Saturday, September 19, 2015

Apparently Anglicans have not only lost the plot, we've lost God too

Sharp, pointy, provocative article in the Guardian by Deborah Orr. Not sure that I understand all of what she says. Contradictory in places? But here are some pointy bits:

A. "The Anglican church has always been a political organisation first and a spiritual one second. (Its worldwide communion, of course, is a consequence of nothing more spiritual than colonialism.) It’s no different to any other organised religion, whose earthly purpose is always the downward control of human attitudes and behaviour. Handily, if there’s a possibility that people can’t see any logic in the rules their leaders propound, religious organisations can simply shrug their shoulders and say that it’s what God wants."

B. "[++Welby's] admitting that it’s become impossible for Anglicans to agree on what God wants, but that it’s also important for Anglicans to carry on squabbling about it. The trouble is that this is as liberal as religion can get. It’s precisely because the Anglican church has lost its ability to be authoritarian (since this would have thrown it out of step with the liberal democracy it wants to remain an established part of in Britain) that Anglican conservatives are so furious."

C. "Religious conservatives are in the game precisely because they want certainty. They don’t want to sit around discussing the meaning of life, pondering what a good life might look like and considering what humans can do to foster their own progress. They want such matters to be off the table, because nothing should be allowed to disturb their delusion that they’ve got it all right and everyone who disagrees with them has got it all wrong.

Ironically, the great attraction of such a position is that once you assume it, you can justify the most awful behaviour because you believe your rectitude is beyond question, whatever vile things you’re actually doing. People are fond of saying that religion causes wars. It’s self-righteousness that causes wars, and religion is a marvellous tool for the self-righteous."

D. "And western Anglicans don’t want to look forensically at why religion isn’t working any more, any more than mainstream politicians want to look at why politics isn’t working any more."

E. "The trouble, of course, is that once you’ve won the liberal argument and everyone has agreed that people should be allowed to be who they are as long as they aren’t hurting others, then God is neither here nor there, let alone everywhere. And that’s the basic problem the Anglican communion faces.

If Lambeth Palace ever works out how to unite its worldwide communion in liberal harmony, then there will be no more need for God, or politics."

I think we have got the point, Deborah, thanks. Something along the lines of the more liberal the Anglican church(es)/Communion become the less use it has for God yet, conversely, where conservative Anglicanism dominates churches it is likely to result in a self-righteousness which leads to war. Hmm. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Now there is a point here. There is a form of liberal Christianity - not unknown to Anglicans - which is so doctrinally weak and pathetic that it begs the question why anyone would bother with it. There is also a form of conservative Christianity - not unknown to Anglicans - which is so doctrinally strong and lacking in human empathy that it scares others with its innate and imperturbable confidence, a confidence which if not self-righteousness, looks awfully close to it.

But, in the end, Deborah Orr's analysis leads to a 'straw man' argument. Well, two really. Actual Anglican liberal and conservative approaches are a bit different to her two straw men. Many Anglicans sympathetic to blessing same sex partnerships are conservative on doctrine. Many Anglicans unsympathetic to the possibility of such blessings are liberal on practice (e.g. loosely following the authorised services of the church). I have met some pretty conservative Anglicans in my time. I wouldn't describe them as self-righteous, let alone aggressively militaristic. I have met some pretty liberal Anglicans in my time, most of whom articulate belief in God which is distinct from atheism and agnosticism.

The ABC's challenge, I suggest, in regard to Anglican churches occupying separate bedrooms rather than pretending to be married in one Communion, is that if we remain in the same house we might converse with each other. Where Deborah Orr gets the idea that there is going to be shouting, I do not know.


Jean said...

Oh dear... more disturbing yet is the articles inference that if God doesn't exist for 'Anglicans' He is written off entirely. 'Twould be that the Anglilcan Communion had such 'power' to make such a claim! It wouldnt be hard to get people to meetings then.

I do have to confess Peter the bits you chose to re-post, albeit circular, are cleverly written enough to get a laugh.

I vote we re-send that memo that was going around about Christianity being a relationship not a religion.

Now... to get ready for Church, being one of those conservative on some things, liberal on others people who confess it I go out of my own free will and if my values or character are to be shaped there today it will not by 'the instituion' but by God, and if anyone had insight into how fallible this particular local 'institution' was they would have few arguments to the contrary. Hopefully, however, I will meet a few fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and unite in worshipping the infallible one.



Jean said...

P.S. I do feel for Archbishop Welby, a leader with integrity in any area is so difficult to find these days and all he seems to get is flack. At least he doesn't have to be concerned about the bible passage that warns to beware when all men speak well of you.

MichaelA said...

"Sharp, pointy, provocative article in the Guardian by Deborah Orr."

Really? I found it waffly and confused. Ideological atheists will read it and cheer, whilst those with some form of belief (the majority of the population) won't bother reading past the first couple of paragraphs.

Whatever ++Welby is thinking about in the lead-up to this meeting, I wager Ms Orr's various points won't even cross his mind.

But I suppose it makes her feel better to get it all out... ;)

Father Ron Smith said...

I must6 agree with you (for once), MichaelA. I, too, found the article by Deborah Orr unworthy of intelligent response. Obviously, she considers her comments worthy of one of the esteemed heroes of The Book of Hudges.

Father Ron Smith said...

Oh, dear, afflicted by old age and asperity, my fingers sometimes slip on the keyboard. In my last, read The Book of Judges - not Hudges.
p.s. I suppose I could have written 'Fudges'