Kirsty Newman blogs over at Kirsty Evidence, where she battles the forces of ignorance by advocating an evidence-based approach to international development and education. You’d think that someone with such a cozy relationship with science (and reality) would have little time for fundamentalism, and you’d be right. But in the post, Kirsty wistfully remembers the simpler times when the world was black and white, and thinking wasn’t required.
This weekend, my devout Catholic father-in-law is visiting. Before he arrived, my husband and I had our usual ‘little chat’ where he pleads with me to at least try not to antagonise his aging dad. And as usual, I set out with the best of intentions to be a respectful daughter-in-law…
I managed a good thirty minutes before, apropos the Woolwich murder, my father-in-law came out with this statement: “The problem with Islam…” (always a worrying start to a sentence) “…is that the Quran is so ambiguous that it can be interpreted in many ways and this leads people to violence”.
I couldn’t stop myself. I had to respond that this was just like the Bible – after all, the Bible is riddled with contradictions and contains a fair amount of violence. “Yes”, responded my father-in-law, “but the message of what you need to do in Christianity is clear” “Really?”, I asked, “But surely you just pick and choose what bits you follow? For example, you eat pork which is banned”. “Ah but the Old Testament was overruled by the New Testament” he replies. “So what about the rules in the New Testament that you ignore?” I query “For example, I note that people in your church have braided hair – was that not also banned?” “Well yes, but that was what Paul said, not what Jesus said”. “OK”, I rejoin, “but what about when Jesus said that you need to give all your possessions to the poor?” “Well that was just a message to one person” he replies “And in general we need to follow the spirit of that suggestion rather than the rule…”.