Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The centre cannot hold unless we see the horizon

I normally get a bit infuriated by Giles Fraser, intellectual Vicar of Putney and excellent writer for the Guardian, Church Times etc. But his piece on Gene Robinson, the way he handled protest when he preached last Sunday in Putney, and reactions around and about, is not infuriating. First, let me who disagrees with Gene Robinson's theological outlook, commend his character, and his love for Jesus. Secondly, let us all be ashamed of being part of a church which has spawned the disgusting protests which Giles and Gene (and Rowan) are subject to. There is nothing gracious about excrement in the post. It is ungodly to vituperatively spew verbal insults.

That said, let me pick up on something Giles Fraser reports on, rather than something he pronounces on; namely, the supportive reactions of the people of Putney to Giles and to Gene. Conservative Anglicans need to reckon with the sheer strength of a liberal disposition among ordinary people. If we won the Communion battle would we lose the war of winning hearts and minds of a Western world largely lost to God?

I am NOT talking here about adjusting the gospel to fit with a culture alien to it. I am talking about adjusting our contempt of liberal Anglicans: maybe they are a bridge into liberal Western society we cannot afford to lose?

And, perhaps, the divide in our society between liberals and conservatives is a deeper cultural construct than we are willing to face. Is the conservative gospel constructed more as a reaction to liberal theology than as a force to challenge liberal culture? The former being easier to take on than the latter ...

We may not agree with, indeed we may be angry with the theology of Giles and Gene. But why do they have such a good response from secular society? Are we stupid or just superficial when we put that down to secular hearts infected with sin, rather than digging deeper to understand what makes people tick - what moves them to be tolerant of this and intolerant of that?

Do we desparately need to see a bigger picture - to see beyond the centre to the horizon? If we stand on one edge, do we need to refind the centre, and the horizon beyond it? Could the Communion be lost in the next few weeks because we are small-minded?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"We may not agree with, indeed we may be angry with the theology of Giles and Gene. But why do they have such a good response from secular society?"

Not really difficult, Peter - when (in the UK) there are 200,000+ abortions a year, 40%+ of births are out of wedlock, a third or more of marriages end in divorce, probably majority support for euthanasia, and maybe 10% in church, who can get worked up about a bit of sodomy?
Don't imagine, though, that such people will come flocking to the doors of liberal churches. Liberal churches have chiefly a social or cultural role which has to compete with other secular outlets.
What will be interesting (or gut-wrenching) to watch is how the demographics play out. While indigenous Europeans have basically given up reproducing and the continent is aging, the birth rate among Muslims remains high (in France, 40% of all births). Imagine that scene in 15 years.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
Your remarks are part of the bigger picture: decline of 'Western' society/ascendancy of Islam within sections of the Western world, especially Europe. And, no, I don't expect the liberal world to rush into liberal churches (aside: no doubt Putney was packed the other day; I wonder what its normal Sunday attendance is?).

But in this world of changing demographics, might conservatives have greater impact for the gospel if it fought different battles, spoke with another tone, and stopped sending excrement through the post?

I am looking forward in NZ to a documentary being screened on Thursday night featuring (arguably) our most conservative church leader with a public profile, Bishop Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church. The promos of the doco suggest that even he is finidng a way to 'soften' what he says about homosexuality!

The title of the doco, of course, is 'The Life of Brian'!!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I don't know any Christian who has ever sent dog doo in the mail - maybe they exist, I've never met them. (Alas, I'm not beyond suspecting a bit of agitprop and false flag ops at times - good publicity ensues. It's usually the gay lobby that goes for such antics - graffiti on churches, 'outing' gay bishops, entering the pulpit when George Carey's about to preach etc.) The tone of conservatives has been consistently gentle - and even that risks getting you arrested in places like the UK, where the police recently 'visited' a pensioner couple who had politely complained about gay promotional literature in a public library. It is the Muslims who call (in their mosque sermons) for homosexuals to be thrown off mountains, yet somehow the police never get round to seeing them.
From my knowledge of the UK and Europe - as well as Canada - I can tell you that even quiet rational criticism of homosexuality is being criminalized as a 'hate crime'.
That's part of the bigger picture to consider: a growing loss of freedom of speech in the so-called democracies. Have you followed the case of a pastor in Canada who was financially ruined by a 'human rights commission' for expounding the Bible? Check out Ezra Levant;s blog for details.
Tamaki? Ah, what memories that name conjures: the rise and fall of a young jerk.
every blessing on your labors for the Kingdom!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
I should, of course, be mightily relieved to find that no Christian is responsible for dreadful and disgusting protests. (Naturally I am unrelieved by the appalling kinds of words used in some comments on some Anglican sites, which clearly are the responsibility of Christians).

Like you I view with alarm the dictatorship of liberal Western societies such as found (mostly) in the Northern Hemisphere; and to which NZ may not yet be immune. I view that with alarm as much as a democrat as a Christian! And I am incredulous with what Muslim preachers in Europe appear to get away with, compared to Christian preachers and writers.

Nothing is easy here - for conservative Christians, for gay and lesbian Christians, or for gays and lesbians who have no particular religious commitments.

Anonymous said...

Peter, if you subscribe to 'First Things', see the article in the Aug/Sept edition by theologian Douglas Farrow (ex-Anglican, now RC) on 'Kangaroo Canada', how HRCs are being used by homosexual activists and their allies to silence churches.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
I do not subscribe to First Things (though occasionally look their site up), but I have scouted around and think I have got the gist of the Farrow article. HRCs or busybodies?