Thinking Anglicans

opinion columns collected

In The Times Michael Smith writes that The crisis of confidence ignites a crisis of conscience.

In the Guardian Ian Bradley writes about TV talent shows in Face to faith.

At Comment is free Stephen Bates writes on How the faithful voted.

Gregory Chisholm at Thinking Faith explains What scares me about Obama (h/t Simon Barrow).

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Defending the Church by living out the gospel.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about Dame Felicitas’s handwarmer sold by nuns.

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Cheryl Va.
Guest

Fraser comments “A great priest I knew once told me he could not care less about his own salvation.”

One of the tragedies for Jesus is that saints and priests were so busy trying to flatter him that they did not hold him to account for fulfilling the messianic requirements.

One of the joys of the Old Testament is witnessing how God is delighted by souls who confront and challenge God to hold the precepts that are purported to be God’s.

For example Job, or Abraham’s challenge at Genesis 18:25 “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Stephen Bates misses, I think, an important part of Obama’s support and one that suggests future futility for the GOP/Evangelical alliance.

Voters under 30 went for Obama almost three to one. These are the “kids” who grew up under Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush…who have seen that alliance result in policies at opposition to their world view–a world view that says blacks and gays are just people, that abortion is an option not a cause, that women are as capable as men.

And the generation behind them is even more clearly of that mindset.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Two comments on Stephen Bates’s piece: (1) I have no idea which way I would have voted were I a US citizen (probably for a minority candidate?) – but, either way, to be ‘antediluvian’ is morally neutral. What is so anti-academic is the way that people use modernity and fashionability as criteria of truth. Which of course, logically, they never could be. The criterion of truth is accuracy. -So, to take abortion as an example, either a human being is being killed or a human being is not being killed. The way to determine this is, obviously, not an examination… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“He became husband to the daughter of American slaves” Barrow’s comments are interesting, and I like the way he addresses the deep deep fear in Conservatives. I have felt fear in the last two Canadian elections at what would happen to the country, and me as a gay man, if the Conservatives won a majority, and I know that American liberals have chafed under the yolk of the Republicans for so long their relief and joy at Obama’s victory are overwhelming. But the fear in American conservatives defies belief. They think he’s a Marxist becuse he has spoken of redistribution… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“How old IS Michelle Obama? Even if her parents were infants at Emancipation, that would mean she couldn’t have been born after, at the most, 1910. She looks incredible for a near centenarian!”

Surely if the Bible can refer to the far-off descendants of the Biblical patriarch as the “Children of Israel,” then you can call Ms. Obama “the daughter of American slaves.” Or, if you want to be really multi-culti, refer to the Koran’s saying that Mary was a “daughter of Aaron.”

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“either a human being is being killed or a human being is not being killed.” Not so. Consider the nine months of gestation as a single point. That is when human life begins. Now extend that out to nine months. Can you say where in that span of time, that you once considered to be a single point, life actually DOES begin? Is it not more true to say that human life doesn’t really begin at a single point? That is the attitude of Scripture after all, if the Psalms are anything to go by. And it has been a… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

As usual, the vicar of Saint Mary’s, Putney, is right on the ball with his comments about Gospel: “All of this is a welcome reminder that the Church is at its most impressive when it is least concerned with defending itself, and most concerned with preaching the gospel. Only those who care for gospel values more than they care for the Church will truly and surely defend the institution they love. There is a moral here for those of us in the C of E who are obsessed with defending our little patch of the Church. Let us live out… Read more »

stephen bates
Guest
stephen bates

I think Pat O’Neill is correct and younger voters certainly went heavily for Obama. I thought I had somewhat covered the matter in my penultimate paragraph but it was clearly not the main point of the article. Divisions are certainly developing both between younger evangelicals and their seniors over issues such as the environment – over whether they follow Biblical imperatives to be stewards of the earth or, to coin a phrase, “burn, baby, burn” because the end times are coming- and also with wider society which believes issues such as the culture wars ones are less important than their… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

I shudder to continue a discussion of abortion here, but Tobias Haller had an interesting discussion on his blog, recently.

