Monday, August 20, 2012

Respect and belief.

So our associate minister of education states that he believes the genesis account of creation in the christian bible to be correct. Not to long after a christian group from South Auckland express interest in running one of the governments new charter schools so that creationism can be taught alongside evolution.
This is, I believe, markedly different from some journalist sneaking around trying to discover dirty secrets about a politician. At a time when religion is in the news, a politician makes a statement about their religous beliefs is, in my opinion, very much putting said beliefs on the table for discussion.Following Banks's interview on Radio Rhema (where he told everyone he believes in genesis) there has been a flurry of twitter conversations expressing either laughter or despair. Personally, I believe I felt both of those emotions.
Then we get this tweet from Banks himself

Who knew so many would be interested & intolerant of my faith? These beliefs are my own and are separate from my Ministerial duties.
Firstly, bringing something like this up, at the same time as christian groups express interest in running charter schools links his beliefs to his ministerial duties as the Assocaiate Minister of Education. It wouldn't if he was the the associate minister of ... say Justice or Corrections.This link also justifies the interest in the public statement of his beliefs.
The other point is the characterisation of the ridicule expressed on twitter as intolerance. It's not intolerance, it's a lack of respect. Intolerance would imply that people are actively trying to prevent him from speaking. There's no censorship police breaking down his door to take his computer away. The police will not be prosecuting. This is as it should be. He is as free as anyone else in New Zealand to talk about his beliefs, everyone is, as they should be, tolerating his expression of belief. What the twitterverse doesn't have is respect for his beliefs.
Now here I need to clarify something. Respect is one of those tricky words, in that it can have multiple meanings. you can say "with respect to" which is a simple acknowledgement. Or you can say "I respect person X or idea Y", which is to say that you acknowledge and admire X or Y. While one can respect the right of a person to have certain beliefs (sense 1) it does not automatically follow that you respect those beliefs (sense 2). It's a a small difference in the words but it changes meanings significantly. I am firmly in the camp that believes that a persons right to belief anything should not be impinged upon. I don't see religious beliefs being exempt from criticism, especially when there is the potential for the beliefs of an individual to unduly influence our secular education system.

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