News Letter political editor meets Taliban (not really) and survives

The political editor of the News Letter Sam McBride has been to see one of Northern Ireland’s most dangerous men: Wallace Thompson; Chairman of the Council of Reference of the Caleb Foundation (dangerous according to the British Council for Science Education which has christened Caleb the Caleban). Sam seems to have found him somewhat less scary than he is suggested to be.

The Caleb Foundation (Caleb was a character in the Old Testament) is a conservative evangelical lobbying group set up to provide a sort of umbrella organisation to articulate the positions held by a number of the smaller Protestant evangelical churches in Northern Ireland and as a counterpoint to lobbying from the four main denominations.

Caleb and Wallace Thompson have attracted the ire of a different lobbying group the British Council for Science Education over their views on creationism. This has been enough to earn Wallace Thompson the title of Christian Fascist; that his organisation has “tentacles all over the place”; is aiming to make Northern Ireland a “fundamentalist Protestant theocracy” and is “a classic hardline anti-intellectual Northern Irish sectarian organisation, deeply anti-Catholic and pompously absurd in its claims about being Christian.”

In the face of all this Thompson seems a bit bemused and told McBride:

“No evangelical should ever adopt a Pharisaical attitude to life of saying ‘Look at how great I am and how dreadful others are’ — that is the road to pride and arrogance,” but concedes: “Perhaps our perception as evangelical Christians, evangelical Protestants, has been that type of image which we have to look at as well … mistakes have been made by Caleb, mistakes will be made by me personally and down through the years by church and state in Northern Ireland.”

He insists that the group is not “anti-culture, anti-the arts, anti-science”, and points out that many of its positions on issues such as creationism or Sunday trading are historical, not new.
Thompson says that the group’s opposition to a further relaxation of Sunday trading laws — as proposed by the social development minister Alex Attwood — is founded not just in its belief of the workless Sabbath, but also practical considerations, such as those of small businesses and families.
He then adds: “The other area is the rights of Christian shopworkers and the underlying pressure to work on a Sunday.
“It would also further erode what little family time there is if mum or dad has to go out to work in a shop.”

Thompson has of course been the subject of previous controversy when in one of his other roles as Secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society he stated the position that the Pope is Antichrist: though such issues are not part of Caleb’s remit.

Exactly how much influence Caleb actually has is difficult to establish: thus far there is no creationism in the Ulster Museum nor at the Giant’s Causeway. However, its positions are probably not far removed from those typically held amongst the smaller evangelical denominations and also by many of the more conservative members of the Presbyterian Church as well as some Church of Ireland and Methodist adherents.

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  • Pete Baker

    “Exactly how much influence Caleb actually has is difficult to establish: thus far there is no creationism in the Ulster Museum nor at the Giant’s Causeway.”

    “Thus far”, indeed.

    But they, including their “Council of Reference” Vice-Chairman, the DUP’s Mervyn Storey, have been lobbying on those issues.

  • More Tullyban than Taliban, Turgon. Was ‘Stormin Norman’ standing shoulder to shoulder with the then DUP leader, Ian Paisley, marshalling 500 gun-licence-waving supporters on the slopes of Slemish mountain in Co. Antrim? He doesn’t look the type, non even a pompous civil service type.

  • It seems that the ‘pompously absurd’ BCSE, which ‘believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves – Science, Education and Reason – and the outcome – Democracy, Pluralism and Liberty’ has got its knickers in a twist. The great ‘I ams’ sound a bit like Taliban imams; they could each turn down the volume.

  • Intelligent people change their historical positions in the face of new evidence. Otherwise we would all be taught that the sun revolves around the earth, that there are only 4 elements, that the world is flat and has an edge over which you can drop, and that you can get better from drinking out of bottles of water labelled as homeopathic dilutions of 10**40 (20C).

    Those who stick to their outdated beliefs, denying the evidence, are not fascists. Fascists are very good at using the latest science and technology, such as the IG Farben’s chemicals supplied to the 3rd Reich.

    So it is unfair to call Wallace Thompson a Christian Fascist – he is a New Age Evangelical, floating in the mysticism of the endarkenment.

  • [aside] “a further relaxation of Sunday trading laws”

    Turgon, the proposals have been put out for consultation and the Minister seeks submissions by April 8. No doubt numerous organisations and individuals will be lobbying publicly and privately for and against such a relaxation.

  • Zachariah Tiffins Foot

    I believe that the convention is that the thread is meant to end when the Nazis are referenced, however, I ‘d just say that I find the fundamentalist atheists much more scary that any of the church mob.

  • backstage

    Fundamentalism in all its forms challenges the heart of knowledge and progress. It is the most insidious, powerful and destructive force that democratic, pluralist societies now face around the world. It includes religious fundamentalism, most notably Christian and Islamic, as well as the plain stupid, dumbed-down broadcast and print press, e.g, Glenn Beck, Palin, NoW and Murdoch empire.

    Fundamentalism is based on the absence of reason and knowledge. It references ‘sacred’ texts and irrational fears. It does not confront argument and reason and this is what makes it so dangerous. Finding the way to challenge fundamentalism is one of the most important tasks we face in progressing global society and mankind in the immediate future.

  • vanhelsing

    T,

    I read their statement of faith which is about the same as most other Protestant Churches, salvation through grace, repentance – infallibility of the Word of God. Not rocket science really. As far as I’m aware they don’t mention female circumcision, the stoning of women or Jihad.

    They support a range of policies such as no to Sunday opening and no to gay marriages. You may not like these but they are as entitled to support and lobby for them as much as anyone else on the other side of the argument..

    All that said ‘tullyban’ was good 🙂

  • VH, Tullyban can mean white church or white hill depending on whether the Irish first element was Tulach or Tulaigh respectively. Our local religious and political ‘powders’ wash whiter than white; some are household names.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Turgon

    I must have missed something.
    Where exactly do the BCSE christen Caleb ‘The Caleban’, where indeed do they compare them to the Taleban? Not in their research document as far as I can see.

    http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/CalebFoundation

  • Turgon aside: “dangerous according to the British Council for Science Education which has christened Caleb the Caleban”

    BCSE link: “With that list of complaints, no wonder the Caleb Foundation is known as the Caleban. A bunch of obscure scientifically illiterate, politicised priests wanting to form a theocracy.”

    Perhaps the ‘boot-boy’ BCSE scribe was influenced by the BelTel: “[Caleb members] tend to be bright, able people, not dim-witted or humourless bigots. One member told me that they often refer to themselves as ‘the Caleban’ — a reference to the Taliban who imposed a fundamentalist form of Islam on Afghanistan.

    It is just an in-joke, but there is no doubt that Caleb is a highly politicised group of religious fundamentalists.”

  • edgeoftheunion

    Thanks Nevin

    I spelt it Caliban in my search, the perils of Shakespeare. There is however no reference to the Taliban?

  • Edge, Turgon qualifies his headline grabbing reference with ‘not really’; his joke is in line with the Caleb member’s own joke about the Caleban.