If, in the Hebrew law, a woman suspected of adultery was made to drink a “test”, whose result would be to induce abortion (and subsequent sterility) if the fetus were adultery-produced, the “Judeo” part of “Judeo-Christian tradition” clearly has a very COMPLEX view of “human life” and its beginnings! [FWIW, Jesus never saw fit to address this matter—even w/ a “You have heard… but I say to you”]

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I am sure that there is quite a strong international correlation between traditional beliefs (as opposed to 1960s western liberalism) and higher birth rate (as opposed to lower). The latter worldview is (on average) by its very nature more self-centred and focussed on personal fulfilment, less on family, so this is not surprising.” – Christopher Shell on Stephen Bates. Not too surpriing a response from C.S., to a very insightful article from Stehpen Bates. Why do the conservatives always impute ignoble motives to the emerging young people of the world? Could they not not rather be thinking about the idea… Read more »

David Keen
Guest

In a straw poll at our ‘cafe service’ yesterday morning (mostly under-40’s, but including a clergy couple recently retired here from the USA) we had 1 vote for McCain, one for Nader, and the rest was sea of hands for Obama.

I don’t know how much that reflects the starry-eyed reporting of Obama in our TV and media, but I was encouraged that our 95% caucasian Somerset congregation weren’t remotely bothered about Obama’s race. But then we had been looking at the Good Samaritan…

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“”burn, baby, burn” because the end times are coming” It’s the same thing with certain Evangelicals and Bushite foreign policy: support Israel because the Jews must be in the Holy Land before the Second Coming can occur. It’s bad enough to believe that, because they have convinced themselves of their faithfulness to the letter of the Law they are more righteous than the rest of us and get to tell us what to do, but that this righteousness actually makes them entitled to force God’s hand is unbelievable hubris. “Why do the conservatives always impute ignoble motives to the emerging… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Surely if the Bible can refer to the far-off descendants of the Biblical patriarch as the “Children of Israel,” then you can call Ms. Obama “the daughter of American slaves.””

Admiring though I may be of Barak Obama, I’m not inclined to speak of him, nor his wife, in Biblical terms. By that definition, I am a child of Anglo-Saxon invaders, or of oppressed North American First Nations, take your pick. Besides, lighten up! It was a joke.

Cheryl Va.
Guest

Ford’s posting is not unreasonable. I still remember the evangelical who told me that Jesus would not come to heal this world, and that the only correct reading of scriptures was his return in a flaming cloud for all the world to see as he mass murdered all but the chosen people and took them away to their new heaven and new earth. Don’t know why God would give them a new earth. They haven’t been able to look after this one. Plus, since they seem incapable of considering a woman’s feelings, showing remorse or compassion, or repenting and asking… Read more »

John-Julian, OJN
Guest
John-Julian, OJN

Ford is right on target!

What goes on in the legalistic mind is precisely this:”If there weren’t a lot of laws and restrictions to keep ME under control, I would probably become a moral monster — therefore I assume that everyone ELSE must be legally controlled and restricted or they (like me) would become moral monsters!”

The control-freaks and the ecclesiastical legalists are telling us more about themselves than about anyone else.

BillyD
Guest

Besides, lighten up! It was a joke.

Sorry, my bad.

And if you’re not accustomed to speaking of the Obamas in Biblical terms, you’d better get on the ball. Haven’t you heard? He’s the Antichrist!

Tobias Haller
Guest

JCF, thanks for the note. Again not wanting to pull this off into a discussion on abortion, but it is true that the Jewish teaching on the subject is not the same as the conservative Christian teaching Evangelical or Roman Catholic). Most importantly, a fetus is not considered to be a “nephesh” (“a living person”) until birth. Abortion to save the life of the mother is always permitted under Orthodox Jewish law, even in very late stages. I echo Stephen Bates, in that I would not want anyone to assume my own position on the moral licitness of abortion on… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

I’m afraid I just do not get CShell’s deftly manuevered arguments on so many TA threads, including this one. Example. If raising children is a sign of the kingdom feast, then what do we do about the huge, huge, huge gaby boom that has taken place in the last ten to twenty years in USA queer communities – including queer communities of color? One supposes he will quickly shift gears to claim that good parenting is only good and parenting when his sort of very conservative religious straight people do it. Good luck trying to sell that knee-jerk bias to,… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“And if you’re not accustomed to speaking of the Obamas in Biblical terms, you’d better get on the ball. Haven’t you heard? He’s the Antichrist!”

