Review: Blind Spot 318

Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion edited by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Roberta Green Ahmanson OUP New York 220 pages 

Shah and Toft repeatedly speak of a ‘vitality’ in contemporary religion.  To this vitality they ascribe a ‘resurgence in prophetic politics’.  What they mean by ‘prophetic politics’, it emerges, is any political movement with a moral cause, or a jumble of causes, some of them familiar enough as pretexts for left-wing activism.  ‘Sudan, sexual trafficking, debt forgiveness, AIDS, and North Korea’ are listed together as examples.  Certain nationalist movements are counted as ‘prophetic politics’ if the people concerned share a religion. ‘Hindu nationalism’ is mentioned. (Mentioning is deemed sufficient, discursive argument is lacking.)  What they are probably referring to is that while mainly-Hindu India is growing in wealth and power, it has a territorial dispute over Kashmir with its Muslim neighbor Pakistan. This dispute is certainly national, with origins in old and persistent religious conflict, but no new religious fervor is driving it.     

‘Jewish Zionism’ (is there any other kind?) is also thrown in. But Zionism has nothing to do with religion. It was conceived as, and continues to be, an entirely secular movement,  concerned with the recovery of the ancestral homeland of the Jews as a people, albeit a people uniquely defined by a specific religion.

Even localized revolutionary movements that notoriously name themselves Christian though they are in fact Marxist, are adduced as proof of religious resurgence. Indeed many a terrorist organization, particularly in South America, has been encouraged by priests who sanctify their incitement to murder by calling it ‘liberation theology’ (if they’re Catholic) or ‘liberal theology’ (if they’re Protestant).  But if the authors rejoice in this – and they imply that they do – on the grounds that anything done in the name of religion is a good thing because a nod to God is worth any price, all they are demonstrating is that much recent and contemporary religious activity is thoroughly undesirable to say the least. 

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 8, 2008

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