Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Sheik Google, Monsignor LinkedIn, Rabbi Twitter, Pastor Yahoo, Archimandrite FaceBook, Rev. Dr. Blog, and co.

News reports are now saying that the perpetrator of the murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was radicalised on the Internet. 

At one level, I know that there is a lot of seriously destructive and bigoted stuff on the Internet.  Frequently, this material incites contempt for, actual hatred of, or actual violence toward whole groups of people, simply for being who they are.  In the case of the Orlando attack, the violence was directed toward LGBT people simply for being LGBT, but other groups have also been targets of violence in other incidents.

Frequently, the material is presented as being religious in character.  The positive message of many faiths have been perverted by cynical, sectarian fundamentalist groups into a message of hate and violence.  Included in this unhinged message is the notion that mainstream people within a faith, those who reject the call to hate and violence, are somehow less than truly faithful. 

Some unsophisticated people (frequently unsophisticated younger men with more testosterone than brains) respond to this message, particularly if they are already alienated from the community and generally pissed off at the world.  Sometimes, as in this case, the destructive message results in destructive action.  (1)

Within the Muslim community, mainstream imams warn their young people about being taken in by the online purveyors of hate and violence with a religious tinge, to whom they frequently refer collectively as "Sheik Google".  But I'm aware that this isn't just a Muslim problem.  Sheik Google has his colleagues out there:  Pastor Yahoo, Monsignor LinkedIn, Rabbi Twitter, Archimandrite FaceBook, and the Rev. Dr. Blog.  Some write fiercely bigoted material in the name of unhinged versions of their faiths, versions firmly rejected by the intelligent and inclusive mainstream of their faiths.  Sometimes, they claim to represent the true and authentic versions of their faith.  They don't.

I write a faith-based blog.  You're reading it right now.  My blog isn't one with a large circulation, but it's a faith-based blog.  In a sense, I'm part of Rev. Dr. Blog. 

And I think that, among most of us who write these blogs, some good, creative, stimulating, and inclusive things are being written and shared.  It's not all bad.  And, in addition to my own stuff (of admittedly uneven quality), you may find some real quality material in the online writings of those who are named on the side of this blog under the heading "Some other blogs you may like". 

I don't often encounter the hate material on the 'Net, but then I don't look for it.  But I know it's there.   However, whatever your faith background, the hate material will be of no use to you if you really want to learn either about your own faith or about someone else's faith.  You'll be less well-informed after reading the hate material
than you were before.

If you want to learn more about your own faith, find a good local congregation and become part of it.  There's one thing, though, if at any time you hear someone standing in front of that congregation telling you that you need to hate anyone - for any reason - as part of your faith, leave immediately and don't go back.  Find a better congregation.  (There are plenty of those.  Trust me on that one.) 

If you want to learn more about a faith other than your own, get to know people who practice that faith.  Experience the lifestyle and the values of the faith through your friends who are within it.

Get involved in serving other people, whether it's alongside people who believe similarly to you, or beside people who believe differently from you, or beside people who don't believe much at all.  In this way, you'll experience the two profound truths that
(a)   we all live in the image of the Sacred and,
(b)   whether you believe in God or not, God believes in you.



***

(1)   Mass violence isn't always ideologically-driven.  While the Orlando murders seemed to be the result of homophobia and the Charleston murders were the result of racial hatred, the murders at Port Arthur, Columbine, and Dunblane were the work of non-ideological "loners with boners".

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