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Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bah, humblog

I have frequently wondered what it is about me that makes me such a peerless blogger. Now I know:-

'Feeling grumpy "is good for you"


'An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly.

'In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.

'While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking, Professor Joe Forgas told Australian Science Magazine.


'Next he asked them to take part in a series of tasks, including judging the truth of urban myths and providing eyewitness accounts of events.

'Those in a bad mood outperformed those who were jolly - they made fewer mistakes and were better communicators.'

Well, that's my New Year's resolution sorted, then. All jollity to be rigorously avoided. And, however grudgingly, more charity towards those whose views have me tearing my hair out. They can't help it, they're just too blooming happy!

We will be taking a blogging break over the next week and a bit, so we can perhaps risk just a little seasonal cheer. And we now unbend ourselves sufficiently to wish all readers a blessed and joyful Christmas (and/or Hanukkah) and a fruitful New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christian Israel-bashers: a seasonal round-up

At Harry's Place Adam Holland relays a seasonal Israel-demonizing epistle from Trots for Jesus, alias the United Churches of Christ and one or two more of the usual suspects from the left end of the American Protestant spectrum. Predictably enough, it equates Israel with imperial Rome and the Palestinians with Rome's Jewish subjects and specifically with Jesus. The rhetoric comes straight from Canon Naim Ateek and Sabeel. And as Adam points out:-

'To put this comparison in perspective, remember that the Roman forces in Judea are said to have massacred tens (if not hundreds) of thousands including woman and children, literally festooning roads with their crucified victims. The Roman war against the Jews included the Romans burning Jerusalem, including the temple, to the ground.

'And of course, there was that whole Christ-killing thing… The letter goes on to subtly invoke that old standby, Jewish deicide:

"What the Palestinian community faces, Jesus knew when he walked these stony hills."'

One of the signatories links to a page on the site of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, on which we find a set of four maps purporting to show the changes in the division of land between Jews and Palestinians from 1946 up to the present. In fact they're a wicked propagandist travesty, and again Adam Holland does a great job of demonstrating this. One point he could have added is the gross dishonesty of portraying the whole of Israel as "Jewish land". In reality, of course, it's the home of a million Arabs.

This is not the first time I've seen those maps. They can be found, illustrating an equally mendacious narrative of the "suffering in Palestine", on the website of Friends of Sabeel UK, the charity (I'm inclined to put that in quotes) about whose partnership with Christian Aid I posted recently.

Here they're credited, below the extremely revealing rollcall of FoSUK Patrons, as "courtesy of Tim Biles from his book A Puppy Dies". The title tells you all you need to know, doesn't it? Now it would be a pretty amazing coincidence if this were not one and the same person as the Revd. Canon Timothy Biles, who, I find, acts as Consultant and newsletter editor to a charity called the Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Association. If he is indeed the originator of those maps they are no aberration. He's still at it.

Here is an extract from a book review by Mr Biles in the Advent 2009 issue:-

'But storm clouds gathered, the events of 1948 are described in graphic detail, the incursion of
Zionist forces into Haifa and northern Palestine, the forced evacuation of the indigenous population to southern Lebanon and the refugee camp of Shatila [...]'

The detail may be graphic but it is evidently extremely one-sided, at least in Mr Biles's reading of it. Where are the incursions of the Arab armies seeking to destroy Israel at birth, and fought off only at the cost of 6000 Jewish lives?

And again:-

'The author shows how the lives and fates of Palestinian Christians and Muslims are intertwined, making it clear that it is the Israeli occupation, not Islam, that threatens Christians in the land that was Palestine.'

Curious, then, that while Palestinian Christians become an endangered species the Muslim population, equally subject to occupation, is growing by leaps and bounds. But it seems that for Mr Biles and his friends nobody other than the Israelis is ever threatening. An article in the 2008 issue quotes another priest and/or his wife as saying:-

'What is ultimately striking about Gaza is the sheer disproportionality of it all – the collective punishment inflicted on 1.5 million people is against every measure of international and humanitarian law…'

I certainly understand why people returning from Gaza in the aftermath of the invasion would say this. But we get no mention of what it is that the "collective punishment" is disproportionate to, no suggestion that lobbing missiles at civilian populations is itself a form of collective punishment "against every measure of international and humanitarian law". Still less any suggestion that Hamas, the popularly elected rulers of Gaza, bear any responsibility for thus picking a fight with a vastly more powerful enemy. As so often the H-word doesn't appear at all.

Bias is one thing, lies are another. Above this article is a heading containing the claim that "Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth". This was untrue when George Galloway said it three or four years ago (which hasn't prevented him from repeating it last year) and it's still untrue, as a minute's googling will confirm. Gaza's population density (4118 per sq km - panel on the right here) is exceeded by Macau, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong and Gibraltar (list here). Oh, and also (comfortably) by Tel Aviv (7604 per sq km).

