Can you imagine Holland without the windmills, France without the cathedrals, Italy without the opera, Britain without the warm beer or Russia without the cold vodka? I can’t.
But then neither can I fathom America’s Bible Belt without the Bible. Take it away, and the belt turns into a noose, throttling all life out of that part of the world.
Yet Texan schools don’t seem to share such qualms. Following parental complaints, many of them have withdrawn that subversive book. It’s regarded as unsuitable for children to see.
One vigilant parent objected to the Bible because of its “sexual content, violence including rape, murder, human sacrifice, misogyny, homophobia, discrimination, and other inappropriate content.” Splendid. Not a word out of place, each is unimpeachable.
The only problem I have is with that wishy-washy “other inappropriate content”. I would have been tempted to spell it out, extending the list to include incest, cultural appropriation, drunkenness, meat eating and cruelty to animals. But fine, even the offences mentioned are sufficient reason to put Bibles in a tidy stack and burn them in every schoolyard.
Now, when I lived in Texas (1974-1984), a school district in receipt of such a complaint would have forwarded it to the institution for the criminally insane. The next day that concerned parent would have received a visit from the men in white coats equipped with a stretcher, a straitjacket and a tranquilliser syringe loaded for horse.
Those were reactionary times though. These days no one questions the parent’s sanity, nor the legitimacy of his complaint. His deranged diatribe is seen as a call to action even in Texas. One wonders what more liberal states, such as Massachusetts or California, will come up with, what or whom they may wish to burn.
Much as I am appalled by such no-holds-barred hostility to Christianity, boosted by most refreshing ignorance of it, I’m not especially concerned. Christianity has survived Pelagianism, Arianism, Docetism, Catharism, the Enlightenment, Marxism, Bolshevism, Darwinism and whatnot.
I’d suggest we’ve made it into the semi-finals, and I don’t think anything concocted by those Texan educators or other clinical idiots will hold us back. A much greater danger is presented by otherwise intelligent atheists, who magnanimously acknowledge the social utility of Christianity.
In my view, such people are dangerous because they can use their talents and intelligence to peddle to the masses a perverted idea of Christianity without overtly rejecting it. Such thinkers as David Hume or, later, Tolstoy, or, even later, Max Eastman or, later still, Roger Scruton are deadly in this respect, much as they are commendable in others.
They all reduce Christianity to a moral system, while denying everything supernatural in it, everything that has anything to do with faith. Tolstoy even took the trouble of producing his own Gospel by merging the known four into one and cleansing it of everything he regarded as nonsensical, such as the Incarnation, the Resurrection, Virgin Birth, the Eucharist, the miracles. (For details, see – if you can find it – my book God and Man According to Tolstoy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.)
Tolstoy basically defined a Christian as a good man, making one wonder what he needed that term for. Why not just describe a paragon of morality as kind, charitable, honest and so on?
Then, of course, the writer espied with his eagle eye that morality doesn’t change substantially from one religion to the next. After all, none of them encourage people to be beastly to their neighbours, lie, steal and murder. On that basis, Tolstoy issued a redundancy note to Christianity – there’s no point in it if it’s more or less the same as all others.
All those thinkers are seductive, and they seduce their admirers into atheism by asking the wrong question: “Is Christianity good for society?” That way they draw people away from asking the right question, the only one that should matter to a thinking person: “Is Christianity true?”
This is a binary question allowing for only a yes or no answer. Each in turn allows for only one conclusion.
If Christianity is true, then the question of whether or not it’s socially useful is irrelevant. Any intellectually honest man is duty-bound to espouse it first and ponder the social ramifications later.
If, however, Christianity is some kind of protracted hoax, then the same man must reject it, taking his cue from those educational idiots in Texas. Claiming that Christianity is useful anyway is tantamount to insisting that a successful society can be built on the foundation of a lie.
All the men I name-checked were brilliant, as are some of my friends who agree with them. Yet the things I mentioned are so elementary and self-evident that their failure to grasp them is baffling. But only until one has realised something important about Christianity.
Whatever rewards Christianity offers to individuals or societies, it comes packaged with a severe punishment to be meted out to any intelligent atheist trying to interpret Christianity to suit his preconceptions. He instantly stops being intelligent, as if leaving his mind on the way into the argument, only to claim it back on the way out.
“Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat,” was how Dr Johnson Latinised a popular Greek phrase. Those whom God wishes to destroy he first deprives of reason. Only temporarily, in some cases. Permanently, I’m afraid, in the case of those Texas educators.
P.S. The list of likely members of Liz Truss’s cabinet includes just one white man, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and even him only in a minor post. So where’s the diversity in that?
5 thoughts on “The Belt loses its Bible”
In his earlier books (most notably ‘The New Babel’ and ‘Death Be Not Proud’) the Rev Peter Mullen comes across as a clerical atheist. At some point during the ’90’s he seems to have become steadfast in his Christian faith. I wonder what changed? I’ve never met the man and obviously it’s a very personal topic, but then his books are deeply intimate, so I feel as if I know him.
Americans, by and large, seem ill suited to atheism. One is reminded of Marilyn Manson and TJ Kirk (The Amazing Atheist) they seem to obsess over the religion they have abandoned in a way that Britons seldom do.
Peter and I have been close friends since the ’90s, and I assure you he has never been any kind of atheist during this time. I’ll ask him about his earlier life if you want. As for Americans, their country was settled by religious dissenters from Europe, which had to leave a deep imprint on the nation’s DNA. Openly professing atheism seems like treason to many of them. So they just keep their atheism to themselves and get on with life.
Isaac: I sent your comment to Peter, and this is what he reolied:
I was touched by that young man’s affectionate appreciation – thank you for sending it. What a surprise though! I didn’t recognise myself in his assessment of my spiritual condition at the time of my writing those two books in the mid-late 1980s. For, since 1956 when Fr Geoffrey Sowerby and Fr John Thornton seized me in the back streets of Leeds and dragged me into St Bartholomew’s, Armley, I have been an Anglican Catholic – and I once gratefully received the appellation: “Doctrinally, Peter Mullen is to the right of Pio Nono”
Perhaps for one afternoon sometime in – it might have been 1978 or 79, I forget – I wobbled slightly. But then it was raining heavily and Cairns’ bakery had run out of teacakes. Anyhow, it was all over by teatime
Please thank the lad for his kind thoughts
A thoughtful and witty response. Thank you both.
The original objection to the “banned list” was that a brand new apparently graphic novel of the Anne Frank story was included. Placing Anne Frank back on the shelves for the students to read was more important than placing the Bible back on the shelves. [Alexander will instantly understand the significance of this]
Portions of the Bible most objected to were almost all if not all from the Old Testament. The invasion of Canaan by Joshua and the destruction of Canaanite cities in particular. “Devoting every man, woman, child, domestic animals and trees of a city found therein to destruction”. Descriptions of Rahab the prostitute and her being in league with the Hebrews and being appreciation for her treachery also problematic.
I suppose too the passage of Saul consulting the witch at En-Dor also posing difficulties. Encouraging young people in Harry Potter stuff and all that.