Sorry for all the rambling that is to follow, but I need to vent.
In a TIME Magazine interview, American writer John Updike recently said this:
This kind of friendliness toward death, this feeling that it's not such a big deal to kill or die, is after my generation. And you begin to say, Why? There are so many people in the world that I think the notion that you are dispensable begins to catch everywhere. And that also, in an economic situation that seems like a dead end to everybody, like this one, I think it's easier to be willing to die.
This weekend, my American host mom came to visit me with a friend of hers. We had not seen each other in five years, but always kept contact. They live in Southern California, but are faithful Christians (I guess that's what they'd call themselves). I grew up in what was then East Germany and was not raised religiously, albeit we are no atheists either.
I never had a problem with my host family being Christian. I found it very interesting to get to know this kind of life - going to church every Sunday, praying before (the few) dinners (we had together). For the most part, I agreed with what they believed in, but my cultural and political background sort of keeps me from confessing to any faith, to any political movement, etc. I think my host mom gave up on converting me a while ago. And I tend to always question everything, always wonder what else there is that I don't know anything about yet. Because I want to be able to understand other people's views.
When watching the news about the new conservative, evangelical movement in the U.S., I used to dismiss this phenomenon to people from the Bible Belt - people who had never travelled much, never seen many immigrants, who didn't get a good education. But here my host mom's friend comes along. She's from California, too, used to be a teacher, is travelling the world. And she believes all these things that come right out of conservative populist propaganda: Global warming is a liberal invention. (Yeah, right! We had a hail storm here last week that shattered cars and windows. We have a thunder storm at least once a week - and when I was a child, we had one every summer.) And evolution (and having teachers required to teach it) comes right out of hell.
Moreover, Europeans aren't really Christians, cause they don't believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Why else do we allow Gay marriage, don't mind people running around barely dressed? Oh, and yes, Javier Solana may be the Antichrist, but she hasn't really made up her mind on that one yet. And what ties in with what Updike said: She's really looking forward to the Rapture.
My host mom is more moderate in most of these subjects. Yet, I have been raised with values such as tolerance towards and acceptance of those who are different, with respect for other people's opinions, and I have always considered those fundamentally Christian values, too. Our culture is, after all, based on 2,000 years of (Judeo-)Christian history.
My host mom (albeit to a slightly lesser degree) and her friend, however, did not once consider those things. When two young men passed us on the street holding hands, it was scandalous for them. When I told them that Europeans (because of our long history, Enlightenment and WWII included) had a somewhat less literal interpretation of the Bible nowadays, they were shocked. But not once did it occur to them that our way of culture has some very valid points, too. At least that was my impression. My host mom's friend seemed to have jumped right of the FOX News propaganda war room. And I just couldn't believe what felt like to me to be an ignorant arrogance - as if there really was one single truth and that had it all to themselves, as if it really was that simple.
And for the first time, I didn't really want to understand them. I wanted to get angry for all their selfrighteous hypocricy. They judged everyone (I guess, including me) ... and they're so readily willing to give up on this life, this world - to be with God. (Is that much different from a suicide attack?) And I don't want to believe in a God who teaches that.
I'd rather believe in hope - for this life! - acceptance, respect, and love for each other - regardless of skin color, religion, social or political background. I want to believe that we have the power to change things. I want to believe in my own free will and my own responsibility, and that eventually enough people will be smart enough to see that all this fundamentalist religious talk is only getting is deeper into trouble. But how do you argue with people who are so certain about their views? (And I assume I am one of them, except I have a different faith.)