donderdag 26 maart 2015


Recently the book Isabella. The Warrior Queen appeared, written by Kirstin Downey, about Queen Isabella of Spain. She was the wife of King Ferdinand and together they at the end of the fifteenth century managed to expulse the Muslims and Jews from Spain.

The book was recently discussed by Nina Weijers. In doing so she made use of a certain cliché that gradually has become implausible, and which therefore I think it is better not to use any longer.

I refer to the following passage (about Isabella): “Although she was fond of the New Testament, her mentality was more Old Testament in nature. As Downey concludes: ‘She was always more inclined to claim an eye for an eye than to turn the other cheeck.’”.

I object to the misguided nature of a suchlike passage, including the presented quote. Because what happens in the passage is paradoxical:
- It starts uncritically from a specific cliché, namely, the association of the New Testament with love and rejection of the principle of an eye for an eye.
- Then it notes that a supporter of the New Testament simply employs the principle of an eye for an eye.
- In the last sentence it restores the association of the New Testament with  turning the other cheek.

I do object to this because - in spite of the factual reality - the labels of New Testament and Old Testament remain intact: Old Testament = violence, New Testament = love.

This is correct to the extent to which the New Testament is another book with a different content. But I think that, once a book has gone along for thousands of years, our associations must be determined not only by the content. The actual intercourse with it by authority figures and its cultural integration must weigh in the associations we attach to them. From that point of view Isabella’s performance would well be exemplary of the action of many other New Testament lovers. If so then that, in my opinion, should affect the automatic associations we attribute to the New Testament.

My suggestion would therefore be to permanently wipe from our minds those clichéd associations. Because the clichés continue to produce misunderstandings and subcutaneously keep playing their dark role. When erasing them we can let us help by recognizing the reality of nuclear deterrence strategy of the Christian West, which has been based for decades on the principle: if you’ll hit, I will hit you first. Or by the position taken by leaders from the New Testament Eastern European culture as Putin and Poroshenko. The latter recently told us: “Do not think that we turn the other cheek when we are attacked”.

Maybe there is not much difference between the Old and New Testament. And is the real difference where people start murdering or beheading out of the blue, rather than in people who use rules of equal retribution for their own defense. The latter may be quite human. Turning the other cheek seems to me rarely an option anyway.

Also see Holy fire and Landmarks