You go your way and I'll go mine
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Martin van Beynen
I don't really mind what people choose to believe in as a personal faith.
We are all seekers of meaning in our lives and if love, sport, companionship, music, books, conversation, food, liquor, art, crafts, the outdoors and warm autumn days are not enough, then I can understand why people will try to fill the void.
If belief in an interventionist God, karma, feng shui, the healing power of crystals, homeopathy, oneness with nature, alien abduction, earth gods, taniwha, evil spirits and head cloths make life more bearable, then all power to your arm. That is what religious freedom is all about.
In return, all I ask is a few things in return. First, do not ask me to take your belief seriously. I reserve the right to mock you, make jokes at your expense and make what some might think are insulting remarks about your beliefs. I am not saying I will, but I reserve the right to do so.
I don't mind hearing a lot of outrage in return, but what I don't want to hear are calls for the state or the law to protect your God or beliefs from disrespect or mockery. If your God is as all knowing and all powerful as you think, a poke from a humble columnist on a provincial newspaper is not going to make a lot of difference.
Derision is sometimes hard to resist. For instance, the sight of Anglican bishop Victoria Matthews waving her "magic wand" at the site of the new cardboard cathedral last week, as though casting a spell on the heathen, barren ground, which not so long ago was heaving in a destructive wave across Christchurch, is a good case in point. While all beauty in nature is, of course, the work of the almighty, nature's destructive power has nothing to do with him. Otherwise, you would have thought the religious in Christchurch would have taken the hint by now.
The second thing I ask is that I am not expected to pay for the practice of your beliefs, unless you can give me a very good reason.
For instance, I can understand an argument that ratepayers should have contributed to the upkeep of the former Christ Church Cathedral because it was such an important landmark, heritage building.
It fulfilled a religious role, which I expected the believers to fund themselves, but there was no escaping it also had a civic and tourist (dollar earning) function.
The temporary $5 million cathedral will serve, as far as I can see, only as a place of worship and an oddity, and now the Christchurch City Council has been asked for an annual stipend of $240,000 for support.
Even if I was a fervent Christian and Anglican, I would be questioning the spending of a huge sum on what is a temporary structure to house a dwindling congregation of mainly pensioners. Did Jesus not say wherever you find me, you will find my church or something to that effect? If he did not, he should have. You would think the earthquake had levelled every Anglican church in Christchurch.
Surely enough capacity exists in the remaining churches to accommodate the worshipping hordes.
What is it the Anglicans find so objectionable about the beautiful and undamaged St Michael's Church in Durham St?
Does it harbour some evil spirit which repels most Anglicans and makes them ill if they come through the door?
And for something truly radical, would it be too much for the various faiths to share remaining churches in the spirit of Christian charity?
Sundays are a good time to find vacant buildings in Christchurch. Surely the church could have looked around for a space, such as a warehouse or basement car park, where it could set up shop for the morning.
Congregations would have received a useful reminder that it is the song not the singer. Anyway, $5 million on a cardboard cathedral. It amazes me the spending has not caused more of an uproar in a city where people are living in garages and other unsuitable accommodation.
We all know $5m would buy a good deal of temporary housing, even if it was only a fleet of caravans.
The Anglicans' deranged behaviour over the cathedral almost makes me wish Gerry-the-all- powerful, and a Catholic to boot, would step in and confiscate the land. He could justify the action on the grounds of re-establishing some common sense in the Anglican community. Perhaps the Cera Act even gives him the power to cast magic spells and lift others?
And perhaps, following on from the Auckland convention centre deal, he might have some ideas about a public-private partnership.
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