Or the Second Coming. Depends who you talk to. The way some people talk, you’d think you’d missed the Liberal Rapture. And you’re no quicker than me to jump on things. Try making a reference to “orthodox Anglicans” and my knee’ll jerk so fast, you won’t know what hit you.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Responses: (1) Hi Ford- There are many concepts one could focus on in the when-to-abort debate. There are three (life, viability, personhood) which are particularly favoured by pro-choice for at least 3 reasons: (a) they are the more likely to produce a result in their favour; (b) two of them are philosophical rather than scientific, and therefore less susceptible of a clear answer when one wants to avoid a clear answer; (c) ‘life’ can mean many things (breath; life-span; ‘quickening’; organic individual; item composed of DNA) so let’s cloud the issue by promoting ambiguity: ambiguity will in its turn demand… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Stephen- If you are against abortion and still mark it as ‘antediluvian’ in a negative sense, then I’m not yet sure what your position is. Surely in many ways (as religious correspondents go) you are/were comparatively ideal for the Guardian? (Though of course, since I abhor preaching to the converted and value growth through confrontation of differences, not ideal from my point of view.) If there are two groups of people one prepared to abort and the other not, then it is common sense that the first group will on average have a clearly lower birth rate (this also… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Christopher: You leave out one important part of the abortion debate: the choice between the good (including the psychological health) of the mother and the life of fetus. Putting the life of the fetus before the well-being of the mother is ultimately a moral choice, one that is rooted–for the most part–in religious and philosophical determinations of which has the greater value. Does government in a secular, pluralist society have any business making religious, philosophical, moral choices of that kind for its citizens? This is why those of us on the opposite side of the issue from you call ourselves… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

I agree John 10:10 is one of the greatest verses in the bible “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Another profound passage is Matthew 19:18 ““ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’’” The bible is in large part about rebuking those who decide that others are “unworthy” or “too dirty” to merit grace, and thus dignity and a place in society. It’s… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Christopher, When speaking of losing one’s life in order to take it up again: the end in itself, with some people, is a pretty good motivation for kenosis. Do you not think that there are people in this world who hardly have attained to the quality of life that ought to be theirs – because of the prejudice that exists, too often in the community of the Church. Some of these people – especially young gays – are so miserable because of the lack of acceptance of them that they want to surrender their lives in the act of suicide.… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Christopher “individual human beings begin at fertilisation” I agree, but are they fully human at that point? “human DNA is the most complex and ‘peak’ thing that exists” No, and here you reveal your misunderstanding of science. Human DNA is no more complex than any other. DNA works the same and has the same basic structure in all creatures. You also can’t claim that we have more DNA, so I guess, more genes, than other creatures, because others creatures have more than us. So, no, human DNA is not the most complex thing that is, even in terms of vertebrate… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Pat- You are probably aware that ‘psychological health’ is so ill-defined that it can be taken to mean almost anything. Hence the present strictly illegal but (more importantly) amoral abortion on demand. I’m surprised that you didn’t raise this point. However, the point is irrelevant anyway. Because only in cases where the mother’s physical life is at risk does she stand to lose as much as the baby. Otherwise we are discriminating against the baby by saying (in the vast majority of cases) that one human’s entire life is worth less than a comparatively small proportion of another human’s… Read more »

stephen bates
Guest
stephen bates

Christopher: You really are rather obtuse, aren’t you? My reference to antediluvian applied to Democrats’ disdain for the religious vote and had nothing to do with what I think about abortion. Perhaps in future I should add a supplementary paragraph whenever I write something saying: “If someone called Christopher Shell reads this, it may not mean what he assumes it does.” You still seem to find it hard to believe that someone who writes for a particular media outlet might not agree with everything that’s in it. Whisper it quietly, but I used to work for a number of years… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“There is also something sick about any parent wanting so badly to terminate their own child”

OK, so not “should be punished” in every case, then. In some instances, it seems, the decision to have an abortion is an illness. How do you feel about birth control, Christopher?

