Historical Randomness #2: When John Met Galileo (plus a little bit of politics)

Maybe it’s because one was a scientist and the other was a poet. Maybe it’s because we tend to be taught history in isolation, so we don’t immediately connect an astronomer upsetting the Vatican in Europe to the guy who write Paradise Lost.  Maybe it’s because we tend to segregate the arts and the humanities. Whatever the reason, I found it both strange and cool to discover that John Milton once met Galileo. As this New Yorker article says, it’s like a comic book in which Superman meets Spider-Man, only in this case it helped inform the Areopagitica, Milton’s polemic against the Licensing Order of 1643 and the censorship of the presses. I don’t really have anything profound to add, I just find this sort of thing interesting, in the same way that there’s something fascinating in the idea that Isaac Newton wrote commentaries on the book of Revelation (you can download Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John if you’re so inclined).

However, with all this talk of anti-censorship and religion, I should mention the latest BNP stunt. With the forthcoming Euro elections, the British National Party are apparently using pictures and words of Jesus as part of their campaign. Never mind that, as a middle-Eastern Jew the BNP would be offering Jesus money to leave the country if he was around today. Never mind that the verse they quote from John’s Gospel (“If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you”, verse 20) comes only a couple of sentances after “This is my command: Love one another”. Never mind that stories like The Good Samaritan depend on challenging ingrained racist attitudes amongst their original audience. When I first heard about this, I actually felt physically angry, but it’s difficult to know what the appropriate response is – call for the publicity to be banned? Call for the BNP to be banned? Well, it’s difficult to do that yet still want a free press. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t speak out against the misrepresentation of Christ in this case (or in any case) – I’m no fan of the wackier fringes of the Religious Right co-opting Jesus for the whole “rape-the-planet-smite-the-terrorists” thing, but the far right getting in on the act is faintly obscene.

Makes you wonder what Milton would think of it all.


4 thoughts on “Historical Randomness #2: When John Met Galileo (plus a little bit of politics)

  1. sudge

    The BN F*****G P!! They’ve cropped up an awful lot in my sphere the past few days, was thinking of posting on them myself. I had to subtitle one of their party political broadcasts.
    Now, I could have refused it. The union made sure taht if you’re so opposed to it, then you can turn it down. I paused for a while before doing it, about ten minutes. Just thinking if I should. But then, freedom of speech pops up. Sure, I could deny them the chance to state their case, but that’s the kind of thing THEY would do, and I’m above that.
    I hate them. Hell, I half seriously think about just setting out to take them down for good. But they’ll do that to themselves. They’ll convince no one, and their hate will be recognised for what it is. Blind and terrified.
    Don’t worry mate. They’ll fall.

    1. matthewhyde Post author

      You should get a blog out of that actually. It’s an interesting ethical dilemma to be in now you’re part of the media (although if you do blog it, I’d be tempted to restrict access to it, just in case)…
      I’ve never liked the far right. Them using quotes from Jesus just made me REALLY dislike them…

      1. Anonymous

        I don’t hate them, because I just don’t care enough about them to waste that kind of energy. But what I don’t understand is why they don’t just come out and admit… “OK, OK, you were right – we ARE racists! But at least now we’re proving that we credit you with SOME intelligence.”
        They can’t be fooling themselves, can they? Or can they?
        Nice to see you guys posting again!

  2. Pingback: Bizarre Fact of the Day… | Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

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