Friday, 24 September 2010

Not a Coward

Changing Attitude points out a danger of one mirror-imperialistic attitude to reasonable religion coming from Africa, that nonsense of a faith once delivered to the saints (as if by some godly postman in one envelope) being sent back to we the objects of their mission. Indeed it is one threat, which is why a Covenant for Anglicanism that somehow amalgams that form of religion with Western developed religion won't work.

To my mind what makes this a threat is not that they believe in some fervent and overbearing manner, but that there is a presumption of superstition built in, that miracles are happening, that the text is all about them and links Africa to Israel (and all that). Some of these Africans are visible now on satellite TV stations, who rant and rave about people getting better, as if such can happen from a TV screen. It is no surprise to me that in some churches children might be regarded as having demons inside them with some pastor scaring the shit out of them by practising their Christian form of village witchcraft in London. Some of these authoritarian Anglican leaders are but a gnat's kneecap from such belief, indeed they preside over such belief in villages. In that there may be a reformation in the towns and cities, it often translates into the worst kind of fundamentalism, and then attracts in right wing American money.

The second threat (that relates to the Covenant) is that which comes from the Pope as seen in his recent visit. He has recanted slightly, in that he came with a view that Britain is turning into some sort of secularist state, and he hadn't bothered to see the difference between secularism and secularisation. For a so-called thinker, he does make some clottish simplifications. Nevertheless, when he talks about ecumenism as regards his Church and the functioning Anglican Church, the services of which might have impressed him a little for their grandeur, what he means is bringing these forms and its members into full Communion as with John Henry Newman and through these intended ordinariates. These are, for him, ecumenical progress: not some long winded negotiation process that just discusses the issues. In the end, he thinks the Roman Catholic Church is right. He is giving more to Eastern Orthodoxy; but he must still regard Anglicanism as having little but interesting elements and a history, such that now needs to be put into the box of the true Church.

Why it relates to the proposed Covenant is because Rowan Williams wants some of that ecclesiology internationally within the Anglican worldwide Church (as he sees it) so that the true Church can include the Anglican and it be up there with the big two. If Diarmaid McCulloch, reflecting on the Pope's visit, is right - that Anglicanism is of completely contradictory elements that the Pope might learn about - then that's not good enough for Rowan Williams, who wants the whole bound together in ever continuing processes of dialogue towards resolving differences on a principle of the slowest change determining the pace of everyone. Anyway, I noticed Rowan Williams's joke about the true humanism which he finds in Christianity.

The third threat, that includes two of the above, is satellite based evangelicalism. It may just be that it is over-reaching itself, as yet again God TV is desperate to raise money for self-maintenance. This does, however, process a lot of money, and it is all right wing, theologically nuts, pro-Israel, creationism. Some of them now copy Jewish ceremonies on the basis that if Jews return to Jerusalem then Jesus Christ will come back. Some of these nutters would like a war with Iran just to create the kind of world chaos they think will kick off armageddon. If these stations are not banging on about Israel they try to extort money on apparent biblical principles, telling people how with enough 'seeding' they might receive cheques in the post to cancel their debts. Personally, I prefer sending off my Readers Digest response in the No envelope. It costs nothing.

(By the way, when I move I won't have satellite TV, and I've realised that I won't miss much.)

I feel a bit sorry for Colin Coward and others like him, because they are right up against it. They are part of modern, reasonable, civilisation, trying to see if some of their religion's insights have relevance, and often finding that they do. It's as if they can't follow some traditional forms of worship and yet think with their brains and act according to who they are in an ethical fashion. Too many lunatics are taking over the asylum, and the pressure is on.

I recommend people should join the denominations that are closest to their own beliefs. Why should we expect institutions to span such huge religious differences? For him, joining something more compatible wouldn't be the Unitarians or Quakers, say, given his express Christian views, but perhaps something like the Metropolitan Community Church. He, and others, would say that classic Anglicanism is closest to his own outlook, but also that he has a mission to stretch to and include those who don't want to include him inside that Church. Well, that's a noble aim but the reasonable ones are being forced into corners. Anyway, it is society that ends up being pluralistic across such wide chasms. I do agree with the principle: my view of Unitarianism is that here are people of difference who choose to worship together, but then I'm no fool and such are not that much different. There are Pagans and Christians and Humanists and Easterns, and the odd Muslim too (our friend was away during Ramadan), but these folk are similar precisely because they would rather meet with others of different subjective experiences, and don't want to stay in packs, and don't think that their own stance requires being in the specialist institution making dogmatic claims.

I do think Christianity is in intellectual trouble, but the issue that confronts any individual is the institutional issue. I find high Anglicanism a fantasy cover, and high traditionalism a psychological issue, and evangelicalism simply rewrites history and science, and is a fantasy without a cover. The question is whether Anglicanism, and other declining denominations, can resist the threefold attack I've suggested is going on, and what some individuals are going to do about it. To those who stay, on principle: I say that they are very brave.


Erika Baker said...

It's not just that people stay on principle.
I think your analysis is excellent, from a global and church hierarchical point of view.
But the lived reality in our own parishes is often nothing like it. The old style CoE Anglicanism is still very much alive and kicking and nourishing people - although I would say that if they don't wake up and see what's happening in the wider world it will be destroyed for them while they're sleepwalking.

The other issues is a purely practical one. Many of us don't live in towns where you can choose your church but in much smaller parishes where you have one CoE church whose priest might even serve the next 4 parish churches too, maybe a small Baptist church and an even smaller Methodist community. The Metropolitan church might as well be in America for all the good it does to me at 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning.

Add to that many people's (read: my) belief that church is (also) community and not just somewhere you go for an hour on a Sunday to be entertained and which is not connected to your daily life, and it becomes all a little more muddled and less obvious.

Nothing to do with bravery.

Sven said...

Boring.....straw men so easy to knock down.....

Bishop Tom Wright, Dr Ephraim Radner, Archbishop Bob Duncan.....Africans or following African culture? Ignorant of the greek and hebrew texts and modern scholarship?

Actually, look up the qualifications of African Anglican bishops....a few can match your academic and professional record, perhaps?

Maybe none of them are as great a scholar as you and they with Wright, Radner and Duncan would learn much if they listened to your unsolicited musings on Christian and Anglican matters.....or maybe not.....but you cannot write them off by talking about fringe Africans or televangelists.......