Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Message of Love - if only you could eat it!

Christian institutionalized religious conviction or faith or strong sense of belonging has, as Nietzsche observed just before declaring the death of God, had an important part to play in the moral history of humanity. True, it has also been a source of unspeakable atrocities and regularly played the role as a default authorization of whatever scheme of brutality and oppression that worldly powers have embarked on. But it is hard to deny that the idea of people being worthy equal respect and consideration just for their own sake has made a lasting impact on (Western) ethical thought – also regarding ethical theories that have come to strongly contest mainstream versions of christian ethics, such as Kantian ethics, liberal theories of basic moral rights or the consequentialist tradition.

But what has become of this "message of love" - the idea that we are to love our 'neighbor' as ourselves, and do unto others as we would have them do to us - outside of the growing sophistication and influence of secularized ethics? For many of my friends who identify themselves as christian believers, the important thing seems not to be the supposed divine backing of this idea, but rather the other way around. Relieved they find in the faith that they find a need for in order to enjoy a sense of coherence, harmony, meaning - or what you might like to call it - what their reason prescribes anyway. Simply put, they are morally decent people that also happen to have certain needs that a christian faith seems to meet. Fine by me!

Besides that, one powerful and influential branch of christianity is not that preoccupied with this side of the gospel, but rather focus on the very core of all the monotheistic religions: awe and obedience in the face of an alleged supreme authority. And, as we know, one of the commands of the christian God is to spread the gospel. So is this what it is about when the US christian organization Faith Comes by Hearing decides to react to the current almost indescribable misery and agony of the Haitian people by sending over an audio bible gadget called "The Proclaimer" capable of relaying the message to 300 people at a time, reportedly intended for "individuals and nations who hunger to hear". 600 of them are already on the way, reports ABC News, and more will be coming. And it's certainly not a tiny gift that the christian faith in this case has inspired: the little darlings are rumored to cost $157 each and to be sophisticated enough to actually work even on the moon (where, as an aside, PZ Myers suggest they may just as well be sent instead).

The utter moral perversity of the action should be obvious to anyone being just mildly drawn to the basic content of the message of love, be it in a religious or a secularized version. Not only will the very transportation and distribution of "The Proclaimer" add to the severe logistical problems faced by aid personnel, just imagine the insult being spitted right in the face of the victims of the Haitian disaster when their hunger and thirst is responded to with this particular version of food for thought. But, of course, the worst of it all is to imagine what the money spent on this mission could have been used for instead. Well, this just has to be another of those prime examples of the cynicism that so often result from the missionary ambitions of christian believers, hasn't it?

Well, actually, reading what a representative of FCBH says to the ABC News, missionary activity is the last thing that this action is about! On the contrary, according to ABC News, "the Albuquerque-based organisation says it is responding to the Haitian crisis by 'providing faith, hope and love through God's word in audio'". So, this is what the message of love is about nowadays when none of those advances that have been made with the help of secular reasoning through the history of ethics are informing it: the pure pastoral version! Considering that what people in Haiti are primarily hungering for is hardly "to hear", they might just as well have sent over a few crates of this: