Thursday, 30 June 2011
Evil to which we are prone
How did things like the Taliban’s banning of music and destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan differ from Josiah’s classic and celebrated purging of Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, sacred poles and carved images in the 620s BC? In a number of ways, I am sure, especially if Josiah’s action including ending corruptions or worse which had crept into Jewish worship. Yet each time we read about Josiah (as we are doing at Matins each day at the moment) I am deeply uncomfortable at what following religious convictions means (which must be the opposite of what attention to scripture at daily Matins is intended to achieve).
I’ve blogged once before (in 2008) about how
The Taliban are not the only ones to have destroyed religious statues through puritan zeal. There is evidence of such destruction all around us. One of our churches (St George’s, Bradley) actually has surviving Reformation records of the Churchwardens taking down and burning the rood screen there, and this mentions in particular the statues of Mary and John standing at the foot of the cross. The absence of almost all mediaeval glass and brasses in our Cathedral is a monument itself to the Commonwealth soldiers who trashed the place over one weekend a century later.
After Matins this morning I was looking back further to the first sermon I preached (in 2003) as a Canon in Lincoln Cathedral (in a week when a funeral had taken place of a policeman who had been murdered in Manchester by a Moslem terrorist) saying
... how important it is for me when leading pilgrim groups in this Cathedral to include proper reflection at the tomb of Little St Hugh, a centre of thirteenth century antisemitic propaganda and then a tool of persecution. And tomorrow is the third National Holocaust Memorial Day. We know how far some Christians have gone and can go when they allowed themselves to demonise those of another religion. We can see clearly that it is wrong when some members of another religion make the same devastating mistake, but we can hardly be surprised at the phenomenon. How different it is to say ‘we can see exactly why you are wrong because it is something we are prone to ourselves’ rather than ‘your evil is unique’.