It's true that Gaza may move further up the league table if it continues to have one of the highest rates of population growth on earth. It's not immediately obvious to me how this is the Israelis' fault (indeed they made a temporary dent in the population by removing 8000 settlers in 2005) but I expect Mr Biles could soon put me right.

So is this Canon of the Church of England a liar or a dupe? The latter, I very much hope, but if so, I wish he'd do a bit less politicking and a bit more priesting. If the former, it's a disgrace that he's a dignitary of my Church.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Freedom of speech alive and well (ish)

So now we know. Next time a brace of Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking at your door, you can, if so inclined, tell them they're bonkers without acquiring a criminal record. If, that is, you get the right judge. I think I can guess which newspaper Mr Justice Clancy doesn't read over his Cornflakes. If Ericka Tazi faces counter-charges from the Vogelenzangs (having according to them started the whole barney by rubbishing their Christian beliefs) she'd better hope it's him she comes up in front of.

We're left with the scandal of the Vogelenzangs ever having been dragged in front of a judge in the first place. When the government created the offence they were charged with, we were assured that of course there was no intention to criminalize robust debate and the bar for bringing a prosecution would of course be set high enough to ensure there was no chance of that happening. Ha! I trust a global ban on ministerial assurances is on the agenda at Copenhagen.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It's Propagandatide again!

If any readers in London can get to St Paul's in Covent Garden by 6:45 tonight and protest against the use of a church for this kind of nonsense, it will be an evening well spent (I can't, unfortunately).

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

To the people of Switzerland: a modest proposal

Tall pointy things. Spires, towers, columns. They're all about telling us what we are to look up to. Their whole point being to be as un-private as they can be, the decision to erect one is never a private one.

It took the Emperor Constantine's say-so before churches could come with towers attached. Nelson was raised up on his Column as the very epitome of his country's ideal perception of itself.

Announce that you are going to put up a column in your back garden with Hitler on top, and you will speedily discover that it is everybody's business. And rightly so.

So the electorate of Switzerland have just made a statement about what values and beliefs they want to see affirmed by their skyline. They have seen how tolerance of intolerance has played out elsewhere in Europe, and decided to issue a symbolic warning to their cozy political elite that they will not follow it in a sleepwalking progress down the path trodden by its counterparts in countries such as Britain.

Consider this: the progressive opinion which the Swiss have so outraged is perfectly happy for Turkey to be welcomed into Europe. Turkey, a country in which it is for all practical purposes impossible to build a church, be it never so unobtrusive.

Here in Britain our Education Secretary, the never more aptly named Mr Balls, is trying to bluster his way out of the revelation that public money has been channelled to schools which are at the very least in the ideological orbit of Hizb ut Tahrir, an organization which makes Switzerland's SVP look like a bunch of bleeding-heart liberals. Hands up everyone who thinks this sets an inspiring example for observers in Switzerland or anywhere else.

And note that if, as we are constantly assured, the only problem was a tiny minority of extremists, these schools would have folded for lack of pupils. They haven't.

And yet, and yet. When the elite loses the confidence of the populace, however deservedly, and populists get their chance, the results tend not to be pretty. The SVP is evidently an unpleasant outfit which has little compunction about playing the race card. There's no escape from the principle that two wrongs don't make a right. A simple, blanket ban directed at one faith looks bigoted however valid the fears underlying it.

So how about this as a rather more sophisticated way of making the point that rights must never be divorced from responsibilities?

Tall-pointy-things-attached-to-places-of-worship-law (December 2009)

(and believe me, that will look mightily impressive translated into German)

Permission for the construction of tall pointy things attached to places of worship shall be conditional on the following:-

  • All members of the worshipping community shall sign a declaration affirming their support for freedom of religion. This declaration will affirm that freedom of religion includes the right of every individual to choose their religious affiliation, regardless of any previous affiliation, without fear of punishment, reprisal or discrimination. It will also affirm the right of individuals to join together in faith communities and engage openly in religious worship. It will call for these rights to be respected in all countries of the world.

  • The place of worship shall not be used for any preaching, teaching or dissemination of literature which contradicts the declaration on freedom of religion.

  • The worshipping community shall be responsible for expelling any member who makes any public statement or commits any act contradicting the declaration.

  • The worshipping community shall demonstrate that it does not receive funding from persons or organizations which do not uphold freedom of religion, or from citizens or domiciles of countries which do not uphold it.

  • Any contravention of the above points shall result in a warning. A second contravention shall result in demolition at the worshipping community's expense.

And then let a thousand Alpine minarets blossom. Or not.

No room at the inn, no unauthorized use of mangers

Cutting off Palestinian noses to spite Israeli faces: with solidarity like this who needs enemies? As Mrs Cyrus observes it's straight out of Life of Brian.

Of course there are those in the Occupied Territories who are very happy for the sacred music of Bach not to be heard in Bethlehem at Christmas. And they are by no means short of friends in the PSC. Pity the shrinking Palestinian Christian community, caught in the firing line and getting it from all sides. They could do with a return date from the angelic choir - if permission can be obtained.