04 January 2012

Pharisees: Why Christians are sometimes so unChristian

Dear Readers, compliments of the New Year to you all and my apologies for my extended absence. I hope I was sincerely missed. Anyway I write this blog from Zimbabwe, which is also true for the previous blog – There is a Sadness, because today I met what I would like to call a Pharisee.

I will not name names, or point fingers but today I happened to be having lunch with one of my dear friends who happens to be a non-believer. He says that his mind cannot perform the leap of faith necessary to fathom the supposed existence of a God or gods. I remember when I met him two years ago, I nodded sagely and told him that I found his point of view interesting. Having lived in Algeria for four years, there is one thing I had learnt above all else, to appreciate and respect those who hold opinions different to mine. Our friendship, marked as it is by that fundamental difference is one of the few I hold dear.

We were joined by two ladies who are firm believers, of the Pentecostal persuasion. And then my cousin, who rounded up the quintet, happened to mention to the two ladies that my friend was an atheist. Dearest reader, it is not often that I almost choke on my food but today I was caught off guard and the muscles of my throat wrapped in panic on the chicken fillet I was swallowing at the time.

“I am scared of people like you”.                
“You people can do anything - you might even murder someone or rape me” .
“Hanging around people like you is going to corrupt me”.

I am glad to say my friend took it in his stride and gamely soldiered through what was a very awkward moment coloured by what constituted hate speech. 

To what must be the eternal shame of every Christian out there, he quoted quite correctly and simply: “Judge not lest you shall be judged.” Her ambiguous equation of morality to religion, the complete disregard of the opinion of the other, the assumption, basic and unassuming, that she was right so everyone else by extension must be wrong; the callous disregard of the life story that this other individual had experienced, the views and opinions that he held sacrosanct, his own belief systems; they were all thrown under the truck by the adherent of a religion that claims to be a religion of acceptance and ‘non-judgementalism.’ Hypocrisy.

And it’s sad that it is a stance that is shared by so many people around the world. So many of the failures to live together in peace and harmony in this world caused by an utter and complete failure to try to comprehend that there is someone out there who holds a belief different to yours. A few days ago as we read about the bombings of a church in Nigeria, a friend of mine felt the need to weigh in with a gem of his wisdom:

‘I hate Muslims, they are always busy killing people, they must be stopped’

I sharply pointed out that not only did the Prophet Mohammed emphasise that Muslims must live together in peace with Christians, that the Koran also described the ‘people of the book’ (Christians and Jews) as children of God who must not be harmed but that far more Muslims than Christians are killed each year by Muslim Fundamentalists and a blanketing of an entire people within the mutually abhorrent acts of a few was as contemptible as Hitler’s Nazism.

Many of my friends know that I am a sharp critic and I have also come to learn that it is easy to criticize and destroy but far more difficult to criticize and build. Let me attempt to build – here is what I think should have happened. On learning of a person who held a belief different to hers, she should have asked and understood why. Perhaps give time even learnt what caused my friend to see the world in the way he chooses to. If she so wished she could have stated her own views on belief and how it coloured her life, and then in the style of a true lady, agreed to disagree.

Because whether you like to believe it or not, your entire life’s experiences, thoughts and opinions fail to comprehend the vast vista of human existence. You have never stepped onto the steps of a temple dedicated to the snake god in Delhi, nor walked through the shadowed beauty of a mosque nor quite understood why the Japanese believe their emperor to be divine. I can hardly be expected to understand why people who are different to me act in the way that they do, but I believe it is my duty to allow them the space to do so in just the same way they allow me my space to carve out my own little corner of existence in this universe that we share.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

No comments:

Post a Comment