Extremes & Extremists

 

Left and right-wing extremism have both been horribly demonstrated over recent decades, every month brings a new selection, the recent mosque attacks in New Zealand being the latest full scale atrocity up to this point. I am on the conservative right of the debate, but that does not mean that I hold to, or in any way approve of Neo-Nazi white supremacist fascist movements. Nor to the blind reactive hatred that underpins the vile ideology of the extreme right, or their cold merciless indifference to the lives or views of others. To disagree with or disapprove of a thing or person does not alter anything when it comes down to the foundational respect due to each individual person, regardless of their colour, creed, ethnicity or view on life. That respect only disappears when a person acts or speaks in a way that breaks the barrier most of us understand. The one that exists between what we call civilised and uncivilised. At the level of malignant savagery, blind hatreds and insane zealotry this fragile balance falls apart and chaos reigns. 

I am a Christian who holds right-wing, conservative views. That viewpoint has at first base this primary and unalterable directive: I am to love my neighbour as myself. And my neighbour must include those who oppose everything I believe in and value: even my enemy. An ISIS zealot, holding a sword above me with the intention of removing my head from my shoulders is included in this God given commandment. I have no mandate to hate anyone. However the command to love does not mean I cannot hate ideologies that oppose everything I understand to be good and holy. The consequence is that I will and do criticise state institutions, religions and popular movements promoting ideas I dislike or loathe. This could mean hating movements and ideas that claim a Christian motive and pose as acting in the name of Christ. The inquisitions of the medieval age would qualify. In my view they are impossible to defend. God’s kingdom is not formed by force of arms or coercion. And Christianity was free of these faults for a few centuries, until it became subsumed into the political realm and the Roman Empire. With the trappings of power came corruption and worldliness.

From ancient history we must turn to the present day and examine our preoccupation with conspiracy theories. It is I believe normative for right-wingers to believe conspiracy stories have validity. To deny the existence of conspiracies is to assume a protest group has no agenda beyond what is written in their prospectus. I think that to accept a political or social prospectus at face value is naive, especially if it has ambitions to convert you to its cause. The Bible could be accused of holding and promoting a conspiracy theory. It accepts there is a ceaseless battle going on between the kingdoms of heaven and hell, light and darkness, good and evil, truth and lies, and that much of this drama is played out upon the earth. So for the sake of argument let’s accept that conspiracies are real and pose a constant threat. 

Jesus had this to say.

“When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:2-3).

The signs of the times are scarcely hidden, one of the most obvious is that if you hold right wing, conservative or traditional views on society and morality then you are almost by definition falling into the hate crime categories under our newly enlightened state laws. Accused and condemned in one breath; your reputation plastered all over with the ready made stigma of phobic infestation. Open your mouth and prepare to be attacked for attitudes which are assumed in advance by groups putting aside much of our ancient faith and culture. The question is, does it matter? To most probably not; if life is as trivial as a game of cards, then so long as we have not invested too much in the result, winning or losing is not going to be life changing. Jesus however indicates that how we live our life does matter and that the rule of cause and effects kicks in with very painful and life changing results. We reap what we sow!

An example from Deuteronomy. “If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments, … all these blessings shall come upon you” …. “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”

Reading through the list of curses is an eye opening, heart stopping crash course on reasons why it is important to understand the signs of the times. Does the bible give us a clue? The answer is yes, Jesus said the end will follow a time when humanity was acting as they had in the days of Noah. What was life like then? It is described in the following terms.

“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”

It would be untrue to say that is where we are now, but we are I believe heading fast in that direction. Modern life is taking on the appearance of a game, one in which we can self identify as whatever we think we are. It is becoming a hedonistic, violent, dark and self absorbed existence in which we partake either as active competitors or onlookers. A kind of osmosis, soaking it into the core of our being, thinking perhaps this drift towards nihilism absolves us of responsibility and leaves us untouched by its grubbiness. Here is a definition of nihilistic philosophy. It represents a total rejection of moral values and religious beliefs and denies any meaning or purpose in life. In political theory nihilism is carried to an even greater extreme, it argues in favour of  the destruction of all existing political and social institutions. And here we are, busily deconstructing society in ways that have never been seen before. We have become like the proverbial frog in the pot that didn’t notice the increasing temperature until it was too late, the madness and corruption begins to boil and overflow all around us.

Jesus tells us to “take heed to yourselves in case your hearts become weighed down with partying, drunkenness, and cares of this life…” He says: “Watch and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass….”

So we are to watch not only the signs of the times in world events, but the signs of our own spiritual state. We must not be blinded by our daily cares. We need the vision to see ourselves as God sees us, to see the urgent need to repent, change and prepare. Paul when writing to Timothy gives an idea of what to expect.

“But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful,arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good…”

That is a downward trajectory, a falling away from something better. The following is worth watching because we are travelling and gaining momentum on a road we have never before travelled. If you begin by using hate laws to moderate speech to the extent where we cannot speak freely without fear,  then we may be moving towards totalitarianism, and that has never worked out well, not when done by the Church or the State. Hate laws could at a push be likened to the tanks that moved into Tiananmen Square in Beijing. When a regime like this is faced by up to a million protesters it will take action. The lone figure represents a person who will not be persuaded that the state has the right to remove his freedom to have an opinion contrary to that of the prevailing power structure. This standoff between power and individual freedom concluded with the suppression of freedom of thought and conduct. I do not think we can have any assurance that in our time, through the use of very different methods of control, we are not watching, like dumb beasts staring over a barbed wire fence at the last rites of any true freedom of expression. 

 

 

The next short video is also worth watching. Freedom is a precious commodity worth standing up for. Even if it is eventually crushed.

 

 

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