Thinking Anglicans

opinions and views

Roderick Strange wrote for The Times that We have been beguiled and betrayed by Mammon.

The economy may be in crisis, but there is a wealth of social capital at our disposal, says Pete Tobias in Face to Faith.

Christopher Howse wrote in the Telegraph about The survival of England’s Syon.

Giles Fraser’s column in the Church Times is about The fantasy of easy killing.

Simon Barrow wrote for Ekklesia about Seeking to build a just economy.

George Packer in the New Yorker had a very interesting article about the disaffection of Ohio’s working class. See The Working Vote. It turns out that Andrew Brown also read it, and he comments at Poverty and the sexual marketplace.

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Ford ElmsFather Ron SmithBillyDkieran crichtonCheryl Va. Recent comment authors
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Cheryl Va.
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The thing I liked about Fraser and Barrows’ articles is that they invite us to look beyond the surface of things. Both rightly comment that which is made manifest is merely a symptom of what is thought. Fraser’s article reminds us that there is a legacy of the consequences of bad teaching (e.g. dissassociated assassination training in the military but then being asked to go back into the community “normal” and “healthy”) I loved Barrow’s comment “Many would suggest that serious political thinking about the economy is not harmed by divergence but by too cosy a consensus, formed around the… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

Giles Fraser does 007 an injustice. Well, at least the 007 of Ian Fleming’s novels. That James Bond, while far grittier than those who play him in the movies, doesn’t find killing quite as easy as they.

andrew holden
Guest
andrew holden

Giles does the British Army an injustice too. A great deal of training goes into helping soldiers to understand and work with rules of engagement appropriate to every situation they might find themselves in. Clearly there has to be a movable response according to the danger of the situation: Weapons Hold – weapons may only be fired in self-defence, or in response to a legal formal order. Weapons Tight – weapons may only be fired in self-defence, or in response to a legal formal order, or at targets positively recognized and confirmed as hostile. Weapons Free – weapons may be… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

Andrew Thanks for sharing that. It corroborates with some anecdotal testimony I had heard from Australia. One thing that both the English and Australian military have worked on is morality in combat, being aware that the conduct of the soldiers (both on and off the fields) affects both its military and nations’ reputations. The screening and culling of sociopaths is excellent. Perhaps that is why we are “surprised” to see some local citizens recruited by international scoundrels. Unable to satisfy their bloodlust through established circles, they move into more feral ground. It would be nice to be reassured that this… Read more »

Giles Fraser
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Giles Fraser

Andrew, I did not suggest that the army turns its soldiers into unthinking killing machines. Indeed, I know that the army wants its soldiers to think morally as you say. Actually, I am partly responsible for delivering some of the training on this at the army leadership course at Shrivenham. (I also come from a military family and passed RCB for the Royal Green Jackets when I was 20) So I was less than happy about your patronising tone about going and finding out what training they get. I do it. And less than happy about being interpreted as having… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“rules of engagement” Ah, yes. We go out and take the lives of others because the State tells us that it’s OK, and it’s justified because we have a set of “rules” that tell us how to lawfully take from others the life God gave them. So, contravening “Thou shalt not kill” is OK as long as we do it by the rules. Right. Now, about that whole “just war” thing…… “soldiers are actively taught to use appropriate measured force, up to and including lethal force, only when their own lives, or the lives of others they are responsible for… Read more »

andrew holden
Guest
andrew holden

Giles, thanks for the clarification – and apologies for my over-reaction (and indeed the tone) to what I thought you were saying, ie that the Army conditions men to kill without thought. I think the problem paragraph was this one: “training in the army involves repetition, doing the same thing again and again, so that you come not to think about it. The soldier fires just as Pavlov’s dogs drool. This form of conditioning can significantly increase firing rates — as can the enhancement of denial defence mechanisms: soldiers do not shoot people, they shoot targets.” Even after your clarification… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford
“War is not acceptable to a Christian in any circumstances, period”

Where does that leave Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany during WWII?

And where does it leave all those who fought so hard to end this reign of terror?

Giles Fraser
Guest
Giles Fraser

Andrew, Thanks for that. Hostilities ended. Still, I am not sure I agree with the role you ascribe to the ‘moral component’. And of course, I agree its all about effective fire. But that, obviously, involves soldiers willing to aim at the enemy. Which means that there is not place for de facto conscientious objectors – of which Marshall suggests there have been a great many. The moral component can do only so much here. And there is no role for anxious moral self-examination in the middle of a fire fight. We need soldiers who are trained and prepared to… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Where does that leave Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany during WWII? And where does it leave all those who fought so hard to end this reign of terror?” In a place where we have to endure the inevitable results of our compromise of the Gospel 1700 years ago. WWII actually is a big conundrum for me. If manifest evil behaves violently, how do we oppose it? I guess I am an idealist, and Bonhoffer was more of a realist, maybe? I simply would not able to reconcile killing somebody with the Gospel, end of story. So, what do… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“That’s why I’m opposed to any Christian involvement with the State.”

