What can be said about that terrible September day in 2001 that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before? Probably nothing, but some things are worth saying again.
Even though the demands of life have been such that donning my Father Christian Troll persona has of late become a luxury for which I can all too rarely find time, furious emails for him still arrive with monotonous regularity. Invariably the purported cause of this rage is my having mocked some pompous buffoon whom the sender considers a religious leader of great authority, and invariably my reply – in which I always try to as gently as possible explain that following Christ doesn’t demand total acceptance of their local village big-man’s heretical nastiness – achieves little other angering them further.
Such is the nature of fundamentalism. Love as anarchic as the Incarnation is too dangerous a wonder to risk contemplating when one suffers from the delusion that ecclesiastical power (regardless of form, flavour, or funny-hat shape) is of any true consequence. Questioning those who profit from your ideological and/or theological framework is never easy when you also believe that framework offers the only authentic relationship with to God: the coward’s response has always to been start shouting and demand silence from the jester. And if that silence comes at the cost of someone’s throat, then so be it: “There’s always bound to be a few bystanders struck by chips when you’re clearing a forest” as party-members said at the start of the Stalinist purges. Until they were themselves purged.
The events of one terrible day in 2001 have forever changed our world: just because this has been said so many times that it’s become a cliché doesn’t make it any the less true. Yet in another way the foul actions of a few gullible young men with box cutters changed very little: yes, they cut short the lives of a great many people who were dearly loved by those close to them, but that was all they accomplished of any significance. And even that – the taking of life – wasn’t anything fundamentalists haven’t been accomplishing for millennia. Because that’s all fundamentalism ever does – kill people.
Mostly the slaughter is more subtle and drawn out than the crash of hijacked aircraft: it’s the hellish torture inherent to a lifetime of submission to an abusive husband, or the brutal bashing of a young homosexual man, or the forced rape of a young lesbian, or the burning of child witches, or maybe just the quiet suicide of yet another reject who just couldn’t cope with their sect’s theology of hatred. It’s in the denial of affordable health care, in the refusal of access to contraception, and in the opposition to education. And it’s always justified by quoting a text written in a very different place and time in such a way as to preclude any other interpretation of the passage in question. Which, incidentally, but well worth mentioning, also happens to be the means by which Jesus' crucifixion was deemed just and legal by those braying for his death 2,000 years ago.
Not, of course that these murderers normally dance in celebration like the Wahabist psychopaths did while news of their colleagues' crime spread across the world. Most fundamentalists lack such transparency, and seek to hide the horrors in their wake behind an endless claim of innocence. While in their next breath always further advocating the mechanisms by which these deaths have become systemic. Or blogging about the need for order in the face of a clash of cultures. And then berating the victims for “their choice of lifestyle”.
It's highly likely that you, like me, will never forget where you were and what you were doing when news of what was happening in Lower Manhattan, Arlington County, Virginia, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Please also don't ever forget that these people died for the same reason as countless others through history: because a few evil old men presumed to define Godliness, and few more foolish young people believed them. I write here as a way of helping myself and others cope with these false prophets and their followers by laughing at them, but sometimes, just sometimes, it's important to mourn, and to be serious. For me today is such a day, and I'm honored that you've taken time to share my feelings by reading this.
And for those disappointed that today hasn't provided another opportunity to send spittle-flecked emails of complaint about my lack of respect for whichever fraudulent religious leader it is you happen to respect I've only one thing to say:
I'm not actually Father Christian, but I fear you could say that we have over the past four years become intimately related, and I promise he'll be back very soon. And if you pay close attention you might someday realize that he really does teach the Bible. Although not ever, I truly pray, in the way to which you are accustomed.