Poor old Rowan. In an interview and speech characterised, in a very real sense, by his habitual turgid sesquipedalianism, someone managed to find the statement that Sharia law “is unavoidable” in the UK. If you think my ability to provoke religious flamewars is impressive, you should see the BBC’s Have Your Say forums (or, you know, don’t), or the Graun‘s Comment is Free, right now.

Unexpectedly, the same bunch who voted in favour of the religious hatred legislation a few years ago suddenly found something wonderful, and opined that they weren’t sure public beheadings were such a good idea (though I’m not sure that position is a vote winner: Daily Mail readers would probably be in favour, as long as it wasn’t the Muslims doing the chopping).

All of which is beside the point, really, because ++Rowan (that’s “1 more than your current Rowan”, geeks) wasn’t advocating any of that stuff. After struggling through all 8 pages of his grey prose, I can tell you that Rowan’s a sci-fi libertarian of the sort you sometimes get in Ken Macleod’s books, or maybe Heinlein’s, or Neal Stephenson‘s. What he wants is for people to be able to voluntarily affiliate with a court system for the resolution of some disputes. In an attempt to preserve his right-on lefty image, Rowan claims he’s a little nervous about the unpleasant whiff of the free market about this, but I think we all know he’s secretly itching to set up ++Rowan’s Greater Anglican Communion franchulates all over the world (er, hang on a minute…), strap on a katana and set out on his motorbike for a showdown with Dawkins.

What’s less clear is what he wants for Muslims which isn’t already available. In an article about Jewish courts in the UK, the BBC says that “English law states that any third party can be agreed by two sides to arbitrate in a dispute”. Does anyone know whether there’s anything stopping Muslim courts doing something similar to the Jewish ones?

There’s a discussion about that question attached to a posting from the toothycats. One of the toothycats (who are a couple with a shared blog) posted an entry about their Christian beliefs, which promptly exploded into religion_wank (why does that community not exist already?) after lark_ascending turned up, and, angered by a toothcat‘s oppressive action of posting about an interest of theirs on their blog under a cut, started a huge argument (she later experienced drama remorse and deleted fracking everything, but there’s an archive of some of the thread here). I’m unable to resist this sort of thing, so I’ve stuck my oar in here and there.

I can see the point of these privilege checklists which circulate on the net. You don’t know what it’s like to be someone else. If you’re someone who has it good, you may assume that everyone has it equally good. Checklists are a reminder that this assumption isn’t valid.

If you’re not careful though, what you can get out of in a discussion of privilege is black and white thinking (if you’ll pardon the pun) where you insist that someone must be oppressed because they belong to a group you’ve identified as under-privileged, regardless of anything that person says about it. This has happened to a couple of LJ friends, but it doesn’t happen to me very often, because I’m male, middle-class and white so nobody (except Daily Fail readers) would argue that I’m discriminated against. Nevertheless, I am a non-Christian, and I’m not being oppressed. The situation in the UK isn’t like it is in some parts of the USA, so checklists from there aren’t portable.

The other thing I didn’t like about the list that everyone’s been doing as a meme on their blogs lately is that some of it effectively asks “do you come from a healthy culture?” and might, if handled badly, cause people who do to feel bad about that. It’s no credit to you where you were born, of course, but neither do you want the situation where you can’t say that to be from such a culture is a good thing, worth having. A privilege, in fact.

Christians in the Hand of an Angry God is a great 5 part article by bradhicks (the link is to the last part, which itself links to the previous parts). The title of the article is a reference to the famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards.

There’s some interesting historical analysis in it. bradhicks argues that Bible-believing Christianity in the USA sold its soul to the Republican party in exchange for protection from Communism, in a literal Faustian bargain. He says that, taking what the Bible says, the majority of these Christians are following a false gospel and are probably damned for it.

As usual, “what the Bible says” means “what it says when you it the way evangelicals are supposed to”, but then, in this case, that’s the whole point. While bradhicks is an ex-Christian, he studied at an evangelical college and has a good knowledge of what the Bible does say. As he writes:

I’ll still debate Christian theology at the drop of a hat, I still love it, even though (as I’ve said in part elsewhere) I consider monotheism itself to be toxic to human freedom and many of the the distinctive doctrines that separate Christianity from other religions to be potentially toxic to decency and sanity. To me, it’s a game. And when I’m playing a game, it really pisses me off to see other people cheat. And it pisses me off even more to lose to a cheater, let alone an army of cheaters.

He’s not the only one to have realised that Jesus doesn’t necessary vote Republican, some Christians have realised it too.

I don’t recall seeing anything like the political distortion of Christianity which bradhicks describes during my time as an evangelical, in fact, I assumed that as a group of middle-class young professional types, a lot of us voted for Tony, though we didn’t really discuss it much. I’d be interested to know whether that’s changed since I left.