In a brilliant Op-Ed for the Guardian, Andrew Brown talks of the sincere but more nuanced way his forebears drank with and against their religious enemies in Northern Ireland:
How very different the conduct of religious discussions on the internet. On the web the participants are often sober and they spare no pains to offend and insult one another, even when there is nothing at stake. I nearly wrote "nothing but prestige" but prestige in whose eyes? Who is watching? The strange, weightless intimacy of online communication has enabled complete strangers to hate each other passionately within minutes. This has had measurable effects in the real world. In the US, for instance, the breakup of the Anglican Communion has already resulted in some huge and juicy lawsuits and will certainly result in many more as conservative parishes try to remove their churches from the liberal central body. The schism could never have happened without the internet, which allowed each side to see exactly what the other was up to, and then deliberately to misunderstand it.
If it’s any consolation for Anglicans, Atheists vs Creationists are equally rude, dismissive and vituperative... But why carry on mindless slugging matches, shouting past each other into empty space, anyway?
In County Fermanagh, religious differences were real enough for people to kill one another: my great-grandfather is buried in Enniskillen, which was the scene of one of the worst bombings. Perhaps because of that, people learned not to give offence unless there was something really serious at stake. But online, everything feels like a game, and in the teeth of all the evidence we persist in believing that there is a clear sharp line between gaming and reality.
- “the faith once delivered to the saints” does actually include the Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the conversation with the woman at the well.
- “human anger does not work the righteousness of God.”
- Jesus said his disciples would answer for saying “raca” to a brother in the fire of hell.