In the August issue of Life News I wrote/published a satirical article titled “Owning up to Christian involvement in terror”. To my astonishment and dismay, a few readers missed the ironic tone and satirical intent and took me literally!
So let me spell out the meaning of my article. I was not saying that Christians are guilty of inciting and committing acts of terror. On the contrary, I was ridiculing such a notion.
I wrote my article in response to a piece of journalese by Brian Toohey in the West Australian (15 August) titled “Tough task gagging terror talk”. Toohey tried to argue that Christians share responsibility with Muslims for terrorism. He tried to argue that Christian fundamentalists are just like Muslim fundamentalists in the way they incite terror. He cited Pastor Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries as an example of a terror talker who “has urged his followers to pull down ‘Satan’s strongholds’ including mosques, temples and bottle shops”. Toohey asked: “Should it be a criminal offence only in the case of Muslims to incite people to commit acts of politically or religiously motivated violence? Or should a new law cover inflammatory Christians like Mr Nalliah who is a cleric in the Catch the Fire Ministry …?”
Quite frankly, I was infuriated by Toohey’s attempt to whitewash Islam and Muslims by blackening Christianity and Christians. But how do you respond effectively to an absurd and outrageous position such as this? One time-honoured way is to show it up as absurd by running with it and taking it to its extreme.
I expressed my contempt for Toohey’s position in my article by showing it up as absurd. His view that Christian “extremists” should be targeted by new terror laws every bit as much as Muslim extremists can only be valid if Christians have incited and enacted hatred as Muslims have. But they haven’t! There have been no Christians wearing bomb-belts, no Christians crying “Jesus is Great” as they detonate bombs or slit throats, no Christians flying planes into buildings! None anywhere ever! And that, by way of deadpan yet preposterous argument, is precisely the point I was making in my article.
I am at a loss to understand how anyone could have so misread my article as to take its claims literally. Let me quote part of it by way of reminder:
… Take the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002, for example.
Muslims took the rap for those bombings, but I am now convinced that no adherent to Islam, that great religion of tolerance and peace, was in any way involved. And it was Mr Toohey’s article that gave me the clue as to the identity of the true culprits.
Mr Toohey claims that Pastor Nalliah “urged his followers to pull down ‘Satan’s strongholds’ including … bottle shops”. And what is a nightclub if not an especially nasty bottle shop where bottles are uncorked and guzzled? Obviously, then, pastor Nalliah has encouraged his followers to pull down nightclubs. And let no one fudge the import of the pastor’s words by suggesting that he was speaking figuratively or “spiritually”. (In an uncharacteristic lapse into nonsense, Mr Toohey allowed the possibility that the pastor was merely “urging that the power of prayer be used to persuade God to pull down temples and mosques”.) No, no! Pastor Nalliah meant this “pulling down” literally and his followers took it literally. And the result was the Bali bombings.
Who can forget how the nightclubs burned after the bombings? They became infernos. And that is the giveaway. The towering flames were the appalling signature of Pastor Nalliah’s terrorist organisation, Catch the Fire Ministries (emphasis added). When Mr Toohey described Pastor Nalliah as an “inflammatory” Christian, little did he know just how truly he spoke! …
Thank you, Mr Phooey, for making all this clear to me!
How could anyone believe that these comments were seriously meant? Forget the fact that Dwight Randall illustrated the black comedy of my article with a composite picture of the Pope and Billy Graham watching over the collapsing Twin Towers. Forget the fact that on the page opposite my article I published an article by Jenny Stokes sympathetic to the two Catch the Fire pastors (“Christians ordered to ‘apologise’ to Muslims”). Forget the fact that I have published six articles this year in Life News defending the two pastors, one of which (“What if the pastor did make fun of Islam?”) I wrote myself. Forget, even, that over the past four years I have written ten articles analysing and commenting on the darkness of Islam. Forget all this and simply attend to the tone and style of the article—it takes some serious misreading to miss the satire and irony.
One person who actually “got” the article nonetheless wondered whether I had been wise to write it. Another person who also correctly understood it nonetheless wondered if I had written it to my usual standard. Now these are fair enough comments.
But as for the few who took the article the wrong way, I can only repeat what I said to one correspondent: “The article was a satire. And for satire to work, the writer must play it straight and rely on the intelligence of the reader. I have always relied on the intelligence of Life News readers and have never felt the need to talk down to them or to over-explain things to them.”
So, dear readers, be assured of my high esteem for you, and of my desire to serve you well for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Editor, Life News