The recent banning of the Reduced Shakespeare Play of the Abridged version of the Bible is more than just about censorship. It is more than just about a political party exerting control over the arts and much more to do with fear.
The fear of some Fundamental Evangelical Christians that their rights as Christians are being torn apart. The fear of their version of Christianity being slowly eroded which would leave them in a position of vulnerability. The fear that Christianity will come tumbling down because of a play.
There is no danger of that happening though, even if the play had gone ahead. Thousands of years of Christianity with a history not altogether honorable or righteous has still not caused it to end or for God to die.
It’s a fear that is not really justified but will probably still remain.
This weeks actions of some Fundamental Christians in the DUP has shown that Northern Ireland has now got it’s own version of the Pharisees that Jesus lived among, right on its very doorstep. Just like the Pharisees the DUP acts on fear and as we all know acting out of fear can cause a great deal of damage and pain.
There are several ways in which the DUP are the new Pharisees.
When Jesus arrived on the scene the Pharisees had a nice system of religion going and when Jesus came and spread a message almost contradicting everything they stood for they became fearful that He would bring down their whole system that had worked for thousands of years. In similar fashion when someone comes along, in this case a play about the Bible that seems to poke fun at your ideas of religion then you are going to want to protect your religion and stop those views being expressed.
There is a fear that runs through the DUP and much Protestantism in NI that still views Sinn Fein as the enemy. Like the Pharisees having to deal with the Roman Empire, The DUP live in constant fear that Sinn Fein will eventually take over. This fear permeates into everything else in their lives including religion or at least their version of religion.
Religion has been used ever since day one to control and exert on pressure on people to fall in line.
However, Jesus didn’t come to set up a new political party or system. In fact he came to quash fear and to bring freedom from worry. From the fear of being overridden by our enemies. The DUP seem to overlook this important aspect of Jesus’ mission and in doing so are more like their enemies (or at least how they used to be) than they think. The power that Jesus came to install in his followers was one where commonly understood weaknesses such as grace, vulnerability and compassion were the real strengths. The fear that ran through the Pharisees is the same fear that runs through fundamentalism today.
But fundamentalism also fears difference. A play that speaks truth in a way that is foreign to the DUP’s version of Christianity brings fear. A fear of the unknown. For the Pharisees unless everyone fit neatly into their idea of religion and God then they were wrong. The same is true for the DUP counsellors involved in the objection to the play.
It is this idea of faith and Christianity that is damaging because to the DUP unless you disagree with same sex marriage, believe in a literal 6 days creation account, believe in a real physical Hell or feel the need to protect everyone from a harmless and inoffensive play, then you are not a real Christian.
You are on the outside and everything outside is deemed a threat. Legalism takes the place of Grace.
But real faith is much bigger than that and the Church is a beautiful blend and make up of every type of people. Rather than seeing this as a threat as the DUP does it is actually the church’s strength. Which is more appealing? A God that needs you to fit into tight theological square holes which is impossible if you are a circle or a God that is prepared to let everyone in? Everyone despite their past, present or future.
It’s as a friend remarked to me, it’s not so much that anyone who disagrees with fundamentalistic ideas has a little view of God but rather they view a little God. A God that is so insecure that He needs us to stand up for him. A God that is so out of control that if other opinions are entertained then the world will fall apart.
But I have a bigger view of God. A view that includes everyone regardless of anything. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to believing that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God including sexuality or even belief in God. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to believing that great strength is shown in dying to ourselves and serving others; others often who don’t agree or think like us. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to understanding Jesus death and resurrection as a new way of seeing the world, where weakness is the new strength.
A new world where when Jesus was about to be led away to be crucified; instead of applauding one of his disciples for attacking one of his captors, actually rebuked him and brought healing to His enemy.
This is the strength that fundamentalists either don’t see or ignore. One where even Jesus Himself knew that he didn’t need to defend Himself.
For too long in Northern Ireland, the archaic views of the DUP have been allowed to dictate this view of Christianity and to let the fear that has controlled the country for so long flourish. For too long church leaders have failed to counter these ideas of God that are neither loving or gracious? Where were the church leaders this week to speak up for the play? To dispel the idea that Christianity is about fear.
Or are we all controlled by fear one way or the other?