Cake or death?

Interesting item on this morning’s Today programme, and on the BBC site, about thebaptism of hundreds of Jewish children in Vienna in 1938, so that they could have baptism certificates which would help them get out of the Reich.

Not everyone is for it, which looking back does seem a little odd, but you do have to recall where these people are coming from. It is a sad fact that over the last 2000 years forced baptism has been offered as the only alternative to torture and death, both options very often carried out by the same people.

I would not say that this is the same thing. If I believed in any kind of God (and, oh look, I do) then to be worth believing in, he would be quite capable of looking into the heart of the lucky convert and knowing exactly what is going on. Anything else just reduces the baptism ceremony to the level of magic. “Sorry, mate, you’ve had the water treatment. You’re now a Christian for ever and ever and ever, whether you like it or not, ha ha ha ha ha!”

Not everyone agrees with my enlightened insight, not even clever people like Jewish historian Professor David Cesarani of Royal Holloway, University of London, who

“… is appalled by what appears to him like a crass recruitment exercise of vulnerable people by a proselytising church.

“Any Christians who took advantage of the pressure on Jews to baptise them were doing just that. They were using leverage of the most terrible sort.[1]

“There were many other ways that members of the Christian clergy could have helped Jews – offering hiding places, false papers and other kinds of assistance.[2]”

[1] Well, yes and no, yes and no. If they were being expected to renounce their religion and their heritage for all time, else be shepherded into a waiting room from which the Gestapo could come and collect them, that would be one thing. If on the other hand the Revds Hugh Grimes and Fred Collard, who performed the ceremonies, knew that they were just doing this for show and had no expectation of the baptismees ever actually becoming Christian – so what? I repeat: this is not magic. God knows what’s going on in your heart and that is what counts.

[2] Well, that may be so and it would make a great movie. Alternatively, for five minutes of your time and a bit of water, you get a Get Out of the Holocaust Free card. Why is that such a big deal? Let’s see. Trickle of water on the head vs an expenses-paid sojourn to Auschwitz … hmm, tough one. Let me think about it.

So with the hugest respect to Prof Ceserani, whilst humbling acknowledging and not in the least belittling the centuries of genuine Christian persecution of the Jewish people, I do have to say (as the ancients might have put it if they had Google Translate), transire ipse, te magnum crustum.

Day 14: a picture of someone you could never imagine your life without

Okay, I dodged the bullet a few days ago but now it catches up with me. I simply cannot imagine not being Christian. And believe me, I’ve tried. Too much has happened to me in a strictly subjective, non-predictable or reproducible and hence strictly non-scientific way for it to be otherwise.

Y’see, this is the point the Blessed Dawkins and his ilk simply cannot get. They think all Christians are ultimately credulous fools and if only they could Have the Truth Explained then they would abandon their primitive superstitions and be happy and released. It never occurs to them that our beliefs might actually have been thought through and weighed against the evidence, and that while Dawkins et al argue from theory, we argue from experience.

Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?

My no. 1 favourite American clergyman of all time is our former vicar. My least favourite is still Fred Phelps, I think (hey, everyone should have a list like this) but pasta-brained Terry Jones has shot to the penultimate position. Both have a lot in common, not least a total absence of anything in their ministry that resembles something Jesus Christ would be proud to see his disciples doing. (Edited to add: this will change if TJ actually backs down, turns the other cheek etc. which actually would be vaguely Christlike.)

I confess I have now lost track as to whether or not Jones intends to proceed with his burn-a-Koran-day plan tomorrow. I think he has, too. Anyway, people seem to have forgotten, or probably not noticed, that Phred was apparently way ahead of him back in 2008 (there’s a link on his, ahem, “church”‘s site: if you’re curious enough you can find it but I ain’t putting it here) and intends to repeat the stunt himself. Never try to outshow a showman.

Back to Jonesy: what has been so repellent about the whole thing has been watching this vile little man – well, little in every conceivable way except for his moustache – relishing his position as the cameras of the world turn on him and even the President of the United States has to ask him not to, please. The scale of his self-delusion and aggrandisement is staggering, really; imagining that he is now a world player, able to affect the siting of the New York mosque at the cost of a few hundred ordinary lives – which won’t be his fault, no sir, no. Even Phred isn’t quite that big-headed, but only because he has officially given up on the entire world except for his congregation and has no intention of trying to influence anyone.

There is however a Facebook group apparently run by Muslims: INTERNATIONAL BURN A QUR’AN (onto a CD) DAY. Nice one.

Back to Jones again and, ooh, scripture: that reminds me. I can do that. 1 Corinthians 10.23. Also, Matthew 7.22-23, and since I’m in the zone a bit of Romans 12.17-21. So there.

Shame Obama couldn’t just stand up and rattle those off. Bartlet would have. He’s my no. 1 favourite American President, you know.