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“If even one of these five were the case, it is hard to imagine the state of the people’s consciences who do not see any harm in stepping in and exterminating.” It’s a question of relative harm, Christopher. Not all harm is equal. Let’s put it this way: You see a car crash with two victims trapped inside–a mother with three children and a baby. You can only save one of them. Which do you choose? And, believe me, those who choose to abort their pregnancies are not oblivious to the hard moral choice they are making. I’ve never met… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“Let’s put it this way: You see a car crash with two victims trapped inside–a mother with three children and a baby. You can only save one of them. Which do you choose?”

I’m not sure that this illustration really illuminates the issue. My answer would be, “The baby,” but I think you’d be hard pressed to guess my thoughts on abortion based on it.

Cheryl Va.
Guest

There isn’t a regular subscriber to TA who likes abortion. There are subscribers who are aware of a dissonance of concern for the yet-to-be-born child contrasted to a contempt for independent human beings. We talk of the need to protect the defenceless and those who can not defend themselves. An unborn child clearly falls into that category. That principle also applies to those who have been deprived or resources and deprived the right to advocate on their behalf. As Christians we are called to proect those who can not defend themselves. So when we see a society that makes it… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

BillyD:

I’m interested–why the baby? To me, saving the mother protects four people: the mother and her three children. Saving the baby only protects the baby.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“My answer would be, “The baby,” but I think you’d be hard pressed to guess my thoughts on abortion based on it.”

And I’d pick the mother. Better a grieving parent than four orphans, less risk of social maladjustment, I’d think. Not that orphanhood necessarily means social maladjustment, but the risk is there. But, no, you can’t tell my attitude to abortion from that either. But the point is that abortion is the sme kind of moral issue, not some absolute issue of people wantonly killing babies.

BillyD
Guest

“I’m interested–why the baby? To me, saving the mother protects four people: the mother and her three children. Saving the baby only protects the baby.” Well, I don’t think that by not saving the mother I’m writing off her children. Either the rest of her family will step in, or the State or Church will, or (if we’re doing one of those desert island thingees) I’d take responsibility for them. At any rate, it’s not as if we automatically kill children whose mothers die. So the numbers of people involved didn’t affect my decision. The mother has already had a… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

Here’s another “who do you save” question that is perhaps more to the point:

“A fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you have a choice: You can save a three-year-old child or a Petri dish containing 10 seven-day old embryos. Which do you choose to rescue?”

This comes from http://www.reason.com/news/show/34948.html

BillyD
Guest

“And I’d pick the mother. Better a grieving parent than four orphans…” One of us has misread the set-up. It said that there are *two* victims trapped inside, “one a mother with three children” (which I read as “a mother of three children”) “and a baby.” Woman + baby = 2 victims. If the woman had her children there with her, there would be five victims trapped in the car, and you’d have to choose among the five. And do you really think that a mother would let you rescue her and leave her three children behind to burn, or… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Billy D “Maybe my being a teacher plays some small role. In general, I think we have a greater responsibility to children. “ That’s interesting, because my response was to save the mother. It is true that the other children will be looked after somehow, but it is also true that they wills suffer terribly from the loss of their mother, possibly from being broken up into different families, or worse, “cared for” by the State. Whereas if the baby dies, the mother will grive for her child but the rest of the family has a chance of a normal… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“And I’d pick the mother. Better a grieving parent than four orphans…”

I don’t think anyone has missed the set-up. The 3 children were not in the car, but they will still be orphaned if the mother isn’t saved.

Your petri dish question is interesting. Of course I’d save the 3 year old. That’s an actual child with actual parents.

That’s not making a decision on the value of each life (some clearly do have to be lost in the examples we’re discussing), but in the extent of suffering resulting from each decision.

BillyD
Guest

“I don’t think anyone has missed the set-up. The 3 children were not in the car, but they will still be orphaned if the mother isn’t saved.”

Oh, the grieving parent you referred to was the parent of the baby! Duh!

BillyD
Guest

“The 3 children were not in the car, but they will still be orphaned if the mother isn’t saved.”

Two further points on this: we don’t know that they will be orphaned, since there’s no word of the fate of the father. Maybe he wasn’t in the car at all. And I didn’t assume that the baby was the child of the trapped mother; the set-up didn’t say. So you might get four grieving parents out of the deal, not one.

