Monday, 13 July 2009

Witnessing an act of violence...

Occasionally I do a Google-search to see what people are saying about Bus Stop Bible Studies. Very occasionally one pops up that really grabs my attention, saying something that is of real significance. The following is text copied from the blog of one David Barker.  I think the text speaks for itself.

“Last evening I rode the bus half way across the city. I sat at the back of the bus beside a woman in a hijab to my left and a Sikh in a turban to my right. After all, this is Toronto. I was on my way to a meeting - a workshop really - to review a draft statement of values called VisionWorks. Depending on who's describing it, the community producing this document could be characterized as a far left post-Christian postmodern community, or as a far right band of neo-literalists who are supplanting one dogma for another. I don't identify with either characterization but that's neither here nor there.
I was using a copy of VisionWorks as a bookmark in an English translation of Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, which I was readng assiduously as the bus bumped and whined its way east. I read:
219. ‘Moral judgement and condemnation is the favourite form of revenge of the spiritually limited on those who are less so, likewise a form of compensation for their having been neglected by nature, finally an occasion for acquiring spirit and becoming refined - malice spiritualizes. Deep in their hearts they are glad there exists a standard according to which those overloaded with the goods and privileges of the spirit are their equals - they struggle for the 'equality of all before God' and it is virtually for that purpose that they need the belief in God.’
As someone stood to leave, I heard a crinkling on the floor. The Sikh beside me leaned over and pulled up a poster. It was an advertisement from the Toronto-based - a scriptural quotation about loving god. You know the one. Somebody had pulled it down and tossed it on the floor. The man beside me stood and tried to insert it back into the slots that hold the ads in place, but the ad wouldn't stay there and fell back to the floor. He tried again but gave up because there was no way to prop up the scriptural passage. He moved to the front of the bus and I noticed on the seat beside him an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper covered in selections from the Psalms. The heading was sandwiched between a crown like the one in the margarine ads and a star of David. It read:
This was my evening for religious pluralism! The document I was on my way to consider is intended, in part, to address the fact that we live in a world where buses are packed with Muslims and Sikhs and fundamentalist Christians and postmodern poets who believe only in the bus ride.
After the Sikh had moved forward, I had room on the seat beside me to stretch out the ad and look at it more closely. What struck me most was that the ad was covered in dirty footprints. Not only had it been torn down; it had also been stomped on. Now I understood why the Sikh had tried so hard to put the ad back in its place.
I could share with him a sinking feeling at the sight of the footprints. It evoked in me something visceral, as if I had witnessed an act of violence. While I have no great regard for proselytism, nor for the religion being proselytized, it diminishes us all when anyone's beliefs are stomped on.”
David, I hope you don’t mind me copying your words but your closing paragraph caused me to say out loud, “Amen!” I hope to be able to shake your hand, and the hand of the noble Sikh, one day.