Tribalism, martyrdom and Christian response

Over on the Heathen Hub, Gurdur has an atheist take on Christian tribalism as it is manifest in the English church, and particularly as it relates to the response (or lack of it) to the assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan. It is often painful to get a glimpse of how others see us, but rather than go all defensive, we ought to ask ourselves how much is justified (and I think in this case almost all of it is) and what we can learn from the experience.

Just in case any of you are thinking that Gurdur has it in for Christians, I have to say that I am glad that I am a Christian, because Gurdur has also written:

And if you think I am being too heavy on Christians, wait till tomorrow when I get stuck into atheists. Because as an atheist I am going then to be ever so undiplomatic.

Glad that’s not me, then.

My inital response to the tribalism post can be found under the comments on Gurdur’s blog. I think that English Christianity does suffer from tribalism, both within the church and towards those outside it. there are a host of reasons why this may be so, but I particularly wanted to talk about our response to situations such as that in Pakistan.

My own, admittedly brief, researches bear out Gurdur’s finding – that apart from a couple of honourable exceptions English Chritians have been more concerned with the fate of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, than that of Salman Taseer, a Muslim who campaigned for the abolition of the now infamous blasphemy law that allowed a Christian woman, Asai Bibi, to be put to death on the say-so of a couple of witnesses who had personal reasons for wishing harm to her. Shahbaz Bhatti has been rightly hailed as a martyr (in the Christian sense) whereas Salman Taseer’s death has been generally ignored in the Christian blogosphere.

Such selectivity is unworthy of Christians. The injustices of the current situation in Pakistan do not only affect Christians, but those of other minority faiths and atheists as well. It is good to see that there are members of the majority Muslim faith who also see the injustice and work to do something about it Рpeople like Marvi Memon and her co-signatories of this resolution. They must be acknowledged, applauded, strengthened,  encouraged and supported by Christians in the West, not just so that Pakistani Christians may benefit but because it is the right thing to do to bring justice for ALL Pakistanis regardless of their religious affiliation. Furthermore, when we see our Christian sisters and brothers perpetrating injustices and inhumane acts we must not remain silent.

Whilst Jesus did command Christians to love one another, he also commanded them to love their neighbour as themselves (with no qualification). Indeed he chose to illustrate this teaching with a story about two people from opposite sides of a religious divide. So let’s have some even-handedness in our reporting and in our reaction to what we see and hear going on around us.

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