BillyD
Guest

“Your petri dish question is interesting.”

Thanks. It seems the most obvious question to put to those who maintain that “life begins at conception” and that “abortion is murder.”

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Stephen- I much appreciate your central point as it is one I repeatedly make myself. In other words, the fallacy of believing that ‘every little boy or girl that’s born into this world alive is either a little democrat or else a little republican’ – as W.S. Gilbert didn’t quite write. Floating voters strike me as being of above average intelligence. Which is why the clear bias of outlets such as Guardian, Telegraph and Mail annoys me. These are biases on average, not across the board. I find the Guardian to give just about the fullest and (often) most… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- I missed the one on birth control. I have never been able to escape from an extremely strong sense that its unnaturalness is one and the same thing as its stealing of ultimate pleasure just at the point where anyone would want the latter to be maximised. This is probably tied in with BC’s unpopularity which is so strange to some (do these people have a death wish or something? No, it’s not just that, though it may include that; rather, it strikes me that they are going with a very deep sense that no-contraception is the way… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“stealing of ultimate pleasure” I don’t follow the argument you are trying to make in the last post, but this comment I don’t get at all. How does birth control “steal ultimate pleasure”? Is sex “ultimate pleasure”, or the creation of a child? Surely, for the Christian, theosis is the ultimate pleasure. I’ve had some pretty good sex in my time, but I doubt it will come close to what is found in the Kingdom! And, BillyD, you make an interesting argument. Let’s say the woman in the car is not the mother of the child. So, by saving the… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“So, you see the potential risk of three socially maladjusted adults to be less important than losing one baby.”

Aren’t you assuming a lot based on the potential of the kids to be maladjusted. What if the woman is a mess, herself? What if she’s wicked?

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Christopher: Again, we come down to the moral/philosophical/theological debate: Is a fetus a fully formed human being? Is its continued existence to be preferred to the physical and mental well-being of its mother? Should any decision regarding these questions be left to the individuals directly involved, or should society/government (especially a pluralistic, secular society) be making those choices for everyone? My own stand, which you can probably figure out, is that, absent a state religion, those choices belong in the hands of the people directly involved, as society/government has no business making such philosophical/moral/theological determinations for anyone. And of course… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“potential of the kids to be maladjusted” But the entire argument is based on potential. Aren’t you doing the same thing WRT the baby, assuming its potential to grow up to be good? There is also the potential that s/he will grow up to be a criminal, after all. And it’s a pretty big assumption that the family or the State will step in. Especially the latter. Especially in the US. And the argument that a mother who would allow her child to die is perhaps not the best mother anyway is a bit much. There were a fair number… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Pat- Your question ‘Is the fetus a fully-formed human being?’ is the weakness of your position – for two reasons: (1) Nor is a born baby a FFHB – nor is a child – because human development is a continuum; (2) Even if the fetus were not a FFHB, the logic of ‘Not a FFHB and *therefore* can be killed’ is…non-existent. The ultimate non-sequitur. In any case, the question is not who makes the decision but assuring that whoever makes it is someone who has thought fully about the situation in the round. This can currently be guaranteed of neither… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Christopher
“‘Not a FFHB and *therefore* can be killed’ is…non-existent”

I would understand this argument better if the church – ANY church – treated all beginning human life as a full human being. But no-one offers burials for early miscariages, no-one treats them in the same way as a stillbirth or the death of a post-birth baby.

About 25% of all pregnancies result in miscarriages, yet there is no particular Christian recognition of these “deaths”, no rites associated with them.

If we really believed that these embryos have the same moral status as full human beings, we would not be making those distinctions.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Christopher: I doubt you would find anyone on either side of this issue who would describe a born child as NOT a “fully formed human being.” And, again, if you think the parents involved in a potential abortion have not fully considered the decision in all respects, then you have little regard for the thinking processes of human beings. I don’t know anyone who has been involved in that process who decided (either way) as a quick, spur-of-the-moment, thing. All DNA is the same because DNA is simply a protein: deoxyribonucleic acid. It’s how that protein is arranged in our… Read more »