Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Is the new film “Angels and Demons” anti-Catholic?

Posted by sanityinjection on May 1, 2009

I hesitated a lot about whether to even write about this. I have not seen the new film (coming out in a couple of weeks), nor have I read the book it’s based on, though I’m familiar with the plot. I did read “The DaVinci Code”, and while it was entertaining enough, it was also a virulent anti-Catholic polemic which deliberately (and falsely) blurred the line between fact and fiction. I resolved at that point to make sure author Dan Brown never got any of my money, not because I am a Catholic, but because I prefer not to fund those who spread hatred through misinformation.

“Angels and Demons” was actually written before “Da Vinci Code”. Its plot summary can easily be found on any number of websites and focuses on a secret conspiracy masterminded by Vatican leaders. Like “Da Vinci Code”, it has now been made into a movie.

Fortunately, while struggling with exactly what tack (if any) to take on this subject, I ran across this column by Andrew Leigh, which I think nicely encapsulates my thoughts:

If you can’t decide whether a movie like this is unfair to Catholics, I suggest you apply a simple test: Mentally replace all the Catholics with Jews and all the priests with rabbis. If the result seems like it could have been the Film of the Month in Hitler’s Germany, then you’ve pretty much got your answer.

Of course there is nothing wrong with having an individual Catholic or Jew as a fictional villain. But when an author seems to go out of his way, repeatedly, to smear one of the world’s major faiths, and distorts facts in order to do so, you have to start to question whether entertainment or something far more unpleasant is really the main goal.

So I will not being seeing “Angels and Demons”. You won’t find me protesting in front of the theaters, because that would just create more publicity. And I don’t believe in censorship. But I would encourage readers to consider this issue before deciding whether or not to see the film.

Posted in Current Events, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Christians in action: An object lesson

Posted by sanityinjection on February 5, 2009

There is a significant segment of American society which views organized Christianity with fear, distrust, and downright hostility. Especially the variety that is commonly espoused in a conservative Southern state like Texas. To this segment of Americans, Christians are uptight, intolerant, and rigid people who want to take away the freedoms of others. While this view is admittedly not totally without foundation in the actions of some Christians today and in the past, it is largely inaccurate and unfair.

Of course, there are a lot of people who claim to be Christians but really don’t act like it, contributing to confusion. To help reduce that confusion, I offer the following highly unusual story of true Christians in action, which took place at a high school football game in Texas:

I must admit, as a non-Christian myself, my first reaction was one of incredulity. Weren’t these folks taking it a bit far? After all, the “athletes” of Gainesville State were not merely underprivileged youths, but “kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery”.  One Gainesville player named Gerald complains that people are frequently “lookin’ at us like we’re criminals.”  It might not be a bad idea for someone to remind Gerald that he and his teammates *are* criminals. Minimizing one’s criminal past is not generally considered to be a productive step in rehabilitation.

That, however, is not the responsibility of the folks at  Grapevine Faith. Rather, being a bunch of the aforementioned scurrilous Christians, they looked to their Bibles and saw that Jesus spent much of his time ministering to society’s outcasts, specifically including criminals. Their faith teaches that every human life has value, and at the behest of their football coach, decided to make a prominent demonstration of that belief.

The issue is not whether Grapevine’s actions will ultimately have any significant impact on the Gainesville kids’ lives. Rather, what’s important is what their behavior says about the Grapevine folks. They went way beyond any reasonable expectation of their normal duties as hosts, because they felt it was what their faith called upon them to do. At a time when many so-called Christians are accused of hypocrisy (and often with justification), these people proved themselves to be the opposite. Whether we believe, agree, or approve, or not, there is no question in my mind that the true spirit of Christianity flourished for one night in Texas in November of 2008.

So the next time you hear or read someone trashing Christianity and Christians, think about the Grapevine Faith folks and ask yourself if you would have done what they did.

Posted in Religion, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Is God dead? The media seems to think so.

Posted by sanityinjection on December 23, 2008

The WSJ’s Vincent Carroll explores the many ways in which mainstream media reporters ignore or trivialize religion and faith:

Posted in Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Irony lost on Indonesia’s Muslims

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

ABC News reports that students at a Christian theological seminary in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, have been forced off their campus by violence and threats from the Muslim-majority neighborhood.

This story is disturbing on many levels. Violence between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia is not new, but the government seems increasingly unwilling to protect the rights of minorities. One would generally expect the capital city to be the most cosmopolitan, liberal, and tolerant. It’s the face that the country shows to the outside world. If this is how things are in Jakarta, you can pretty much assume that religious freedom has ceased to exist in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and once considered an example of moderate Islam.

