to the reporting of terrorist activities. Prime Minister May called the victims ‘Easter Worshippers’. Other politicians used different euphemisms. Very few referred to them as Christians, although Easter Worshippers by definition are just that. Why the reticence to tell the truth? Nobody hesitated to refer to the victims of the outrage in Christchurch as Muslims. Is it too much to face the fact that Christians are being persecuted in many parts of the world – and say so. Persecution of anyone for his faith is abhorrent and universally outlawed.
Good Islam, Good Judaism, Good Buddhism, Good Christianity and other Good Religious Beliefs are Good. The founders of these religions had peace, tolerance and fraternity as the core elements of their faith. Some people have distorted those beliefs, tried to make one religion irreconcilable with another, shouted a superiority over others that the founders never intended. A religion that doesn’t subscribe to humanity as a whole as its fundamental purpose is not a religion for the 21st or any other Century.
Prayer – ‘a kind thought followed by a kind action’ – is acceptable from any religious belief and none. Even agnostics pray, even atheists pray. We all pray in times of fear even if we are not sure to whom or for what. We offer unbelievers our prayers when they have troubles and they accept them gratefully as gestures of support. And that is what the religious of any belief or denomination have to ask themselves. What does their religion do to support those in need of physical and moral help, regardless of their beliefs. A sentimental attachment to an unprovable belief is no substitute for a helping hand.
‘Fear is now greater than faith’ said Alison Pearson in the Daily Telegraph. She is right, but what a dreadful admission. Christianity has had its fair share of scandals but the core Christian belief, promulgated and practiced over a significant part of the world’s population, has been harmony and neighbourliness. The innate desire that humankind has to worship is, of itself, good. It is the manifestation of kindness that humans can exhibit and that other animal species, for all their successful mimicking of it, cannot yet do. No reason to suppose that one day they won’t.
It’s not as though humankind doesn’t have a common cause to unite it. Perhaps we are still only starting to recognise that our planet is slipping away from us much faster than we ever thought possible. Perhaps religious rivalry masks a deeper rift in humanity – the rift between the haves and the have-nots. That is certainly cause for protest. But the protest can be done most effectively from your comfortable chair with a pen and a cheque book. Resources gratuitously wasted in media-catching riots deprive the poor rather than helping them. The thrill and frisson of arrest for a cause is never as useful as a gift.
Religious pastors have a torrid time. Most of them are good people, struggling to adapt their faith to a technologically driven world. Many are tied by practices that are patently out of date and irrelevant today but that the continuity of their faith demands they carry on. Their leaders are stuck in a position where the conventions of the crowd limit their ability to modernise because populism is as rife in religion as it is in any politics.
Very bold, sometimes life-sacrificing, leadership is required in these situations. A consensus that, whoever the true Deity for humankind, we are all there to ensure that our heirs and successors enjoy the best of the life they have by making it useful to others, must be the basic point of agreement.
Religions of all sorts are always there for the future, not the past. They should be honoured to the extent that they behave in a way that supports their futuristic role. They should be honoured by being called who they are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians. If they have a Christmas Tree at the White House they should say so. If they have Friday Prayers they should say so. If they have a Festival of Lights they should say so.
And so, out of respect and honour, should we.