Sunday, 9 June 2013

When faith "goes redneck"

All faith communities have this issue, even if it's more obviously a problem in some faith communities than others.

Frequently, whenever less sophisticated people either
  • "get religion" after a secular upbringing or after a merely nominal identification with their faith. or
  • change from one faith community to another,
they generally adopt a
  • less reflective,
  • less "tolerant",
  • more "fundamentalist",
  • and - let's be honest here - more "redneck"
version of their new faith than many lifetime members of their adopted faith community (or more thoughtful members of their new faith) would really like.

This is particularly the case when less sophisticated young people or less sophisticated males "get religion".  (For the most part, men are more likely than women to look at life in simple black-and-white terms.  Similarly, young people are less comfortable with "grey areas" than their elders.)

We see this situation in a particularly dramatic way within Islam and within evangelical "Protestant" styles of Christianity.  The media are more likely to highlight the problem of "fundamentalism" within Islam and within evangelicalism, largely because of the impact on world politics of radicalised Islam in the Middle East and radicalised evangelicalism in the United States.

Nevertheless, this is an issue for all faith communities, in all nations.  All faiths have equivalent "fundamentalist" groups.  When people in these groups let their faith "go redneck", it causes real harm to the faith traditions with which they identify.

All of us, whatever our faith, should avoid the temptation of evaluating any faith community merely on the basis of its worst practitioners.

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