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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The BBC - The Big Question

On Sunday Morning I watched “The Big Question” the BBC program fronted by its compare, Mr. Nicky Campbell; it purports to present discussion on the moral questions that impact our lives. Four ‘experts’ gave their opinions (one tried to – if the compare permitted her to speak – but more about that later) while the studio audience with specialists sitting in the front rows added their voices to the discussion.

The format is usually to present three separate sessions on different topics but this time it was just the one item about whether the Bible is still relevant.

Richard Dawkins, the militant atheist is particularly abusive in his criticism of the Torah (or Hebrew Bible). He may indeed be a professor of something but like many academics throughout history his myopic intellectual vision is incapable of seeing past his own narrowly  prejudiced world view. He is unable to accept either the complex realities of ancient literature or, by exegesis of the relevant texts to accept that judging ancient history literally, is by modern standards intellectually incorrigible.  It is as if we were to uncritically embrace Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” in the pursuit of a bigoted literary enjoyment, failing to contemplate at all, its venal and ancient prejudice. For the narrow minded scholar there can only ever be one possible narrative.

To Jonah Goldberg, ‘fascist’ is “a modern word for heretic,” and for me, fascism is the modern orthodoxy that places everything else outside of the sphere of the acceptable (including opinions and thoughts).

With every new generation the Hebrew Bible is critically re-examined. Given that hundreds of millions of lines of exegesis surround it, to dismiss our relationship to this book by applying a superficial analysis of its contents is unbefitting of either an intellectual or a teacher. 

When the good rabbi did in fact point out that the Hebrew bible, was ancient but was also continuously being reappraised and reinterpreted, explaining or contextualizing both the arcane and the common to provide meaning to the ancient texts – her comments were dismissed by Mr. Campbell.

Albert Camus in ‘The Rebel’ says that “Fascism is an act of contempt.” In fact fascism is an act of contempt that is unmoved by persuasion, debate or history.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali spoke on behalf of the Bible as did Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner. A fourth participant, an archaeologist, adept at self promotion had proclaimed herself a radical reinterpreter of the ‘Old Testament’ (but her views have been commonly enunciated by other certainly more eminent archaeologists, working in the field, in Israel, for many years before her).  Admitting to enjoying a militantly rejectionist view of the Hebrew Bible she volunteered the opinion  that the “New” Testament was wholly historical in its compilation and therefore provided the skeptical but kosher critique of ‘Old Testament’ (only) history as myth. Even she however, corrected the Compare when she said that the correct term was to call the Old Testament the Hebrew Bible. (Nicky Campbell, with condescension, dismissed this as “PC”).

The audience included a lay member of the ruling Synod of the Church of England who as anticipated, did not compare but did contrast the Old with the New, the negative (of the Old) to the mercy of the New. There was much made of Old Testament cruelty and revenge juxtaposed with New Testament mercy.

On another occasion a Jewishly relevant comment was made and the natural response would have been to have deferred to the Rabbi for an answer.  But by this stage it had become clear that Rabbi Janner-Klausner was there to provide window dressing only; a return to medieval humiliation and degradation in active demonstration of the superiority of the dominant faith.  The Rabbi found it difficult to respond to anything because our unbiased BBC compare would not let her speak.  She began putting up her hand in an obvious attempt to speak! In the end she had to leap into the conversation with comments as it appeared to be the only way she would be allowed to talk in defense of any Jewish religious position.  Nicky Campbell was dismissive.

The program was unashamedly biased as one has come to expect of the BBC.  Both Rabbi Janner-Klausner and Bishop Nazir-Ali did well to confront the intolerance and prejudice of the ethnocentric Mr. Campbell.

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