Thursday, 22 September 2011
Consider, for example, recent coverage of a group called the Apostolic Reformation Movement. I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with all their practices and the way they mix religion and politics. I do, though, see absolutely no reason to believe that the group wanted to undermine democracy or limit civil liberties as was indicated on radio and as several web posters to the story -- comparing the group to the Taliban with little protest -- thought. I seriously doubt that most of the posters or the radio host had any idea that it is in fact not only but perhaps mostly black liberals and Hispanics who adhere to the Pentecostal language and practices that were being ‘exposed,’ even if those practices are only rarely used to political ends and many conservative whites largely reject them.
More to the point, though, it was unclear why exactly the ARM was dangerous other than the fact they were perhaps kooky. Despite all the smoke blowing in contrast to say the Afghani ruled Taliban, I only know of one unfortunate police officer who had their civil liberties undermined in Palin’s Alaska and no such people in Rick Perry’s Texas, both of whom were in some vague way connected to the ARM. In fact, in the ‘cultural wars’ it’s actually the ‘liberals’ who have favored non-democratic solutions which isn’t to say whether they’re right or wrong about underlining issues. Just that it’s patently unfair to accuse religious conservatives of being ‘Theocratic’ as some liberals have.
On a personal level, I’m sure anyone who has ever regularly attended a church, mosque or synagogue has know many pious individuals who were tolerant loving and accepting of if not always agreeing with others and also known many people who were only moderately religious but dysfunctional in some way and wanted to use their religion as a way to control others. The fact is though to read some authors is to think that there is a direct correlation between pillars of all religions such as scripture reading, prayer or meditation, religious observance and removal from secular society and violence. I don’t doubt that cloistered religious extremists have potential to become violent, but they also have the potential to be uncompromisingly pacifist and anywhere between as do secular political movements.
To not respect the potentiality of organized religion or any other social artifice of man is to deny the complexity of humanity and that is the road to narrow mindedness and intolerance not social awkwardness or backwardness.
Do you think there is a correlation between religious extremism and violence? Why or why not? What are some other examples of extreme religious groups who gravitate towards pacifism?