Friday, March 18, 2011

God save us from zealots

Of all the images which have haunted me since the earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan last week, the one I have found most poignant is that of a child - no older than two or three - standing, his arms raised over his head - being scanned for radiation poisoning by a man in scary white suit and mask.

I’ve thought about that child a lot - and about the other children in Japan - and of the fear they must be feeling. And I’ve thought about his mother and father and how they must feel helpless and, perhaps, increasingly desperate as the mixed messages about meltdowns, and radiation leaks and contamination circulate.

We cannot, in this city, really begin to understand the scale of the disaster which has hit Japan and I will be the first to put my hand up and say that, utterly selfishly, there have been times when I have switched the TV off, or clicked off an online newsfeed or turned the radio over when a report has come on.

It’s not that I don’t care - far from it - it is just that my brain cannot comprehend the level of destruction and loss being played out on the tv. It’s too much and it’s too painful and yes, it is too scary.

Part of me too wants to protect my children from it. Perhaps that is foolish - but as the mother of a child with a particularly overactive imagination and curious fascination with natural catastrophies - I felt it best to save him from the worry.

To first hear the news of an earthquake hitting, and to hear follow up reports of a devastating tsunami washing away entire towns, entire communities and entire families was terrifying enough.

To have that followed up with talks of nuclear meltdown, radiation clouds and scenes reminiscent of Hiroshima was beyond comprehension.

The deathtoll as I write is in the thousands and rising and there is grisly talk of thousands of bodies being washed up on the drowned beaches of Japan as things settle.

There is fear of another earthquake, perhaps smaller but still large enough to be devastating and there is of course the worry of what any nuclear fall out may entail.

While the world has been struggling to come to terms with what has happened one so-called Christian has posted a message on internet site YouTube praising God for bringing such destruction on the world.

‘TamTamPamela’, who has sinced claimed she was only joking, posted a lengthy message in which she said she had been praying for God to punish atheists and show the world that He existed.

She said it was “amazing” how He had shook Japan to show them that He was there and that the death of thousands of people was proof of what a loving and powerful God we have over us. She was almost ecstatic with the joy of it all.

Now, I won’t proclaim to be the most religious of people. Generally I’ll leave all talk of God and His works to Father Chris in the column below, but I watched the video and I felt sick. It felt at complete odds with everything that I believe about God and His works.

Whether or not ‘TamTamPamela’ actually was joking was kind of irrelevant by the end of it because there were people who posted that they agreed with her.

There were people who were praising God for the disaster which has hit Japan. There were people who thought that those children, and parents, and grandparents who were killed - who lived their last moments in abject terror unable to save themselves - deserved it.

There were people who thought this was a wonderful way in which God could remind the world who was in charge and those people delighted in the horror we have seen on our screens.

For anyone to call themselves Christian, or indeed religious in any denomination, and to revel in the loss and death being felt by an entire nation is incredulous.

To have a complete lack of empathy or sympathy for those thrust into a hell on earth is nothing short of barbaric. It is the kind of hateful and hurtful response which turns others away from religion.

Religion should not be forced upon us out of fear of retribution if we don’t meet certain standards. Living a good life should be about trying your best and caring for others as you would have them care for you.

When I think of that child, standing, his arms raised while he is scanned for dangerous levels of radiation - radiation which may have catastrophic implications on his health as he grow - I fail to see how any loving God would see this as a good way to teach anyone a lesson.

And it dawned on me - there are scarier things than earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear catastrophies to protect my children from.

There are religious zealots who twist what should be about love, forgiveness and hope into something dark and horrid - something so hate filled that there is no trace of God to be found in their words.

That is what, perhaps, we should really be afraid of. That is what our children need protected from.

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