Thereby reducing Christians to parasites living off of the State. Sorry, but if we want the benefits of the State (which includes things like police services and protection from folks who want to kill you) then we have to get our hands dirty.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford
“I honestly don’t have an answer”

I prefer that to your earlier absolute statement.
I’m very idealistic too, but there is a danger that we deny the reality we live in and refuse to take our moral responsibilities seriously, simply opting out.
I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing, but I do see it as a principal danger of any idealism.

drdanfee
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drdanfee

In USA the unintended – or at least possibly downplayed? – consequence of training to kill is that more than a hundred returned vets from, say, Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently gone on killin sprees back home. Out of the population of returned soldiers from combat venues, this is such a small number as to be just the sort of statistical minority data which often gets ignored or talked away in majority situations. See for example: http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/10/19/soldiers.slayings.ap/index.html#cnnSTCText However, the USA Armed Forces are concerned and studying it – procedurally if nothing else. Ditto for the markedly increased numbers of returned… Read more »

John-Julian, OJN
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John-Julian, OJN

Ford has it spot right. Perhaps folk will remember the following passage from the “Apostolic Tradition” of Hippolytus (Rome: ca. 215 AD – probably representing an even earlier tradition): He writes about those who are to be refused baptism: “The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God.” Wherever we may find ourselves on the moral map today, we certainly cannot claim it as part of that famous “faith once delivered”. The real sorrow (which I share with Ford) is that we don’t approach war as the gritty, awful, moral… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John-Julian
“The real sorrow (which I share with Ford) is that we don’t approach war as the gritty, awful, moral compromise it is, but as something of great “honor” and “nobility”.

Who is “we”?

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

BillyD, “Thereby reducing Christians to parasites living off of the State.” Parasites in what sense? I am a strong believer in the separation of Church and State. I’m not even sure we should have tax exempt status. The earliest Christians weren’t in any way allied to the State. Were they parasites? While I wouldn’t want to see the persecutions of those times return, we can’t forget that there have been more Christian martyrs in this century than in any previous one, so perhaps our alliance with the State has not been such a benefit to us in this century as… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Sorry, that should be “the previous century”.

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“I’m not even sure we should have tax exempt status.” Well, that’s one area we agree on, at least. “The earliest Christians weren’t in any way allied to the State. Were they parasites?” Putting aside the fact that what you have presented is a bit of an oversimplification of the situation in the early Church, yes, in some cases they were parasites.. I don’t subscribe to the idea that earlier is necessarily better. “While I wouldn’t want to see the persecutions of those times return, we can’t forget that there have been more Christian martyrs in this century than in… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“Ford has it spot right. Perhaps folk will remember the following passage from the “Apostolic Tradition” of Hippolytus (Rome: ca. 215 AD – probably representing an even earlier tradition)…”

As a gay man in favor of women’s ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate, I have learned to take some early Christian traditions cum granis salis. I certainly do not think that they are the end-all and be-all of doctrine and praxis.

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“But you may well be right for all that.” Ford, if you think that Christians should opt out, I hope you will have the strength of your convictions and completely remove yourself from the contaminating influence of State participation. Stopping tax payment, refusing military service, and refraining from voting are good first steps, but not enough – it still leaves you benefiting from the work of other people who act as your agents (in your case, the members of the Canadian Forces, inter alia). You need to go somewhere where there’s no possibility that anyone will keep you safe by… Read more »

andrew holden
Guest
andrew holden

The realist/idealist language may help. Christians have always had two options when it comes to the state. The first option is withdrawal and separation – to come out and be holy. The second option is to ‘work for the good of the city’ in which we find ourselves. There has always been a degree of conflict and compromise between these two positions but in all probablity they need each other – at least this side of the parousia. It is good that the idealists remain stubbornly committed to non-violence. They remind us that there will come a day when spears… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

“The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God.” It’s a slight tangent, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that there are some churches that puport if you refused to be baptised by them (or a church/priest of which they acknowledge) you have despised God. There is a big difference between refusing baptism/confirmation/communion with a church and/or priesthood that you despise and rejecting God. In fact, the souls who reject communion etc. are often closer to God, because they have rejected that which brings dishonor to God. Malachi 1:10-11… Read more »

kieran crichton
Guest
kieran crichton

Thanks, Giles, for your article. I found it very interesting, and the comments here have been very thought provoking. I have just one small — but I hope worthwhile! — point to add to the discussion of the one-liner from Hippolytus. Don’t forget that soldiery in his time involved submitting to the cult of the Emperor, and the army inducted soldiers into the mysteries of the military religion. I believe this is what Hippolytus means when he says that a catechumen be refused baptism or a member of the faithful be removed if he becomes a soldier. To be, or… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“To be, or aspire to be, a soldier was to be the adherent of another religion altogether. It was another type of apostasy.”