What is ironic about this? Consider the following: The Christian seminary is a wholly peaceful institution, which has never troubled anybody, and  whose students, faculty, and administration are all native Indonesians. They are being forced off their property, while numerous Islamic madrassas, which are founded with foreign (Saudi) money, whose faculty are mostly Arab foreigners, which preach hatred and violence, and which have been directly tied to terrorist attacks in Indonesia in which innocent civilians were killed, are allowed to flourish. Now, as a Muslim Indonesian, which insititution would you feel poses a greater danger to you?

Of course, there is always more to the story. Reading on, we discover that the trouble started after the school refused to sell their land to property speculators. It seems clear that the “religious” strife was whipped up by those seeking to profit from the school’s departure. That has disturbing echoes of the orchestration of violence and expulsions of Jews in Nazi Germany by neighbors who coveted their property and possessions. Indeed, it was a particular genius of the Nazis to popularize anti-Semitism by marrying it with a profit motive; those who profited from the plight of the Jews would have neither the motivation nor the credibility to oppose the Nazis in future.

As someone recently wrote, “I hope they end up with the country they deserve.”

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jewelry, religious freedom, and education

Posted by sanityinjection on July 29, 2008

A tale of two court cases in Britain. The British High Court ruled today in favor of a 14-year old Sikh girl who was supended when she refused to remove her bracelet in compliance with a school policy forbidding jewelry. The court ruled that the bracelet, a thin steel bangle called a Kara, is part of the observance of Sikh religion and that the application of the ban in this case unreasonably restricted the girl’s freedom of religion.

This stands in contrast to a ruling a year ago upholding a school’s jewelry ban as applied to a teen girl who wore a “chastity promise” ring to class. There the court found that wearing such a ring was not an integral part of the Christian faith.

I think the court made the correct decision in both cases. But it raises the question in my mind: Why do schools in the UK feel the need to ban jewelry to begin with? I don’t have any children in the schools, so for all I know this may be common here in the US as well. But I’m not sure I see the reason for it. I have never been a particular fan of school uniforms, either. School dress codes should focus on protecting students’ safety, maintaining a respectful atmosphere and eliminating excessive distractions in the classroom. Now if a student felt the need to, say, wear a giant swastika around her neck, or a T-shirt with inflammatory or vulgar language on it, I think one could reasonably ban those items to maintain order. But I hardly think simple jewelry items would create major distractions in the classroom.

For girls (and increasingly for some boys) jewelry is a form of personal expression. I think that young people should be encouraged to develop and express their own style as individuals, provided they remain within reasonable norms of decency. Not to mention how much money the schools would save by not having to defend against these kinds of lawsuits.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Should we believe in the Saudi religious reconciliation conference?

Posted by sanityinjection on July 16, 2008

Representatives of the world’s major religions are gathering in Spain this week for an interfaith conference sponsored by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The conference is unusual because it is an effort by Arab Muslims to reach out to other faiths to ostensibly promote tolerance and moderation and reject extremism (such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda.) The media is making much of the fact that even Jewish rabbis were invited and are attending the conference. This follows an unprecedented meeting earlier this year between Abdullah and Pope Benedict.

However, critics point out that Saudi Arabia itself has been both the ideological and financial birthplace of modern Islamic extremism. There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia – in fact it is illegal to practice or promote any faith other than Islam. The reason the conference is being held in Spain is to avoid having to allow so many infidels into the Holy Kingdom. The Saudi Royal family has been intimately bonded with the conservative Wahhabi religious movement since they were nothing but tribal rulers of an insignificant desert village hundreds of years ago. The Wahhabis have preached hatred for non-Muslims and those Muslims they view as heretics such as the Shiites.

Given all this, should this conference be viewed as merely a publicity stunt to improve the Saudi kingdom’s PR? Or does King Abdullah sincerely want to promote understanding between faiths? The answer, I think, is both. King Abdullah is over 80 years old and does not have many years left. There is no doubt that he wants to leave his successor a stable and prosperous kingdom. Although external criticism of Saudi Arabia focuses on its strict Islamic laws, opposition to the regime inside Saudi Arabia tends to come from the other side of the spectrum – the radical elements of the Wahhabi sect and others like Al Qaeda who view the royals as corrupt and degenerate. Therefore, Abdullah and his family have a good reason to want to combat religious extremism, at least in the form of militant groups such as Al Qaeda that are willing to act against Muslim states. Further, Abdullah is well aware of how his country has been viewed by a substantial portion of Western public opinion since it was learned that Bin Laden and most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. The Saudi regime depends totally on oil revenue, much of which comes from the West, and associated investments in Western countries, as well as on the military protection of the United States. Thus, the regime needs to maintain goodwill in the West.

All of this makes now a good time for a Saudi “peace offensive”. Nothing of substance will come of this conference, but I would expect the Saudis to continue to position themselves as the moderate friend of the West in the Middle East while maintaining their strict religious puritanical laws and repression of other faiths at home. Abdullah is sincere in wanting a world where religions get along, but only in the sense of minding their own business and not meddling in each others’ affairs, rather than in promoting religious freedom or toleration.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »