Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Usual Suspects

Colin Coward made a comment on Facebook a few days ago that lodged in my mind. He'd said:

I've been to Birmingham today, 2 hours from home, for a meeting of the No Anglican Covenant group, planning the campaign.

And then, after a question:


What to report about the No Covenant group, Sue? The usual suspects gathered, got diverted, came up with some good practical ideas, sent people off to carry them out.

That's the problem, of course. It is the usual suspects. Identified as such, they get parcelled off by the people whose agenda it is to pass the thing - as with Graham Kings's comment to Colin at the recent Church of England General Synod to go and lie low somewhere.

A similar thought stuck me about the recent entry in Not the Same Stream, a blog of the Modern Church Union. It was asking:

First, substantive questions:

What must be believed? What may be believed? What must not be believed?

Second, interpretative questions:

In what manner must or may or must not these beliefs be held?

Third, determinative questions:

Who decides? And by what mechanism?

The problem is that orthodoxy and heterodoxy now only concerns those within that institution making those distinctions. I couldn't care less one way or the other, and doesn't impact on my religious practice (except by history). I watched Horizon this evening asking 'What is Reality' and that was far more interesting and, of course, speculative thought that draws on (or is located in) and refers back to mathematics and experiment.

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy is just not interesting, and I can only contrast the phycisists of today and thinking of Rowan Williams whose theology seems to be limited to 'telling stories' and whether you have your own vision.

In the end, heterodoxy and orthodoxy is politics for the institution, and try as it might to reason the point, Not the Same Stream is one of the usual suspects. Because orthodoxy is written down, point by point, the opposition will always have one over those who quibble and who claim a more subtle form of orthodoxy or even accept their heterodoxy.

Don't worry (as if anyone would); I'm not handing it over to the Evangelicals. Also on Facebook and beyond I see references by over enthusiastic ordinands to debates such as over the Eternal Subordination of the Son and so on. What? What possible relevant meaning has that got for anyone or anything whatsoever? Certainly not for the actual person of the 'cult of the personality', who'd find such references laid on to him bizarre, but more than that of no plausibility structure to anyone here and now other than those weaving their internal debates for whom orthodoxy and heterodoxy have any impact.

19 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy is just not interesting....

Adrian, if that is the case, I can't help but wonder why you continue to write about the Church of England and Anglicanism.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Established church, and some friends involved, and some loose ends.

Lesley said...

There were a few of us who weren't the usual suspects

Erika Baker said...

Can I ask a general question about the ethics of blogging about something that someone has posted on Facebook? I know there's no real privacy on the Internet, but some people deliberately set their privacy settings so that friends have to be approved first. I have always taken that to mean that the subsequent conversations are not obviously public property.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Well, that's a fair point, Erika, but it looked like a fairly general point to me, and made far and wide. The point about 'the usual suspects' is an observation about wider dynamics.

I would never put something to Facebook that I wouldn't put on the blog. Anywhere that can copy and paste text is not private.

Erika Baker said...

"Anywhere that can copy and paste text is not private."

That depends on whether the people who have access to the text in the first place are selected or the general public.
Whether you can cut and paste or have to re-type manually is not really relevant.

Ann said...

No matter one's privacy settings -- anything posted on Facebook is public IMO -- it is like talking about things in a public place - some may overhear you who you did not intend as an audience.
I don't think I would invite Colin to any event where you require confidentiality tho.

Erika Baker said...

Ann,
I have carefully chosen my FB friends precisely because there are aspects about my life I don't want to be publicised in particular settings. It’s not life threatening, but I’d just much rather not.

There are, for example, aspects I would not want some of my children's school friends to know in order to protect the girls. And my wife works in an environment where it would be helpful if she wasn't publicly linked with the part of me that haunts the Internet.

If you're really saying that it matters not one little bit who I choose to be my friend and that I cannot expect the same respect of privacy from them on Facebook that I would naturally expect in a real life setting, that anyone has the right to cross-post comments, status updates and maybe photos etc., then I shall certainly close down my Facebook account this minute.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Erika, I would never consider anything on Facebook private. Mark Zukerberg wants ever more openness and less and less privacy on FB, and he will continue his efforts to undermine privacy on the site, because the more information the site has on you, the more money he makes. I think seriously about getting out of Facebook, but I have not as yet.

