Posted tagged ‘fundamentalism’

The end of days

November 23, 2008

For some (mainly evangelical) Christians, a key aspect of their belief is based in eschatology: that after various horrific events (which they believe are predicted in the Bible) there will follow ‘the Rapture‘, when Christ will appear in the skies and ‘born again’ Christians – both dead and alive – will meet him there, while others will be consigned to hell and eternal damnation.

I wouldn’t wish to comment on this particular set of beliefs; I am a practising Christian myself, and am of the view that we need to be tolerant of other people’s faith and theology. However, I was also made aware of the potential dimensions of such beliefs when, earlier in the past week, I heard a radio interview with an evangelical woman from Alabama who identified the recent US election as a prelude to the Rapture, and who if I understood her inferences correctly seemed to be viewing Barack Obama as the antichrist.

There is undoubtedly (or there must be, I cannot speak from experience) something uniquely comforting in knowing that we have possession of all truth and are certain as to its meaning. But it also places us in a position where we may either gloss over, or misunderstand, or seriously compound the complexities and anxieties of the world. For me, faith is about mystery and discovery, and about trying to understand what we can never quite know. It is also about compassion and tolerance.

There has, over recent years, been a lively debate about whether religion is a force for good or evil in the world. I doubt, notwithstanding the strong views of participants in this debate such as Richard Dawkins, whether that is really a very interesting question, because religion like most things is as good or as bad as we humans make it. But I am inclined to accept that where religion has been used in explicit terms to guide political decision-making it has easily become something dangerous – though to be balanced, the same can be said of atheism.

I genuinely feel for all those who cannot, on the basis of their religious beliefs, be happy about the outcome of the recent US elections. But on the other hand, I cannot help being relieved that this is not how the majority in America assessed matters. Even as a practising Christian (in my case, an Anglican), I feel much more comfortable with the idea that politics must be secular, and that the Kingship of Christ (which Catholic and Anglican Christians celebrate today) is not of this world.

So should our religious principles – where we have them – be private only? I would say, yes and no. I don’t think any of us should be expecting our particular outlook on faith to be reflected in law or government action. But we should live by it ourselves, and apply it to our dealings with others, in tolerance and friendship.