Last night I went to see the film Luther - which unsurprisingly enough is a biographical epic which focuses on the life and works of Martin Luther. I have always felt a strange attraction to Luther, not for his religion, but for the ‘here I am, I can do no other’ part. This post, however, has little to do with the film, except in that it is about how small changes in our ways of thinking can have big impacts.
You see all through the film I couldn’t help thinking about the recent act of ‘personation’ carried out by the Spanish radio station cadena COPE, and about just how stupid the people behind it really seem to be.
La COPE is a Spanish language national radio network owned by the Catholic Church in Spain. It is also fairly described as being ‘strongly right wing’ in its views. It is also affectionately known as the ‘bishops station’. This much I imagine is agreed by everyone.
Critics of the channel claim it is virulently anti-Catalan and at the same time homophobic. It is certainly a fervent critic of the proposed new statute of autonomy for Catalonia and of the recent legalisation of gay marriage.
Now last week a participant in a regular COPE programme – comedian David Miner – phoned Bolivian President elect Evo Morales, and passed himself off as Spanish President Rodriguez Zapatero. The content of the conversation is not hard to imagine, and, had Miner ended the call by explaining it was all a gag, the matter might have ended there.
But he didn’t. And Morales immediately convened a press conference, where he said he had been urgently invited to Spain by President Zapatero to discuss the ‘new global order’ and the Morales-Castro-Chavez axis.
Clearly some rapid diplomacy on the part of the Spanish government, including foriegn minister Moratinos summoning papal nuncio Monsignor Manuel Monteiro de Castro to read him, one imagines, the riot act (the Catholic Church in Spain it should be noted is effectively paid for by the government, and he who pays the piper…..) seems to have calmed the whole thing down, but I am still left with one over-riding and preoccupying feeling.
The issue in my mind is the fact that the election of Morales is just one more indication of the growing sense of self-awareness which exists among the indigenous peoples of Latin America. Now, the behaviour of COPE in effectively ridiculing Morales for having little formal education and even less political savvy could be read as being racist in inspiration. Even more to the point, as Mario Vargas Llosa has been pointing out of late, the Catholic Church in Latin America is coming under increasing threat from protestant evangelism, a movement which is particularly strong among the indigenous peoples. All of which takes us back to Luther, and just how easy it is to lose yourself a hell of a lot of believers, if you are careless enough in how you treat them that is.