Sunday 30 December 2012

Chadderbox Characters

So just who are the folks who appear on Radio Chadderbox?

Peter Levite resembles in part a BBC journalist and newsreader called Peter Levy who tries to be dramatic and either/ or with his questions on some pretty local and repetitive news. Whereas he might just as the questions, he is forever trying to nail things down. My Peter Levite is moderately intelligent and does some research, but frequently makes mistakes. He also irritates people. George Hudson resembles someone like Paul Hudson, the chirpy weather forecaster who was advised to stay in the region where he is well known rather than take the trail to London. He has Levite as his sparring partner. Because I call him George, he shares the name of the northern Railway King, which is why he always forecasts from some railway station or other. Other folks drawn from BBC Look North (Belmont) or BBC Radio Humberside are either glamorous and intelligent (like Keeley Sunshine Superwoman and Linda Oasis) or stupid, both of which create problems for dialogue with Peter Levite.

Rowan Tree was once called Rowanov Treetri after the Russians gave him a prize (when few others did) but they grew distant too so he returned to Rowan Tree. He is the Archbishop of All England in the Church in England. He speaks in double negatives and gets lost in his own explanations. His theology is a narrative theology of detail that tries to sound historical whereas it is all as if in a novel. A brilliant manipulator as no one knew where they were with him, he nevertheless failed on every single project that was his. He was therefore as bad as his nuisance predecessor, George Cuddencareyless, particularly as he sacrificed gay people in the pursuit of Church empire building. But now he will be an adult education art teacher, as Baron Tree of Mumbles.

At the moment Justin R. Ewing, Rowan Tree's successor, who has been unnoticed as the brief Archbishop of the North East, has a clipped managerial (even military) speech and a tendency to say everything in threes when he begins. All his experience is among the rich and wealthy which he uses as examples when he talks about the poor. He had a road to Damascus type conversion experience but seems to have moved on from that. Jade Stowaway told the story:

He and his wife Sue Ellen were taking a walk with Tarsus Parking, a very evangelical minister, going from the Diocese of Southfork to Damascus in the Home Counties. And it says here, in chapter 6 verse 35 of his biography by Mark Matthew, 'Tarsus asked him, "Pray, what makes an ethical oil executive?" And he replied, "Not sleeping with my secretary and not fiddling the accounts." Sue Ellen gave one of her characteristic grins of agreement. And Tarsus replied, "No, in your case it needs more than this. You must get ordained. And so it was that, as we shall see, Justin R. Ewing became deaconed as Rev. Justin R. Ewing, and served a curacy.

At the moment everyone likes him from the loopiest liberal to the raving fundamentalist and he can do no wrong. But watch this space. Will the manager grab hold of the Church in England, or will it crush him?

I've been in some trouble over my character John Sendmehome, because some have objected to the name. But the name has been explained - sent home from one African village to another. He is the Archbishop of the North. He has become completely British and home Churched but in so doing has turned out to be a publicity mad manipulator. He seems to be able to take people in to the gents toilets and they come out with a changed opinion - just what does he do in there? He has been a sychophant of Rowan Tree and useful as Rowan Tree's sidekick. He twists arms and bullies, does this fictional character, but when he comes on the media all he does is tell dreadful jokes based on whatever anyone else is talking about. He was once chucked out of the radio station for the way he was speaking, whilst he was always trying to get on to the radio station. Although some people think he presents a media connected go-ahead type others find him an embarrassment.

New Testament Wrong was the Bishop of the North East but has now gone into academic obscurity. He is regarded as a third rate Christian apologist by academic historians of early Christianity. In his occasional appearances, he still has a tough-guy bully-boy image and now his intellectual output will bang on about the central historical fact of the resurrection (which history cannot reach). He seems to be able to join up 'primitive' Jewish eschatology and Christian orthodoxy like few others. But as a bishop in the North East he claimed to have a closeness to his 'friend' Rowan Tree that simply was not true and thus his exclusive insights as to Rowan Tree's next piece of decisive action turned out to be incorrect. He was the hefty guy to give ballast to Rowan Tree, who neither sought it nor made use of it. As a local bishop he was hopeless because he kept going to America to sell his books whilst at the same time slagging off the American Church. Thus by going into academic obscurity he has become better employed in what it is he writes about.

As well as these fictional creations, there have been some more minor commentators.

I've been following the Internet outpourings of Rachel Marszalek (who I've met) and Jody Stowell, and they have inspired my characters Rachel Marsovenus and Jade Stowaway. Rachel Marsovenus went to theological college and wrote these postliberal narrative essays on Christian belief, but in her ministry has reverted to evangelical and charismatic experience seeking. She was something of a fashion model too, and has since associated herself with commercial advertising and product placement as a capitalist accompaniment to charismatic experience. Her essay writing - the house of cards of postliberalism, based on nothing objective - and her trips to activist Church America and multi-faith India have made her fearful of going in a liberal direction. Also she associates with the male only authority evangelical wing to keep her away from liberalism whilst at the same time trying to make the Bible say what it doesn't about female authority. To push this point she may start writing at postgraduate level to affirm what it doesn't say. Whereas, Jade Stowaway realises the dilemma and despite being a main character at evangelical SeeSaw, the group that imagines it is at the centre of the Church in England, has been slowly liberalising as she affirms the leadership potential of women. She is the stronger feminist, but her theology has become almost Pagan. Her latest thoughts were that the meaning of Christmas was in the turn of the year and the tinsel. She will likely end up precisely where Rachel Marsovenus sees as the theological place to resist, though Rachel Marsovenus may well fall there very rapidly.

