Christianity is an exercise in cherry-picking
There is textual basis in many religions for terrible acts. There must be a way to recognise the real impact and context of terror attacks
Members of the public take part in a vigil for the victims of the London Bridge terror attacks, in Potters Fields Park on June 5, 2017 in London, England. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
I have had to text my brother “are you alright?” more often than I would care to in the last few weeks.
The last time I visited he and his wife, we went to Borough Market, where three terrorists were recently shot dead by police after mowing down pedestrians on nearby London Bridge and tearing through the quaint market, stabbing innocent people.
When we visited weeks before, it was thronged with ambling shoppers and heavy with intoxicating aromas. The sudden, thick bang of a cheese stall making your nose twitch as you stroll by. The sumptuously delicate fragrance of peonies pirouetting past your face as you pass a flower vendor.
London has a vivacious spirit, and the everyday cynicism of Londoners shouldn’t be underestimated. In a busy London café today, I heard the trilling voice of a well-to-do young woman complaining about the quality of her organic wheat-free avocado toast. London life continues, but this situation isn’t normal, and it should never become so.
There must be a way to protect every kind of innocent and recognise the real impact and context of terror attacks like this one
Everywhere I look, there are appeals to love, tolerance and other vaguely defined ideas which essentially suggest carrying on as normal and tolerating the intolerable. We are told that unity is paramount, but are given no sense of what we should be unified against. The message we receive after events like these is that passive emotions like sympathy or grief are to be encouraged, while more active emotions like anger are not.
The idea of angry citizens alarms those in power – they justifiably fear that if they validate the anger people feel when innocents are murdered and terrorised, some will target those who blatantly don’t deserve it by seeking inappropriate outlets for that anger.
This is a very important and legitimate concern. There must be a way to protect every kind of innocent and recognise the real impact and context of terror attacks like this one.
I have no interest in pressing upon the political, cultural and religious sensitivities which inevitably accompany events of international terrorism. For that reason, I’m taking a very brief trip back to examine the state of Christianity in a specific time and place and will leave readers to draw their own conclusions.
In 1534 in Germany, the Münster Anabaptists seized Münster city hall and installed one of their leaders as mayor. This, along with several other events, resulted in the creation of a biblically-inspired “Utopia” so monstrously violent, sexist, and tyrannical that it resembled something much closer to hell than the kingdom of heaven on earth until the city was besieged, the leaders captured, and the experiment ended in historically grisly fashion.
Though an overwhelming majority of Christians are not (and were not, even at that schismatic point in history) represented by those violent lunatics, and the time and context were evidently different, there are comparisons to modern religiously-motivated terror.
Modern Christianity is an exercise in cherry-picking the nicer parts and ignoring the outdated, brutal, and plain mad maxims contained in dogma or its holy book
To say that the actions of the Münster Anabaptists had nothing to do with Christianity would not only have been incorrect, but have represented a denial of reality. They interpreted the bible to justify their laws and actions, and that interpretation was – purely textually speaking – as valid as anyone else’s.
Pastiche of brutality
The book itself is a pastiche of brutality, particularly the Old Testament. They declared the atrocities they committed to be in the name of their religion – who is anyone else to dispute their confessed motivations?
Modern Christianity is an exercise in cherry-picking the nicer parts and ignoring the outdated, brutal, and plain mad maxims contained in dogma or its holy book, but it could just as soon be an exercise in deeming the ugly parts more valid than the nice ones.
It is by polite consensus, human decency and the occurrence of the Enlightenment that the vast majority of religious people ignore the genocide, slavery, and polygamy written in an era that does not bear relevance to modern times. No matter how uncomfortable it may make us, there is textual basis in many religions for terrible acts. Denying this serves no purpose at all.
Like all religious tyrants, the Münster Anabaptists would brook no narrative but the one most acceptable to them. The Enlightenment pulled us into modernity, and Enlightenment values are precisely what will unite us against those who seek to crush our diverse, open way of life.