Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Religious Archaeology: A Theological Quandary

In a recent post Jim West commented on the religious rhetoric being used in the Christian Zionist magazine 'Israel Today' to protest against the destruction of important Jewish artefacts by Palestinians on the Temple Mount. The worry is that disinterested archaeology is being jeopardized by calls to 'Bible believing Christians' who should also have an ideological stake in the site. I would concur that perverting facts in the name of religion or any form of ideology is not a desideratum, and is best avoided (confusing the 'Waqf Authority' with 'Muslim' is particularly unhelpful).
On the website of One Jerusalem, a video has been produced with the same appellatory tone, though this time in reference to Orthodox Judaism (check out the vid). It seems as if both faiths, 'Bible believing Christianity' (which in the link means a certain strand of conservative evangelicalism) and 'Orthodox Judaism', feel that historical, political reality and religious belief cannot be separated.
That this is can be dangerous and perverted is exemplified in this shocking video documentation here (linked to and criticised by The Metaphysical Club: please, watch it! If you call yourself 'Christian' then surely it is your duty!).
Nevertheless, have they got it all wrong? How should a 'bible believing' Christian or Jew respond? What is the nature of the relationship between faith and the 'real world'? Is it the case that faithful Christianity is a matter of private spiritual issues that shouldn't touch on the political, social, material reality around us? Or have these so-called fundamentalists touched on something at the heart of our faith that cannot be denied - as difficult and uncomfortable as that may be?


dave b said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog--good stuff by the way. It would probably be easiest if you send me an email (dbeldman@sympatico.ca) and I will respond to your questions (I have many questions of my own). I should mention that I will be away for while so I might not be able to respond immediately. I look forward to further contact though!

Anonymous said...

It seems that Dr. West is obsessed with "disinterested archaeology" as if that is something that exists. As much as I respect him, the whole objective disinterested archaeology is a load of BS. I think Deridda would do him some good.

I should not be interested in the Temple Mount because I am a Christian? What other reason should I be concerned? I

Phil Sumpter said...

You're right, Derrida et al help shift the dialogue on such topics to a different level. The challenge for me, however, is to hold in tension both the dimension which Jim emphases: namely 'what's there', and the types of faith claims Christianity makes which, as I Christian I can't ignore. Hence, for me at least, the theological quandary. The video clip by Blumenthal illustrates how high the stakes are.

Phil Sumpter said...

A Technical quandary: Hmmm, the URL opens the webpage within the tiny little frame of this window. That's not practical, but this page won't accept my target="_blank" instructions. Is there a way out of that?