I believe the word conservatives use for this kind of justificatory argument is “fudge”. Explain to me how, if the seven passages that appear to condemn homosexuality have to be taken as is, with no qualifications whatsoever, there seems to be no problem at all with rewriting one of the Ten Commandments, which conservatives continually sarcastically remind us are commandments, not suggestions, to read “Thou shalt not kill unless the State tells you to”?

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Ford, if you think that Christians should opt out, I hope you will have the strength of your convictions and completely remove yourself from the contaminating influence of State participation.” There is no need to be so simplistic. We live in society, so we have to take part in it as far as we can. But the Gospel comes first over secular law. I do think some things are absolute, like not taking from people the life God gave them, for instance. But it need not mean that, in order to be a Christian we must withdraw from the world.… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“Explain to me how, if the seven passages that appear to condemn homosexuality have to be taken as is, with no qualifications whatsoever, there seems to be no problem at all with rewriting one of the Ten Commandments, which conservatives continually sarcastically remind us are commandments, not suggestions, to read “Thou shalt not kill unless the State tells you to”?” Oh, dear. You seem to be misreading the Bible here, using as a defense the fact that conservatives do it, too. The commandment in question doesn’t say “Thou shalt not kill.” Except, of course, in translation. What it says is… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“There is no need to be so simplistic.” You say simplistic, I say consistent. “We live in society, so we have to take part in it as far as we can. But the Gospel comes first over secular law. I do think some things are absolute, like not taking from people the life God gave them, for instance.” But paying others to do the killing for you and standing aside to let it be done is okay? The only way that this society we live in is possible is because of the application of force by the State. This is… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“But paying others to do the killing for you and standing aside to let it be done is okay?” As a citizen, you pay taxes to the State to fund what the State, according to the democratically expressed wishes of the people, wants to do. I am one voice. I do not believe it is right, as a citizen, to withhold taxes because the majority of society wants to do something I personally think is wrong. I can, and do, protest, what else is there? Come on, one person can’t usually stop a war, nor abolish an army. As you… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“I am one voice. I do not believe it is right, as a citizen, to withhold taxes because the majority of society wants to do something I personally think is wrong. “ Really? So if the rest of society wanted to, say, put Jews or gays in concentration camps you’d foot the bill for it? If killing is so wrong that in all cases that Christians shouldn’t have anything to do with the government (which you asserted far up this thread), surely it’s wrong enough for you to take concrete steps against it. If they ever haul me off to… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“What said Crysostom about the use of force by Christians?”

I had to look it up, because I was only aware of what Chrysostom said about Jews and gay people. Now that I know, I suppose my reaction is, “So what?” I find him a very uncertain moral guide.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“So if the rest of society wanted to, say, put Jews or gays in concentration camps you’d foot the bill for it?” BillyD, I really don’t think that my admittedly high tax payments, higher than I would pay in your country by many percentage points, is sufficient to “foot the bill” for much the state wants to do. I’m not so grandiose about the effect my tax payments have on the effective running of the Canadian State, nor the effect of my four yearly ‘X’. And there’s no reason to go to extremes here. I doubt even Steven Harper wants… Read more »

BillyD
Guest
BillyD

“Of course, in many situations, these lives wouldn’t be in danger in the first place if there were no soldiers on the other side to be a threat, and there probably wouldn’t be soldiers on the other side if there weren’t soldiers on our side in the first place. Look, I know war is a necessity in the world, I know any State needs an army. That’s why I’m opposed to any Christian involvement with the State.War is not acceptable to a Christian in any circumstances, period.”

That was an argument against State Churches?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“As you rightly point out, the society we live in requires an army. I just don’t believe it’s right for Christians to be members of it.” – Ford Elms, in response to BillyD, on Thursday 23. I suppose, Ford, that if we choose to live in a particular society – USA or Canada, say – that ‘requires an army’, perhaps we have a civic duty of support for that army, which is there to protect us. And I feel it may not be right to say that no Christian should be a member of the armed forces. There are women… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“That was an argument against State Churches?” One argument. I think it shows how the Imperial church model, however necessary it may have been in the fourth century, has led us to compromise the Gospel. “Would you say that they should avoid this work of service?” Possibly not, BIllyD will call me on the idea that any support at all for the military is complicity with it, since my taxes in some sense support it, and he has a point. I’m not, despite the extreme absolutism of my earlier, overstated, comments, trying to say this is an easy thing. What… Read more »