Friday, October 10, 2014

The Memo

An article by a militant fundamentalist "Christian" group misleadingly called "Freedom Of Religion SA", entitled "Christian Leaders Unite to Protect Religious Freedom in SA" states: "the growing number of cases being opened up against Christians, and lost by them, for trying to live out their beliefs, clearly indicating that religious freedom is already being lost in South Africa." 

Apparently this group, which misleadingly claims to be "for religious freedom in South Africa" is advocating that forcing Christians to share public spaces with people of other faiths, to do business with them, to study with them, and denying Christians the power to dominate society and to persecute people is "a threat to religious freedom and the autonomy of the Church in South Africa"? Interesting how that works. I wonder why I never got the memo?

Yes folks, this is the new terrorism in South Africa - when groups of people get together to claim to represent the actual opposite of what they stand for, and blame the victims of their abuses for being part of fictitious conspiracies to rob them of their religious freedom.

Well, actually it's not that new. It's been on the horizon in the USA for years - and it's been here a while too. You might just not have noticed, or perhaps you'd forgotten. But crying 'wolf' is hardly a new thing.

To start with, first look at the article on the FOR SA site called "What is the “Schools Case” about, and how can Christians help?" There, the group stupidly argues that removal of Christian indoctrination from SA public schools is a violation of freedom of religion - in complete disregard of the other side of the story - the children (and parents, and staff) at public schools who are NOT Christians - AND completely ignoring the actual purpose of schools, which is EDUCATION, not indoctrination.

While you're at it, look at the article about "Watchmen on the Walls" which gives right-wing homophobic hate-pastor Errol Naidoo (also of the Family Policy Institute) a podium to wag his little finger and rant about how persecuted the Christian business community is for exercising their religious freedom to shame, offend and persecute people they don't want to do business with - for religious reasons, of course.

The entire thing is a hair-brained, limp-noodled, air-headed argument that the same Constitution which grants protection to everyone in South Africa, should be wavered solely in cases where Christians indulge their self-righteous need to discriminate against anyone else "on religious grounds"- and er, also because they claim SA is a "majority Christian nation".

So, if you're not a Christian, what does that mean? In their view, that means "tough luck". The irony is that a decade ago these people were calling the fight for equality by the LGBT community "asking for "special rights". But what's the point of trying to explain that to them? Logic is lost on fanatics. 

It's not bad enough that in government departments we have religious loonies who abuse the loopholes in the Constitution that allow people to decline to deliver the services their departments are mandated to deliver to the public, based on how they choose to interpret their religious scriptures - or that the government departments seldom bother to rectify the injustice without being shamed in the press or being threatened with court action. Oh no, now the wingnuts are putting on a song and dance number, with lights, music and theater, about how 'persecuted' their religion is in South Africa - and that essentially, South Africa is a "Christian country" and that the only religion that should be allowed to dominate in public, in the media, in business, in schools (public and private), the workplace, and in government - is theirs.

Any other alternatives, including secularism (which means broadly, that no religion shall dominate, take preference over or be subjected by another), is simply "not religious freedom". It's not the first time I've seen lunatics argue this way - that not being allowed to dominate or persecute or force your religion on other people is "persecution" - and I'm sure it won't be the last.

The problem comes in when people bring up that rather inconvenient little piece of paper called "the South African Constitution", which grants freedom of religion to everyone - but, perhaps most importantly also includes freedom from religion for those who do not like other people's beliefs rammed down their throats in a public library, or in a public school, or for instance, in a public newspaper, a general radio station, or on a bus to Cape Town.

The shameful thing about South Africa is that we have a Constitution that so few people understand, adhere to or appreciate. And you know what they say about that - you don't know what you've got, till it's gone.

