A Community Service Message For the Smug

I hate Q and A. It fills my timeline with all sorts of tat but tonight it really got up my nose as the smugness quotient bounced off the redline. I even swore on Twitter I was so furious.

The feed was full of fundamentalist atheist nonsense. The nonsense being the tired old cliches accusing Christians of all sorts of behaviour that isn’t representative of the majority, in the same way that the vast majority of atheists aren’t unbearably smug, with nothing better to do than point-score on Twitter with inflammatory remarks that are based in ‘clear and rational thinking.’ Did I mention that these people enjoy sweeping generalisations and indulging in mindless bigotry? And yelling at dark-hued kettles?

One contributor who I used to tolerate in my feed but banished because he’s too smug for words, had this little gem:

”Will the govt allow scientists into churches seeing as churches are allowed into schools?”

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a church that had a ‘no scientists’ sign on the door. In fact, my sister is a scientist and a practising Christian who, last time I looked, didn’t have to sneak in to church.

I’m also pretty sure Dr Francis Collins is allowed in to church without a single problem. I mean, he’s not that important or anything, he’s the director of the Human Genome Project. No big deal. And there are thousands, even millions of scientists like him.

Come to think of it, I don’t think the government has a policy on scientists in churches. In fact, churches let anyone in. They’re good like that.

I’m really steamed up about this. Nobody, especially in the media, really wants to know about the opinion of the average Christian on the subject of school chaplains. It’s been a tough debate so far and stunt television like Q and A becomes a platform for idiocy to triumph, and that’s on both sides. As long as it’s good television, says the ABC, we’re okay with it, screw the facts or a genuine spectrum of views.

It’s a circus, usually with a panel half-filled with nutbags like Eric Abetz who are called upon to defend people who really rather he didn’t. It shouldn’t be called Q and A it should be called Black and White, because on this weekly dumptruck full of bile there’s no room for moderates unless they drag Waleed Aly on the panel for everyone to swoon over.

…and breathe.

A friend once called me a ‘raging egalitarian’ and I like to think that people who disagree with me (and he disagrees with me quite strongly on the subject of God) can see that I am like most Christians.

We don’t scoff at the idea of atheism, as though the poor holder of that belief is mentally ill.

We don’t judge people based on the particular sins they might commit. We don’t tell someone who has confided in us that they should ‘turn or burn’ or ‘God hates fags’ (a grotesque and plainly wrong assertion) and leave it at that. To characterise the entire chaplaincy community as mindless, judgemental dunderheads, whether you agree with their presence in schools or not, is deeply unfair. Even those who work for Access are not Paddison-clones.

Like many of the chaplains who have been (undeservedly) in the firing line all week, we show compassion, empathy and try and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Sin is sin – if Christians were ‘unable to talk to people who have lifestyles they consider sinful’ we’d never talk to anybody. We couldn’t order a coffee in a cafe, form meaningful relationships with anybody or do anything ever because none of us is perfect.

What kind of witness would it be if Jesus had said, ‘And if you could not talk to people who sin, that’d be a great way to preach love and kindness’? Brush up on the story of Zuccheus, Mary Magadalene and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. And on that last one, remind yourself of how he treated those who regarded themselves as sinless (and, if you ever do run into someone who calls themselves a Christian and does fit the stereotype, that’s the way to remind them they’re in the wrong. Tell them I sent you because I sure as hell would want the same thing done to me if I ever turned into one of those). He stopped a woman from being stoned, it’s a reasonably famous story, Google it. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

If I were a chaplain and a gay teenager came and spoke to me about their troubles, I’d listen and if I could, I’d help. Christians don’t deny compassion and charity to anyone they consider ‘sinful’ or disagree with them and there’s a really important reason for that:

Most Christians consider themselves as sinful as the person they’re talking to. Which puts them in absolutely no position to judge. Some don’t take that view, but most do. I know that’s a terrible blow to the smug groupthink, but as the militants are always so keen to remind the faith-heads, letting reality get in the way of a good story just sucks.

And in that position, where I felt I couldn’t help, I would try and point them to somebody who could, with apologies for being unable to help. Like most chaplains (see that word? Most), like most people, I don’t understand the torment of somebody who is confused about their sexuality, dreading they might be gay or what else they may go through because they are. I don’t know. I’ll probably get flayed alive for ‘dreading’ but as I say, I don’t know. I get being gay is hard if only just because other people can be deeply unpleasant about it.

The incredible bigotry I see on Twitter during Q and A might just be a small, smug, subsection of the community. I hope so.

Because smugness is banal, empty and intellectually bankrupt.

I’ve already covered what I think of the school chaplaincy program here which should give you a fair idea that I’m not blindly defending the presence of chaplains in schools. I suppose I’m defending my faith and my right to have it as well as the right of others to choose not to have it.

It’d be really nice if we could all get along and actually talk stuff through instead of howling at each other…

…says the guy who’s just spent forty minutes writing a howling blog post…

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