Posts Tagged ‘The Crusades’

Not So Passive Aggression

March 4, 2008

Passive aggression can be a dangerous thing.  The good people of the church appear to be quiet and peaceful, on the surface.  In practice, however, they are aggressively expansionist.  They want to spread the word, spread the faith, and convert the heathen.  One of their favourite methods of doing so is under the guise of Christian charity or aid.

Conditional charity is not uncommon.  Asking recipients to pray or attend a service in return for food or other assistance happens, as I’ve mentioned before.  This can lead to international incidents with consequences.  A while back, a group of South Korean missionaries were taken hostage in Afghanistan.  One was executed, I believe.  Their government negotiated the release of the rest, eventually, no doubt after paying a hefty ransom.

There is a debate going on in South Korea about this incident.  What the western media didn’t seem interested in reporting is that these missionaries weren’t just helping people, they were trying to convert them and spread Christianity.  Should the government be responsible for them?  Should they bail them out and pay taxpayers’ money to save them from a situation they got themselves into?  Why should the country pay for their aggression and mistakes?

South Korea has the second highest proportion of missionaries in the world.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is a growth market for Christianity.  How did it become so popular in a traditionally Confucian or Buddhist country?  It’s growth has its origins in the aftermath of the Korean War.  I use the term ‘aftermath’ loosely because, technically, the war is not over – there is only a truce.  After the cessation of hostilities, the U.S. military stuck around to keep North Korea in check.  With American soldiers on the ground, Christianity was able to spread.  This should come as no surprise.  Religion has often followed armies around and spread with empires.  Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire and expanded with it.  The pace accelerated after Constantine’s army, reputedly ordered to display the Christian logo on their shields, were victorious at Milvian Bridge and he took control of the empire.

Faith and the sword became partners again in the medieval age when Christendom responded to the spread of Islam with Crusades and Inquisitions.  I’m no expert on the subject, but I suspect this may also be when the death sentence for leaving Islam may have been introduced.  If you think you have problems today, consider yourself lucky that you weren’t a Moor given a choice between “Convert or die” and “Convert and die”.

Missionaries came to the New World, protected by European soldiers, to convert the indigenous populations.  The results were often disastrous.  From the New World the faith has spread to Asia.  So many souls to convert and save.  So many donations to collect.  The temptation is too great to ignore.

It’s not enough to keep the faith and live by the word.  They have to spread them.

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How to End a Movie – With Conviction

January 8, 2008

I watched ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ last night.  This is a movie I ignored on its release, dismissing it as an attempt to glorify religion.  Sometimes, first impressions are accurate.  Sometimes, they’re off the mark.

To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be the kind of movie I would like to make about the crusades.  My only complaint is that it didn’t go far enough.  Like some other films framed by a religious context, it pulls back from the brink of the logical, sensible conclusion.  The slaughter in the name of one god or another, carried out by fanatics obsessed with the idea of owning ‘heaven’, should be enough to put anyone off the idea of religion.  There are a couple lines in the film that drive home the fact that we’d be better off without it altogether.  “You have taught me a lot about religion…”, comes to mind.

But then, near the end, the main character’s Muslim counterpart, another one of the few ‘decent’ people able to see past the different brands of chicanery and superstition and that how one person treats another is a better judge of how good he is, says something like, “Why do you think god does not love you, with all you have achieved?”  Why reassert faith in god at this point?  It seems obvious to me that there were no gods willing this carnage – that we, and we alone, decide on a course of action, choose to take life or not, and achieve things.  Faith in oneself and one another seemed to be the message throughout the movie.  Maybe the producers were afraid of a backlash if they appeared to be advocating atheism.

A couple of Canadian films are guilty of the same thing.  ‘Water’ is an excellent movie set in a Hindu ashram, or widows’ home, in which one young woman is reduced to prostitution and a child, widowed before reaching puberty, is raped.  Yet, even this story of institutionalised abuse and confinement has a character saying “Never lose your faith”.  All I could think was, “For your own good, that child’s good, and the good of humanity, please lose your faith”.

‘The Black Robe’ is another Canadian movie about a 17th century Jesuit missionary who travels with Indian guides to a mission far from anything he recognizes as civilization.  It’s clear throughout the story that he is in the wrong and yet, at the end, when he seems to realize this and that his faith has been misplaced, the Indians, who have been ravaged by disease brought by the other missionaries and now have a choice of killing him or accepting baptism, choose baptism.  The closing shot is a cross with the sun shining behind it, which seems to assert the very religion which has been presented as inadequate and misguided.

Are we really so afraid of offending religious interests that we don’t even have the courage of our convictions to reach a logical conclusion?  Could it be that we have taken respect for religion too far?