A couple of campaigners include Animal Lindsey and Barry Brokeback. Animal Lindsey promotes, well, animals and their theological rights, and tries to do it by writing and speaking using as much of orthodox Christianity as possible but only because he wants to promote animal ethics to the constitutency. Does he believe it? Despite being a part of it, he regards the Church in England as morally and ethically bankrupt on animals, women and gays and wonders where the ethical Church is to be found. Barry Brokeback is the gay ministry campaigner. He too has to speak to his Anglican constituency, especially to the homophobic Churches abroad. However, his actual theology is a kind of evolution-denying everything in the natural world is God-affirming and wonderful. The secular world is where you'll find the Holy Spirit bringing forward equality. But he is not actually trinitarian. His Jesus is purely human and fallible, and his God is coming out of the evolved-with-a-purpose greenery. There is a conflict therefore between his campaigning among Anglicans and his personal theology, which is a form of all-embracing universalism.

Another non-trinitarian is Lesley Tilgate. She used to be called Lesley Bloke but married a chap who only appeared occasionally in public. Doing that, she thus did not become a Unitarian minister at Wykkyfish (why she was on Radio Chadderbox at all) but retained her Anglican basis of operation down south and settled on the edge of a town called Aldershit. But Lesley Tilgate's theology is basically religious humanism with a stress on equality. Occasionally she will say Jesus is like 'the best bloke' and other such musings, but she promotes a deist non-interventionist God. She doesn't believe in the bodily resurrection either, if she believes in resurrection at all. But she loves - just loves - doing ministry. She married an occasional commentator who is himself part of a local liberal theology promoting body, so they are a team. She has admitted to fantasising about Rowan Tree. In terms of campaigning, it's all or nothing, so she wants gay and sexual equality in ministry and leadership and votes no until it is all on offer: and thus her Church is presently ethically bankrupt but has potential for one day reaching the sunny uplands where everyone can be a member, no matter what they believe or who they are.

Harry Tick is based on me. I'm just a local chuntering away, who fancied Lesley Bloke as was in her travels up north. Although ministry seeking at one time, and put out a lot of articles here and there, he is more of a backroom boy. He was both Anglican and Unitarian, but has beliefs beyond Anglicanism and the Church in England is also ethically bankrupt and will never recover. So he is almost condemned to be Unitarian, though it has potential. The position held is one of religious humanism, as in extending the philosophy of Carl Sagan.

A new personality on Radio Chadderbox discussions is Bobby Aquarius. He represents the Pagan non-rational element now coming into creedless Unitarianism - the background to this being romanticism in the UK and transcendentalism in the USA. But it is a magical approach to reality, where there is no simple probability but instead meaningful, intended, coincidence. It applies Astrology to the Gospels - the gospels are parallels of astrological meaning. Thus this position is near that of Liberal Catholicism that exists among independent priests and bishops, where magick was brought into the supernatural. It is a minority view among what is still a rationalist liberal-Christian to religious humanist denomination, but one also with Eastern insights (as indeed Liberal Catholicism used modernist Hinduism and some elaborate Buddhism). Harry Tick is turning into his opponent as strongly as against Christian supernaturalism, despite agreeing that this is once consequence of the plurality of argument.

Anthony Wedgwood Bigg is to some a creepy fundamentalist bishop whilst to others the only bishop who matters. However, now retired, he has become very mobile, so he won't stay in a studio for long and will keep a lookout. He might be interviewed from the corridor or outside the window. It's as if someone in authority might be interested in his whereabouts. He speaks very slowly, economically and with intent. He talks constantly of 'our people' by which he means male ministers in training and in congregations. Only some bishops are acceptable, organised from abroad. He is the lynchpin then of an unofficial self-governing Church within the Church in England, where the authority they seek is not diocesan but international, based on the kind of fundamentalism found in Africa. The body they create intends to take over parishes and colleges and eventually change the Church in England. The Church is thus at a crucial stage where it moves in a women-affirming adnd more liberal direction or becomes more like his sect. Rachel Marsovenus wants to agree with a lot of this theology but he regards her as having the same irrelevance as he does any moderate or liberal.

There are a host of occasional characters who appear. One is Noel John Gordon, who is not the most attractive of ordained ministers, who (unlike Bigg) would have Rachel Marsovenus in his camp if she only passed over the crossroads to male-only ministry in charge. He regards himself as doing serious theology, unlike so many (he claims), but is frustrated at the failures of the evangelical camp and wants to call the shots about total provision for the evangelicals like the Catholic traditionalists that would amount to creating a Church within a Church.

There are others but this is enough for now. Find others (perhaps from a long while back) and I might explain who they are.

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