Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Doing Unto Others

Reports of a large billboard on the side of a busy public highway in a big city with the words "SOUTH AFRICA: TURN TO GOD" and some vague bible reference beneath it, makes me think deep thoughts.

Wow.

Isn't this illegal? If it isn't, it should be.

I can already hear the hackles raising on the necks of folks who would like very much to burn me at the stake for saying something like that, but wait - put down those matches, bro - and hear me out first.

I am just one of the folks who believe that my religion is nobody else's business and perhaps I just take it for granted that other people do or should feel the same sense of security I feel without having such a need to try to prove themselves right by "evangelizing" or trying to convert other people to theirs.

It is directed at anyone who reads it in passing, whether they are Christian or not. It proclaims in large letters that the writer is "perfect" and those who read it are not. It is as offensive as a manic street preacher bellowing in people's faces in a public street over a bull-horn. It says "I am perfect - and you need to be like me." I thought Christianity was about love and welcoming, not pointing fingers at others - and this is a giant finger pointing at other people.

It sends a far deeper message than "turn to God" - it says that the person who is making this statement is looking down at the rest of us driving past their thousand rand-an-hour billboard alongside the N1 from the vantage point of perfection, righteousness and sinlessness - and it says in people-sized letters "I am a hypocrite".

After all, it presumes that those who read it are either not "one of the faithful" - or have something wrong with them, or are even doing something wrong at this very moment and should start shuffling their feet and look for their bibles.

What shocking arrogance.

Surely this display shows disrespect to other religions and those who follow them? Doesn't it say "You're all wrong and we're right"? Surely such displays of "Christian nationalism" belong in private spaces of mutual consent or opinion, i.e. churches? After all, if people want to get all religious, then that is the appropriate place to do so.

I am sure whoever posted the billboard I would object on the grounds of their religion if gay people were to post something similar. Or Muslims. Or Hindus. How fortunate we are that neither Hindus or Muslims or Shinto people are into evangelism as well - or fundamentalist Christianity would be moving literally from one "crusade" to the next. Oh, wait... they're at war with us now as it happens.

Hmm. In fact a case like that would indicate that while gay people are often falsely accused of "recruiting", it looks like Christian evangelists are guilty of that same offence. Religion seems after all, to be a convenient excuse to do anything to anyone and to get away with it.

There are many faiths in SA, not just Christian fundamentalists. As it addresses the country, does it not also imply the country should embrace theonomy?

I have no doubt there are many fundie Christians who would like to see SA become a theonomy, but I wonder - would a Muslim theonomy suit them as well? How about a Hebrew one, would that be all right? What about the other people living in the same country? What about their needs, what about their feelings? Is this fair? Is it just?

Whatever happened to "do unto others as you would have done unto you"?

Would they like another religion to run the country and persecute and exclude them from everything? But yet it is odd that many of these folks are keenly fired up to do some home-baked persecution of their own. And they so love to cry "persecution" just because a reference to their religion has been removed from the country's Constitution - or Christian prayer from schools and government events. Persecution? These folks need a history lesson - back in Roman times, that was persecution!

People of other faiths - or none - would just have to enjoy the so called "benefits" of living in a Christian state, having one particular religion rammed down their throats on public media (including billboards), Christian prayer to open meetings, references to Christian God in every state document and Christian law dictating every aspect of their daily lives.

This world (and this country) is made up of many diverse peoples, cultures and faiths. All are regarded as equal under our constitution, therefore no one religion is to be shown favor, just as it is only fair that no one race is to be shown favor above others. To do so would be unconstitutional - and obviously, unfair.

This sort of argument on theonomy only serves to unmask those who are not content with merely being equal to others - especially when at heart, their arguments of "persecution" can be shown to come simply from their discontent at being treated AS equals with groups or people they happen to dislike.

People who are so insecure in their faith that they feel a drive to force others to worship the same god as they do, are trying hard to remove this element of fairness and equality in our country, and to overwhelm it with cries of "religious persecution" and "wolf, wolf".

Surely if one religion is so much "better" than another then people should be free to experiment and to discover for themselves which one suits them best - without unfair practices such as posting polarizing advertising on billboards, in media and hijacking Kyknet every Sunday.

If I want religion I know where to look for it - and if for example I don't want it, then why should it be forced on me?

The fundies love to claim that "statistically", 75% of South Africans are "Christian" and yet 75% of voters in SA certainly did not vote to support their political parties to change the Constitution or to turn SA into a theonomy. I wonder why - and also see the significance of this turn of events. Don't they? Obviously, this is not what people want, and for them, this is simply not good enough - because this tiny, rabid fundamentalist minority do.

Either they need to accept that 75% of people who call themselves Christians, statistically speaking, are a) lying, or b) they themselves and their parties do not fit that description. I'm inclined to go with option "b" myself.

I wish there was a place I could go to where there was no religion at all - unless it was private and kept in the home and in people's personal lives. Frankly I can understand why the Romans persecuted Christianity - it is dangerous because it isn't containable, refuses to be treated equally along with other religions, won't recognize state authority unless it happens to be in its own pocket, and demands to be first in everything - and it spreads worse than viral marketing.

And the insult is they accuse gay people of "recruiting"!

I don't know how a person of a different religion - notably one which isn't so insecure about their own faith as the people who put up such signs - would feel when faced with it - but I do know, as someone who has grown up in Christian surroundings, how it makes me feel.

Embarrassed.

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