03 April 2007

World Religions in Education

First of all, I would like to say:

Happy Passover!!!

Happy Holy Tuesday!!!

Happy Declaration of the Second Republic "Power Taken by the Military" in Guinea!!!

Last night, my husband switched over to CNN at about 7 p.m. to catch the news. A piece about a new law in England caught my interest. It seems, according to CNN, that England has decided to quite teaching about the Holocaust for fear of offending people. A year ago, I would not have understood this, but after my experience with a forum about the holocaust at http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=671&pst=776268
I understand.

There are laws in Europe that make it illegal to deny The Holocaust, and God forbid we question anything. In the group, I announced I would play devil's advocate because of the law that made it illegal to deny the Holocaust.

Next thing I knew, I was sent hate messages and told by care2 that the group needed a warning or to be made private or to delete the thread. I chose to post the warning in the heading of the group. I was also told by someone that it was insulting for me to even bring up the topic of holocausts.

So with this reaction, is it any wonder England would pass a law forbidding the subject of the Holocaust?

It reminds me of the incident at Pittsburgh airport where a rabbi threatened to sue the airport because the airport had a Christmas tree and not a Star of David. So the airport took down the Christmas tree since it felt unable to represent every religion in the world.

Looking for stories on the subject, I found this I would like to share. It is by W. Owen Cole:

World Religions in Education

Shap Journal 2000 – 2001


It ain't necessarily so

W Owen Cole

Historians and traditionalists, which is what Religious Education teachers often are, frequently behave in different ways when faced with identical facts. The religious studies person is primarily concerned with the meaning of an event, not with whether it actually happened. Within the Christian tradition we may be used to this and have come to accept it, but have we? Recently, I was asked to moderate some MA essays about the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Not one of the writers made the point that the evidence is almost totally unreliable; most of it comes from Christian sources, the New Testament, the rest is probably based on hearsay. No contemporary British court of law would give it a hearing. The students, and most of the tutors were Christians, so they were credulous to an extent that an historian is not allowed to be. Of course, the religious studies approach is to consider what the death and resurrection of Jesus mean. There are circumstances in which the RE teacher may have to be concerned with what actually happened. I select four examples from English history.

St Alban

Not, one would think a controversial character, but the actual date of his martyrdom, if discovered, might set back the Christian presence in Britain by one hundred years, from about 304 to just before 212. Usually his death is placed in the period of Diocletian's final great persecution, but the Caesar Constantine seems to have avoided the order being carried out. If, as records suggest, Alban was tried before a Caesar it mightwell have been a son of the Emperor Severus whoaccompanied him to Britain and became emperor whenhe died here. Is Alban part of the story of the Romanswhich we teach? Incidentally, when you teach the Romans what place do we give to Jesus, the member of the Roman Empire whohad the greatest influence upon world history, taking along view, of any member of the Empire? Or Paul, the best known Roman citizen? More is known about him than almost any of the emperors. Is it proper to be silent about them?

The Crusades

Most famously this is the story of Richard the Lionheart. You may not teach that allegedly he was gay but knowing this, does it affect your thinking about him or them? Is the all too common picture of gays as effeminate challenged? But also, the English hero had little time for these islands, visiting only twice, and briefly, to be crowned and raise money for the Third Crusade. (He did not love England as much as theEnglish have traditionally loved him). Crusaders raised much of the money they needed for the expedition from the Jews who were bankers, being allowed to do few other things, such as own landed estates. For aficionados of Robin Hood, if it all happened in the days of Richard, friars had not yet been invented! (pace, Harry Ramsden). In 1190 a crusader from York borrowed money fromthe Jews to finance his venture. He stirred up the citizens of York against the Jews who sheltered in Clifford's Tower where they were burned to death. He, meanwhile, went to the Minster where the bonds of the transaction were stored, and destroyed the evidence by burning it in the nave of the Minster. A hundred years later, 'the King's Jews', as they were known, having no wealth left, and so being of no value, were expelled from England. Among the last was a group put on a boat fora continental destination. Their boat grounded on the mud flats near the mouth of the Thames. The captain advised his cargo to stretch their legs. When the tide turned and the Jews tried to re-embark, they were repelled and left to drown, as he reminded them how God had helped them at the Red Sea! Officially, there were no Jews in England until Oliver Cromwell readmitted them in 1655. How did Shakespeare and his audience know that Shylock was a typical Jew? The story of Jewish massacres and the Jews' eventual expulsion, an episode of English history which I did not know about until 1990, reminds us that holocaust was not an isolated episode in Jewish history. The first British legislation aimed at controlling immigration was passedin 1905 when the British were anxious not to be overwhelmed by Jews seeking shelter from persecution in eastern Europe. Some of those who sought sanctuary in the thirties were turned away, often to face death. In the second world war period, Jewish and other refugees were sometimes put into concentration camps in fear that they might be spies. The story of British Jewry should serve as a reminder that the tolerant image which our governments seek to create and perpetuate is not necessarily true.


For many years I taught about Clarkson and
Wilberforce and England's part in suppressing the slave trade. Only comparatively recently have I discovered how active they had been in promoting the industry. Even more recent is my awareness that black African rulers shared with Europeans in the process of enslavement, a fact which some blacks have yet to come to terms with. Liverpool, Bristol, and the Industrial Revolution were built, not a little, on the foundations of slavery. As an interesting aside it might be noted thatnowhere in the New Testament is slavery condemned! Perhaps it does advocate humane slavery, as I heard someone argue recently. What is humane slavery? Incidentally, much as I enjoy the music of Nat King Cole, he reminds me continually, that at least one member of my clan owned slaves and made them take his name!

The legacy of Empire

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre so vividly depicted inthe film Gandhi and the assault on participants in the Salt March alerted many people for the first time to a side of imperialism with which they were not familiar. Recent television programmes about the contribution of Commonwealth citizens to the British opposition to Germany in two world wars have brought about a realisation that two and a half million volunteers from what was India, and others from the Caribbean, came to the aid of what they were taught was the mother country. They were with the British Expeditionary Force,they faced the hazard of Dunkirk, they were at El Alamein and, most famously, in Burma. Yet how often are they seen even in news footage of these events? Churchill, apparently, did not like them. Montgomery preferred not to notice them, unlike his predecessor Auchinleck who spoke several Indian languages. Some years ago a plaque to the contribution of the Indians was unveiled by our present queen in St Paul's Cathedral, but in 1995 few Indians were to be seen in the national commemorative parades and the serviceswere purely Christian. Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, who had volunteered to fight for the Empire and had won 28 VCs, were not allowed publicly to pray for Britain or the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as we might say, it might be remembered that non-conformists were often not well represented in Middlemarch and other nineteenth century novels, and that they were only invited to take part in the King's Coronation as recently as 1902. Roman Catholics, as opposed to pre-Reformation Catholics have yet to be offered a place. Times have changed. They will be next time, but is the UK yet multifaith enough to include other religions, not merely as guests but as full participants? A multifaith, multiracial Britain - it ain't necessarily so, yet. A healthy nation is one which can face up to its pastand then, like Pilgrim, let the weight fall off hisshoulders. First, however, it must be acknowledged that the toleration and decency on which we pride ourselvesis very recent. History cannot be eliminated but perhaps it can be redeemed. The RE teacher can do no more and no less than look for truth and on the way, perhaps win the respect of Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs or not,who may sometimes regard confession as a sign of weakness. Meanwhile, it is up to them to reconsider their religious traditions in the light of a timely more accurate and realistic rewriting of history.

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