It’s currently examination time in so many places around the world and this form of statement (compare and contrast) often arises at the end of set questions.
I will do the same here. I will set out a scenario and then ask you to compare and contrast the information given. The conclusions that you reach may not give you a certificate with any local examination board but it will give you enlightenment about an important issue that is facing current society.
Imagine the following scene:
DM and I are sitting in the main service at our church – called Divine Service. We left feeling no divine sense whatsoever, but I’ll continue and you will see for yourself why I have started off this scene with such a seemingly negative positional statement.
As we sit there, the hymns are sung, prayers are shared and then the main speaker – a visiting lay preacher – begins to share his message of ‘divine’ inspiration. It did not take long for me to realise where he was heading.
Within moments he had set out his stall. He was waving a flag of no compromise. Bad was bad and good was good. His opinion on people and things that he disagreed with was as clear as crystal. Some people use complicated metaphors and similes to disguise their meanings, not so with this man: he went straight for the throat. He spoke without apology and listed all the people he thought –nay, knew – in his opinion, to be damned.
He gave his reasons as he went on.
The list included Goths, fashion designers, gays, women who wore trousers, men who wore tight clothing (designed by ‘those effeminate fashion designers’), jewellery wearers, gospel musicians and many, many more.
Just remembering the sermon makes me sad. But I digress. I should hold my opinions on this ‘man of God’ and let you decide. The question that I am asking is, “Are churches and Christians that attend them guilty of false advertising?” What message are they sending out to the world? How are they influencing society?
Churches and Christians (insert a building type and religious creed of your choice here: e.g. Mosque and Muslims or Synagogue and Jews – you get the picture I’m sure ...) promote a doctrine of love and welcome to all. If there was an advertising campaign what would it say? (For extra bonus points in this question you may produce a promotional flyer for the church that you know best.)
Back to the main scenario. The preacher caught my attention when he first started to lay in to Goths because of their clothing and musical choices. He was not, however, discriminatory in his musical annihilation – gospel musicians also came under fire for the way he deemed their music not to be sacred enough. There were murmurs of appreciation from the congregation as he continued his tirade. As the people warmed to him his voice rose and dropped as he carried them along with him on his crusade. Everybody was paying rapt attention. There were comfortable smiles on many faces as they nodded in agreement. The majority of people were cooperating with this man as he spoke.
Later DM said to me, “It’s strange, but I listen more intently to the bad sermons than I do to the good ones.” A few days later DM also noted that “That preacher was full of hatred, where was the love? He said you and me are going to be damned to hell because we don’t fit in with him.” That was sad to hear.
My worst problem was that I had chosen to take DM to that place. I had chosen to stay once the hateful vitriol had started. I had chosen not to say anything to him afterwards. I had chosen to walk away with my mind full and my mouth empty. This was because my heart had again been broken because of my expectations of going to church. In the Bible the church is known as a gathering of people who have a relationship with God and who share that relationship of love between others who also have a similar relationship and then they, in turn, share their connection with others who do not yet have a relationship with God. At least, that’s the theory.
I knew that there wasn’t much love in many churches for a few select groups but in this instance I felt the preacher was extending the gamut of his hatred to a wider section of society: in fact, he said it himself, “I’m preaching to the converted.” He was not preaching to me. He was preaching against me, in so many ways.
DM said she was hurt for me. She was hurt for herself as well.
There were many other young (and older) minds that were being fed this information as ‘truth’ that day. How will they react to these people (to me) when they meet them (me) again?
As I drove the short distance home I concluded that that type of hatred would not be permitted in many businesses within the country. There are laws against such discriminatory behaviour. The example of Abu Hamza al-Masri came quickly to mind: currently awaiting deportation for several crimes including Public Order offences for inciting hatred with his speeches.
When I spoke with my partner after leaving church, she said that “Fundamentalist views can incite hatred towards marginalised groups and there are, of course, consequences. There is a fine line between freedom of speech and inciting hatred towards particular groups.”
This part of your examination question is do you agree or disagree with this statement? Would this be viewed any differently if the terms were racial?
This whole question carries the maximum of 100% towards your examination mark.
Please answer as briefly or in as much detail as you would like. Use the box below to submit your answers.
I will return your marks to you in the usual manner.
Now, turn over your papers and begin.
You have the rest of your life to assimilate the answers. Thank you for participating.