August 2005 Anglican Church Letter
Keith tries to make some sense out of recent London bombings
It's not possible, as I write this, not to think about the London bombings last week. Initially we have to think about the victims and their friends and families and to wonder how they can ever make their lives normal again. An accident(s) killing, maiming and hurting so many people we can somehow put into the perspective of a life which is inevitably risky. But for this to happen because some 'normal' young people felt it was necessary and appropriate is so much more horrifying that it transcends our comprehension. And yet again we are brought face to face with the massive difference between explanation and excuse. No amount of explanation of where they thought they were coming from can excuse their behaviour. No amount of explanation of what their mentors and teachers said to them can excuse them or those mentors of the inflicting of such terror.
Even so, we have to look at what led these normal young men to behave like that, if we are to have any hope of putting a stop to it for the future. This is not the place (there is not room and I am not well enough informed) to look for the inexcusable explanations that we have to deal with. But there is an underlying theme that we are all conscious of, that is frightening in itself - the religious dimension. These young men are characterised mainly as Muslim. It is surprising that they are British (in one case Jamaican), it is interesting that they have in the main Pakistani family origins, but we accept without a murmur that they were Muslim.
It has been pointed out that comparisons with the troubles in Northern Ireland are false - that the IRA never proclaimed that their war was to promote Catholicism - their war was political. But that does not stop us recognising that the republican movement in Northern Ireland is mainly a Catholic movement and that the loyalists are mainly Protestant. There are very few voices in the 6 Counties proclaiming that they are atheist.
There is a very heavy responsibility on organised religion (of all faiths) to search out the so-called fundamentalists who have distorted the religions they proclaim and to re-teach them the true fundamentals of their religion - which in almost every case are based on Love. If necessary they have to deny these people access to and membership of their religion unless and until they can adopt those true fundamentals.
Christians are as guilty as any of harbouring and covering up false fundamentalism - Northern Ireland (both sides!) and the Apartheid dogma of the South African Church are recent examples.
The following story is borrowed from Emo Phillips, quoted in the Independent a few weeks ago.
"I was walking across a bridge one day and I saw a man about to jump.
I said, 'Stop, don't do it.'
'Why shouldn't I?' he asked.
'Well, are you Christian?' I asked.
He said: 'Yes.'
I said, 'Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?'
'Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?'
'Wow, me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of The Lord?' 'Baptist Church of God.'
'Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?'
'Reformed Baptist Church of God.'
'Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Church of God, reformation of 1915?'
He said, 'Reformation of 1915.'
I said 'Die, heretic scum,' and pushed him off."
Licensed Lay Minister (CofE)
Keith Mac Leod