By Chet Yarbrough
By Eliza Griswold
Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
Eliza Griswold writes about Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia,
Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines as battleground nations; i.e. battlegrounds for organized relgion.
Two religions are battling along “The Tenth Parallel”, ten degrees above the equatorial latitude of the world. Griswold is the daughter of a Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She graduated from Princeton and has built a reputation as an investigative journalist with her 2004 investigation of the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Griswold certainly has “street cred” for her subject but her point of view is too narrow for the complex reality of the world she describes in “The Tenth Parallel”. The subject of religious conflict simplifies causes and consequences of human conflict. Religion partially subsumes education and minimizes poverty, disease, and material resource; i.e. all underlying causes of conflict in the wide world; let alone “The Tenth Parallel”. These causes are made more convoluted and complex by human nature.
Griswold tells a story of traveling with Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, to meet Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir, an Islamist and President of Sudan, accused of crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Griswold reveals her background as a child of a Christian minister just like Franklin Graham. She questions Graham’s willingness to convert Muslim followers to Jesus at the expense of their lives.
Graham asks Griswold to pray with him after explaining that everyone dies and that the important thing is that any converted Muslim that might be killed would now go to heaven rather than hell because of their conversion. This is an ugly face of Christian evangelism; i.e. a religious belief that conversion to the “true faith” justifies any means. This belief is spoken by an evangelist with a silver spoon in his mouth that “acted out” as a privileged youth and reformed to a devout believer after his father warned him of eternal damnation.
One wonders how that threat of damnation by Billy Graham is rationalized; i.e. a rationalization that hides a fear of possible loss of economic largess (money, power, and prestige) proffered by a $170,000,000 evangelist organization, headed by Franklin Graham.
The leader of Sudan allows the slaughter of his own people in Darfur in the name of Arab racial superiority and strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law). Al-Bashir is not a minister; he is a military leader, using Islamic religion to maintain a dictatorial grip on Sudan. Human nature; i.e. the pursuit of power and money, not religion, seems the more likely motivation for killing his own people.
Griswold opens a door on the role religious conflict plays in murder, and mayhem but the fundamental cause is human nature. Franklin Graham convinces himself that God is on his side so anything that brings a human being to his religion is ok but he fails to understand how self-interest consumes his life in subtle and not so subtle ways.
Franklin Graham is saved by his religious belief but he lives in luxury while most of tenth parallel’ citizens live in squalor and degradation. It is not that Franklin Graham is not trying to do good in his intervention in Darfur and other “tenth parallel” countries but his goal of religious conversion diminishes the living reality of those who die of starvation, disease, rape, and murder.
People like Al-Bashir are not using rationalization; they are simply using whatever means are necessary (religion, terror, genocide) to make leader’s lives more luxuriant.
The self-delusion of people like Franklin Graham may be as harmful to humanity as amoral African leaders. Griswold reveals only an aspect of leadership’s perfidy in religious conflict in “The Tenth Parallel”; i.e. human nature is the source of evil in the world. Organized religion and God are two different things; i.e. organized religion is a human creation; God is … [contact-form-7 id=”4427″ title=”What did you think about the review?”]