Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain

Another one of those too-easy marks, but I can’t let it go. I never can. I’m bad that way. [voice rising to a shriek] I just can’t let anything go! It’s Giles Fraser daydreaming again.

What is fascinating about the ill-fated combination of the BNP and Christian Voice is that it demonstrates how deeply resistant Christianity is to all forms of racism. It has not always been apparent that this was the case. After all, Christianity had a hand in slavery and apartheid.

Sorry, people of Putney, but I find that hilarious. It has not always been apparent that Christianity is deeply resistant to all forms of racism. Why? Because it had a hand in slavery – meaning, for not just a few minutes or a week or two or fifty years but centuries, official Christianity and most of its practitioners slept soundly every night and ate a good dinner every noon despite the presence of slavery in their midst, sometimes so in their midst that it raised and cooked the good dinner and generated the wealth that paid for the fluffy pillows and the houses that sheltered them. But nevertheless it was (because it is) the case that Christianity is deeply resistant to all forms of racism. This tranquil ability to live happily and prosperously right alongside it and often right off it, with whippings and overwork and broken-up families all complete, was a mere appearance, you see; the resistance was the reality. A deeply buried, hidden, undetectable reality, to be sure, kind of like the structure of the atom, but a reality all the same. Only for a long, long, long time, while generations of slaves were born and lived crappy lives and died, this hidden fact was not apparent. These things take time, you know. The apparent does not always become apparent just right away – sometimes it takes thousands of years. But finally the mills of god deliver the goods, and they do it right around the time that modern compassionate vicars who think slavery is a bad idea are on hand to look at the view. Then lo! the vicar looks at the view, and he sees the Christianity of his own day, and he sees a religion that is deeply resistant to all forms of racism – not just at the moment, contingently, but of its essence, and for all time – only not in a way that is apparent.

But Christianity also played a decisive role in the dismantling of both. For every bigot wanting to exploit Christianity in the service of racist ideology, there is a Wilberforce or a Tutu reminding Christians of what’s in the Bible.

Oh well that’s fine then. Christianity propped slavery up for a few centuries, and then finally when it got its wits together, it inspired a tiny minority of Christians to think slavery was a bad idea. And as for the second sentence – bullshit! Are there in fact as many Tutus as there are racist bigots? Of course not. Racist bigots are a dime a dozen, and Tutus are not. So what does he mean by saying their numbers are exactly equivalent? Nothing, he just wasn’t thinking, that’s all; he wanted to say what sounded good and he didn’t think about his own meaning.

Don’t get me wrong; that’s not to say it’s not admirable and moving when religion does stiffen people’s resistance to racism and other injustice. It’s just to say that ‘apparent’ lack of resistance to racism is something more than mere appearance. It’s the genuine article.

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