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Sunday, July 13, 2008

A trendy vicar at the Torygraph

The case of the evangelists and the Brummie Muslim policeman is ancient history by now, but I'm impelled to reopen it having come across a deeply wrongheaded reaction to it from the Telegraph's George Pitcher.

Before I lay into Mr Pitcher, though, let me accentuate the positive. Firstly, he is one of the few journos who appear to advantage in the photo adorning their by-line (most would be well advised to remain faceless, since they contrive to look almost as hideous as I do on my driving licence). A handsome dog indeed: I bet he gets ladies' underclothing hurled at him all the way through the sermon. And since I'm sure he runs an inclusive church, it may not only be ladies' underclothing.

Secondly, he is to be be congratulated for bagging the name "Faithbook" for his blog. Others in the same line of business must be kicking themselves. How much trendier can a vicar get? I only hope he won't find himself charged with a hate crime against people with speech impediments.

I digress. What's so awful about his post? Mr Pitcher's "scoop" is to have identified the church to which the two evangelists belong and to reproduce an excerpt from its credo. And it is, indeed, the kind of church which I would only visit whilst under heavy sedation.

But what, exactly, is Mr Pitcher's point? "Not much evidence of tolerance there", he comments. Well, sorry, Mr P, but I don't see any particular evidence either of tolerance or its opposite. These folk think everyone except themselves has got it wrong and and will burn everlastingly in consequence. But there's no sign of a desire to speed unbelievers on their way to the bonfire. I see no evidence at all that they favour the execution of apostates, something which could be a very real concern for any converts they succeeded in making in the Alum Rock Road area.

Mr P expands his point thus:-

'Now, for those who suggest that religious trouble arises in Britain from the threat of Islam, try this test: In the Birmingham church's web-page above, try replacing the words "Bible" with "Koran" and "God" with "Allah".

'Of course it doesn't work in some of the specifically Christian passages, but I respectfully suggest that in most of it you end up with precisely the sort of statements for which we accuse Muslims of being so intractable and fundamentalist.'

I might start by pointing out that the change from "God" to "Allah" fazes me not at all, since "Allah" is simply the Arabic word for "God", as used by millions who read their Bible in Arabic. As for changing "Bible" to "Koran", one answer would be that you end up with something as different from the original as - well, as the Koran is from the Bible. Possibly Mr P feels that that is not a very big difference.

I take Mr P's basic point that the theology is unappealingly crude and narrow either way. But what follows from that? That Muslims with similarly deplorable beliefs are not, or should not be, entitled to propagate them by handing out leaflets in places where Christians live? Stuff and nonsense, Mr P! Or, conversely, that the Grace Bible Fellowship Church would like to blow me to Kingdom Come next time I travel on the Tube? Stuff and nonsense again.

How many times must the point be made: fundamentalists can be accommodated in a pluralist society, just as long as they aren't violently intolerant fundamentalists. And, however much Mr P may wish to erect neat moral/theological symmetries, and however much he may need a stick to bash the Bible-bashers with, the threat of violently intolerant fundamentalism with which our society is faced still does not come from conservative evangelicals.

And if the GBFC's pitch is not to Mr Pitcher's taste, can we expect to see him out and about in Alum Rock Road or Whitechapel, distributing literature that expounds the true Gospel? It seems not. In a subsequent post we read:-

'Readers of this blog will know that I have little sympathy with aggressive or coercive campaigns to convert non-Christians.'

Well, yes, he's certainly made it clear how little sympathy he has with the aggressive and coercive handing out of leaflets by Arthur Cunningham, 48, and Joseph Abraham, 65 (my goodness, don't they look scary). Has it ever occurred to Mr P that if St Paul had taken the same attitude, and taken care to avoid offence to worshippers of perfectly adequate deities like Apollo and Pallas Athene, it is most unlikely that he (Mr P) would ever have heard of Jesus of Nazareth?

A cynic might suggest that a man who sees the holding of a decided opinion as in itself conclusive evidence of dangerous intolerance is so perfectly fitted for the liberal Anglican priesthood that he ought to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. I try very hard not to be a cynic and I wouldn't want to be in a church without liberals, but please, Lord, let at least some of them be muscular liberals!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Me and the British madness

Last night, while walking home from the local Co-op, I got chatted up by an attractive and charming young lady. Now don't run away with the idea that I'm telling you this because it's a rare occurrence. Far from it. Honestly, it wears you down after a while, having to fend them off. You might think the wedding ring would provide a little protection, but no, they are utterly without shame.

What made this occasion different was partly the lady's somewhat unorthodox technique. She wanted to draw my attention to a small beetle she had captured in a jar. Well, it beats "come up and see my etchings", and given that Frau Grumpy is the Bumble Bee's Friend I am certainly susceptible to such approaches. After I had admired the insect she continued in rather more conventional vein, asking where I lived and pointing out her home.

The other thing was that she was rather younger than I'm used to in these circumstances. Five at most, I'd say, probably four.

And this is where it gets dreadfully serious. Did I enjoy this brief encounter? I did not. Reason: I was torn between wanting to reciprocate her friendliness and trying to get rid of her. What if her parents appeared and accused me of having nefarious designs on her? And even if that didn't happen, should I be encouraging her to talk to strange men? All this despite the fact that it was broad daylight and the patch of grass where she was playing was overlooked by several houses and flats - unpromising for any but the most reckless of predatory paedophiles.

This is a sick, perverted reaction to childish innocence, is it not? In, for instance, Germany it would be perceived as such. But not here in Blighty. Here it's normal. And it leaves me feeling there is a dark stain on my soul. How did we get this way?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The meeting of the extremes

I've just seen a poster advertising the Socialist Workers Party's annual jamboree. Guess who one of the star turns is. Yes, him again, the German neo-Nazis' blue-eyed boy. It's trite but so true: if you travel far enough towards one political extreme you'll eventually meet up with the opposite one. And it underscores my point about the strange company some people keep in the name of Christianity.

The fun starts tomorrow, if you're interested. If you're very lucky you'll find that, as in past years, musical relief from the heavy theoretical stuff is being provided by the SWP's pet Holocaust denier.