Paul Bagshaw said...

Can I point out that Not the Same Stream is a personal blog and has been since its inception.

I am no longer a member of Modern Church though, as a general rule, I would not wish to dissociate myself from such stances as it may choose.

I may once have been a 'usual suspect' but I wasn't at the meeting. Except through the blog I am not a player at all.

However I cheerfully find the interaction of heresy and orthodoxy - that is, the way people use the terms and concepts in the course of continuously constituting the church (including its politics) - fascinating.

I would say that both are lived and written texts, ancient and contemporary, are part of of the way faith is articulated. Exactly how, is another question.

I also think that institutions are essential and that, without them, there could barely be a Christian faith - what else would the pluralists of the world have to react against?

Paul Bagshaw said...

Sorry, the penultimate paragraph should have read:

I would say that both are lived. Written texts, ancient and contemporary, are part of of the way faith is articulated. Exactly how, is another question.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

At the last count Colin Coward has 1220 friends on Facebook. There is not a sensible person who can say that he has any control over his text output. 1220 people around the world means his material is as good as open.

My photos and comments are open for anyone and everyone. I have 44 friends before my next cull, and that's too many to think other than the material is public and I use Facebook to 'advertise'.

Alan T Perry said...

WRT privacy on Facebook, I suggest you read this column:
http://tinyurl.com/4vh8qse

The key point is that FB is in business to make money, and they do so by getting you to provide your personal information. There is no free lunch, and there is no such thing as privacy on Facebook.

Erika Baker said...

Alan,
there's a difference between Facebook having my personal information and friends pulling out photos and putting them in the blogsphere in a place that others who know me can potentially see or re-print bits of conversations they copy from my threads.

Everyone knows I'm civil partnered, I talk about it often enough.
But unless you're my facebook friend, you do not know who my children are, you have not seen photos of my family. You cannot make connections that may harm the people I deliberately don't identify in public.

The people who have professional contact with my wife may not know that she is civil partnered, or they may not know who she is partnered with. Some may struggle with that information, and it has to be up to her and her alone whether she wants to challenge them, or put herself in a very difficult position.

I know that absolute privacy cannot be had and so I am quite careful on Facebook too. But not as careful as in the open blogsphere, because as far as I know no-one would just presume to use what they see there for their own PR purposes.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's time I stopped trusting my friends.
Maybe I need to remove all photos from Facebook and certainly cull friends who can't be truste to make appropriate judgements.

Shame, though.

Jim said...

I use some of the privacy and group activity settings to limit what can be seen by whom on Facebook. That works for me because the folks I limit would not likely read, for instance, this blog. But I am not under any illusion that my blog, FB posts inte alia are 'private.' I simply do not go out of my way to make it easy for some folks to see what I write. Can they? yup! They must want to and look but they can.

FWIW
jimB

Grandmère Mimi said...

Erika, it's the betrayal by Facebook that you need to be concerned about if you want privacy. I say it again: there is no privacy at Facebook, and when you sign on, you should be aware of that.

Have a look at Zuckerberg's profile in the New Yorker.

Erika Baker said...

Mimi,
I agree, I am not happy about the Facebook policies and like you, I may well have to get out.

But it won't be Facebook that puts the names of my children, my wife's employer etc. together, placing them in a public space where anyone can now suddenly make connections they haven't been able to make before.
That is nothing other than betrayal by those people I thought were friends, however loosely one uses the term on FB. It would be particularly galling because these people know enough about me to know what potential damage they were causing.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Erika, I agree that our "friends" at Facebook do not always conduct themselves as they should, and I'm not happy about that, either.

The only reason I remain on FB is that the next generation of family members, especially the girls, daughter, nieces, will respond to a message on FB faster than email. They seldom answer their phones, so FB is the surest way to communicate with them.

Erika Baker said...

Mimi,
that is true for my girls too. If I email them something (up to their bedrooms) they never read it, but if I email them and then send them a message on Facebook asking to check their emails.....what HAS this family come to!?