Why the DUP are the new Pharisees.

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?

6 thoughts on “Why the DUP are the new Pharisees.

  1. This is really important to realize, and I am so glad that you posted this. As someone with a literary blog, I really appreciate the profound thoughts in this post. Religion should never be used to control something that it is not meant to.

  2. Hi, my name is Michael Ball, my mum and dad are the councillors who spoke up about the play at the mill. First of all let me say I am in no way representing them and I am not afiiliated with any political organisation. I am a born again Christian, I love Jesus and I want to see Gods kingdom established in this world. My mum and dad brought me up to believe that God is love. I remember as a kid my dad stopping every hundred yards to give the homeless guys and few quid, I asked him why he thought it necessary and so was told about compassion. These past few weeks have been insanely trying on my family and I don’t just mean with regard to the play. It’s pretty easy to get down about things when people believe your a monster, a Taliban terrorist, the reason for the decline of foreign investment to Northern Ireland and a Pharisee. Mum and dad heard about the play, and it didn’t sound like they could casually pass it off and say yes next play please (and yes constituents wrote to my parents asking for them to take a stand against this play). They exercised their democratic right to disagree with the play, others joined them and the theatre CEO cancelled it(did they mention after two weeks publicity they sold 150 out of 800 tickets for two nights which does not have the council breaking even…). Believe it or not my parents do not have the power to walk in demanding the play be cancelled because that’s not how the democratic system works. Find out what parties make up the artistic board and see that the day this decision was made (at an away day explaining how the board works) my mum had to work in the nursery school she has worked in for twenty years because she genuinely can’t afford to miss a day. What hurts from a sons perspective is seeing Christians completely write my mum and dad off as ‘fundamentalists’ when all they’ve seen is what’s written in the papers. I urge you to sit with my parents and discover for yourself that they are honest, loving, beautiful people who have worked tirelessly to give me and my brothers and sister a better life than they did. Did you ever read the article where a fake pipe bomb was put outside our house because mum and dad stood up to bullies blocking the road regarding flag protests and how my dad’s hand was subsequently injured? Probably not, but you can google it.

    My point is mum and dad believe in the word of God and they believe that people like Kenneth Bae and others deserve Christian solidarity due to them being persecuted for wanting to share the holy inspired word of God. In proverbs it tells us the word of God is pure. If you think my mum and dad were wrong then no worries I can let you have a wee yarn with them, but please don’t judge them on the horrible (I mean truly horrible) stories written about them. They love God and they love people, my heart feels rather heavy writing this and I know the abuse I’m going to suffer after. Jesus doesn’t want all this squabbling, if you disagree then by all means disagree but please search your heart and ask yourself, do I really truly know these Christian brothers and sisters I’m about to blog about? Phone me or mail me I would love to chat and just talk, not rant or argue.

    I truly love you in The Lord and XXX church do an amazing work. Please know how this comes from a loving, but heavy heart. I’m not an articulate writer so excuse the terrible mistakes!

    God bless friend

    Mike B

  3. Mike, thanks for taking the time to reply and don’t worry, you write well and with grace.

    I would like to apologize if this post or the previous one came across as being against your parents specifically. It was directed at the tendency of many DUP politicians (for a long time, not just the recent events) to act in a way that shuts out certain people for having a difference of opinion. For certain parts of the church to be afraid of the unknown.

    There was nothing to fear of the play and the fact that people were not allowed to make up their own minds is kind of worrying. Is a faith that is afraid of a play that strong really?

    You ask that people see your parents as people who are just trying to do a good job in a difficult situation? I think that is completely fair. I just wish that we could have seen some of that same willingness from the objectors of the play directed towards the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

    I know your parents are not bad or evil people by any stretch of the imagination. If there have been Christians who have treated them like that then I apologize for that.

    Warm Regards,

  4. Thanks for your reply Paul, I appreciate your frustration and dismay at the way politicians have been going about representing people and specifically those who are making decisions in the name of God. My eyes have been prised wide open over the past weekend with regard to the media. I always took news companies with a pinch of salt, however their sever lack of knowledge surrounding this whole situation has been pretty astonishing. My mum and dad realsied from the beggining that a few people would be un happy and they would receive some discouraging letters, they are policitians after all. However first and foremost they are blood bought sons and daughters of the living, majestic, loving King and they could not sit by thinking they were like other politicans being passive and apathetic towards the God breathed word of God. My dad specifically said listen make fun of me for being a christian, that comes as part of the deal, however I need to stand up for a gospel that so many are shedding their blood for. In response he is told by christians that this is the attitude of someone who would have initiated the crusades…sheesh..heavy stuff! The play will most likely get played, the decision will be reversed, and people will laugh in their face and the world will move onto the next Justin Beiber car crash moment.

    I just ask that as brothers and sisters we don’t try to bring each other down, rather if you believe a brother or sister makes a mistake then talk to them personally and encourage them that you love them and will do everything in your power to help them, and ultimately show the love and compassion that my Jesus showed me all those years ago.

    My mum and dad have had it tough, and some would argue they deserve it, however you can hold your opinion and still put your hand on my parents shoulders and say listen we’re headed the same way, lets advance together.

    Lets make sure his name is lifted higher than any other and not a couple of councillors from Newtownabbey. I genuinely appreciate your response and I pray your minstry of this great blogsite and your work within XXXChurch will see souls won and lives restored.

    God Bless,

    Mike Ball

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