Another complication that is frequently overlooked, is the detail that there is more than one kind of Christianity. There are benevolent and compassionate Christians, who adopt a live and let live attitude, who despite having their own feelings on various subjects regarded as 'sinful', do not force their beliefs on others - and then there are violent, militant and hateful people out there who would like to have all avenues of escape blocked, so that all 'unbelievers' have no alternative but to convert to their fanatical version of the faith. 

As we've seen in places like Uganda, there are some who would also like nothing better than to round up people they don't like - who "god" apparently shares their hatred of - and to have them killed. 

I will leave it to you to read the article, and then you can decide for yourself, from which side of this coin these people at "For SA" - have crawled off. 

The meeting on Thursday, 29 May 2014, was fronted by "some of the most influential Christian leaders from around the country" - including people like Michael Cassidy, Moss Ntlha and Andrew Selley, was advertised on Gateway News as a “crucial meeting” for church and Christian ministry leaders." 

Funny how this claim of 'influence' is made, despite almost nobody hearing anything about Cassidy and Ntla for the past decade, since they scuttled off into the shadows after losing the case against marriage equality in 2005. In fact, I thought Cassidy had already shuffled off his mortal coil by now - guess I was wrong. It seems though, that old hate doesn't die so easily.

Those of you who know anything about the now almost forgotten "War For Marriage" in South Africa back in the mid 2000's, will recognize Moss Ntla and Michael Cassidy as two religious-right extremists who rubbed elbows and fronted groups like SACSA and NIRSA, which openly fought against marriage equality and human rights for LGBT people - and at the time described it, very chillingly, and deliberately, as a "War". 

This sort of Christian is not the sort of person we visualize when we think of Christianity as a faith preached by a loving shepherd who turned the other cheek, gave selflessly and sacrificed everything for others. No, these are the sort of people one thinks about when one hears about ISIS, 911 and lunatics walking into shopping malls with guns, looking for people they have never met, but who match the description of 'evils' that must be destroyed for the good of the faith. These are the sort of people who preach imaginary threats, who spread fear and repeat misinformation based upon willful ignorance, and who paint misdeeds and injustices committed by their fellows in the name of their 'religious convictions' as heroic - and their perpetrators as martyrs. They don't preach forgiveness, love or tolerance, or in fact, anything remotely Jesus-like - they preach war, persecution, prejudice, oppression, separation and "autonomy".

Autonomy from WHAT?

As witnessed by this incredibly surreal and threatening message: "As stated by Michael Cassidy during his video message, “Christianity is by far the majority religion of South Africa according to census statistics. The State must not think it can tread lightly on Christian conviction and belief, and tell us what we may believe, how we should live or raise our children… We are saying that we are not prepared to accept this interference. We are going to stand our ground, whatever the price or cost of that may be.”" - it seems Cassidy and his cohort of religious fanatics seem very much intent on forcing "Christian values" upon everyone in South Africa, Christians and non-Christians alike - even if they have to lie, cheat and manufacture or distort statistics, and lean on politicians like the Godfather, to do it.

People who talk like this don't mean the Christian faith should be autonomous from government interference, even if that is what they seem to be saying. No, they mean that the "church" - they - should be autonomous and exempt from having to answer to anyone here on earth - and most especially to their victims - for their actions. 

Tiny political parties such as the ACDP and CDA, which are little more than political fronts for madly-frothing-at-the-mouth Christian "jihadists", also make the same hair-brained and statistically invalid claims now and then about South Africa being "majority Christian" - and yet have repeatedly failed miserably at the election polls since 1996. Why? 

Because these people are not Christians. They are fanatic extremists who represent the opposite of Christ, who are working to hijack the name, the identity and control of the religion, and to pervert it into a philosophy of power, domination, and self-entitlement.

Because there is a difference between a) making an 'x' in a block on a survey form that says "Christian" because to them that's just a cultural thing - and b) what you actually believe, how you identify, how you live - and how you treat other people. Because people don't like the idea of handing power to religious zealots who jump up and down and get hysterical about other people enjoying the same rights as them, that's why.

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