I rarely look at anything much on the web now unless it is (a) work related; (b) news related (don’t read “real” newspapers anymore); (c) and gmail. Work consumes most of my time, and this blog is a kind of mental escape.
But today I decided to have a look at what a few other blogs are doing, particularly biblioblogs. I had thought biblioblogs were blogs about the Bible, but that appears to be only partially true. I had also expected those blogs run by professional scholars would be in the lead when it came to promoting tolerance and humane values. I have kind of tended to associate secularism, rationalism and humanism with advanced studies, and to think that more often than not they are accompanied by the more progressive and democratic values.
So I guess my naivety was hit hard when I checked out numero uno biblioblog by an academic and church pastor, Zwinglius Redivivus. The Bible passage that this biblioblogger seems to repeat most often is
“Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress. (Jeremiah 11:14)
And it is always in connection with a newsbyte worthy of the worst scandal rag of a newspaper from a Rupert Murdoch publication. The worst news sells papers when its wrapped up in the worst possible titillating or bigoted way, and it appears to be what a lot of other academics in religious departments want to read on a regular basis — at least when it comes packaged with Doctor Jim’s Jeremiads.
Is there an article about incest? Or a plot to murder? Then bring it on and flaunt it with all the bigoted ignorance of a mind still warped by primitive b.c. ramblings of hate and judgment.
(I know, I should have been warned after my earlier run in with another biblioblogger fanning ignorant prejudice against views he did not understand or even bother to investigate honestly for himself. Public intellectuals associated with what in many instances turns out to be a monkey-discipline (biblical studies) seem to be the worst at failing in their public responsibilities.)
This is what I detest most about religion. Even in the minds of its sophisticated literati who supposedly deplore crude fundamentalism, it still so often manages to infect with its black-and-white them-and-us thinking. Zwinglius Redivivus in one post even boasts of its author’s bigotry against atheists. He speaks of his
long standing ‘I don’t . . . or allow atheists any bandwidth whatsoever, they are so loathsome to me’ policy.
A few years ago I read a small news item at the bottom of a front page of a national newspaper announcing that it was reported some desperate refugees had threatened to throw their children overboard if they were not allowed entry into Australia. I dismissed the report as rubbish because I know the human race well enough to know that bunches of parents do not do that sort of thing, but as David Hume indicated, it is easier to believe someone would tell a lie about a certain racial group. But next day our Prime Minister no less had seized on the report and soon had a good bulk of the nation believing the report and hating Middle Eastern refugees. It eventually was exposed as a lie, of course, but not before much damage had been done.
Yet scandalous newsbytes are picked up by someone who ought to know better and, without any indication or expressed interest in checking the facts behind the story, are peddled through biblioblogging in way surely intended to fan prejudice against who or what ever.
But I have little doubt that statistically some of the stories are probably based on more truth than we can stomach. So how does a public intellectual lead in his ethical responsibilities in relation to such news? By turning to a primitive tract that condemns all Yahweh-defying creatures to death.
Not only is he an intellectual but a pastor, and I would think therefore with a double public responsibility. The more I have personally known people involved in cases of murder and rape and family violence (not many, but more than enough) the harder it is to refrain from weeping over all involved. Of course one feels most pain for the victims, and of course justice must be seen to be done. And I admit I do not know how I myself might react or feel if I suffered some of the worst that one can imagine. But is it possible to also image the pain of the parents of the accused? What if such a one were from one’s own closest family? Surely pastors do not lead such sheltered and make-believe lives that the thought is incomprehensible.
People are people. They are not embodiments of evil. Yet that is the lowest common denominator gut reaction that ZR’s ignorant tirades appeal to. Maybe it’s more an American thing — the lack of the sense of the tragic in human experience. Manichean thinking. The perpetuation of barbarism.
One interview still sticks in my mind that would seem to sum up the basic principle that must undergird all ethics if we are to think of ourselves as civilized. A young lad who was being sentenced for a horrific murder was asked by a judge why he should not sentence him to death. The interview was with the boy’s counsellor and according to her, the boy answered:
“Because you’re better than me.”
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