Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Anglican views on the embryology bill

Updated Tuesday afternoon

Several Church of England bishops have stepped into the controversy generated by the UK government’s proposed Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (see this PDF for how the bill actually alters existing legislation).

The Bishop of St Albans is quoted in today’s Daily Mail see Embryos: Church of England demands free vote on controversial research plans and in this Press Association report.

The Bishop of Lichfield has issued this press statement, Bishop adds voice to free vote calls on human-animal embryos and got a mention in the Birmingham Mail Scientists to meet church leaders over embryo research and in The Times David Cameron: Catholics should not misrepresent embryo Bill.

The Bishop of Durham preached this Easter Day sermon, which was reported in the Newcastle Chronicle as Embryo research an issue for all Christians and attacked furiously in The Times by David Aaronovitch under the headline Wicked untruths from the Church.

Some useful background articles:

The Times
Q&A: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
Embryology Bill: Bishop’s ‘Frankenstein’ attack smacks of ignorance, say scientists
Letters, including one from Colin Blakemore former head of the Medical Research Council.

Guardian
Leader: Conscientious objections
Simon Barrow Cardinal vices and virtues

Tuesday afternoon update
The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his opinion on this matter, see Archbishop on Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Full text below the fold.

Archbishop on Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
Tuesday 25 March 2008
Interview with the Press Association

Dr Williams attacked proposals in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which could open the door to research into hybrid embryos and which would remove the reference to the need for a father when under going fertility treatment.

He said: “The hybrid question - there has been a lot of rather extreme and alarmist talk about this and I fully accept that it is not about the breeding of monsters, but at the same time, I think there remains this very instrumentalist view of the human embryo: we use it for something and then destroy it, and I find that ethically very hard to accept.

“The hybrid embryos is just an aspect of overall attitudes to embryo research.

“In this country, more than in many others we seem to be taking for granted that it is all right to regard the human embryo as something to be used instrumentally - that is my big moral concern.”
He said he “regretted” the proposals on removing the need for a father, saying it was a “downgrading of the ordinary processes of reproduction and upbringing” in favour of a “highly technological view” of what human reproduction was about.

Dr Williams also called for the Government to allow a free vote on the “big issues” of conscience, posed by the proposals on hybrid embryos in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and the removal of the clause on the need for a father.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 9:31am GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

Evan Harris gives away his amoral motivation when he agrees to a free vote not on principle but only in the knowledge that his side is likely to win anyway. He would be quite happy for the entire house to be secularist, and on the morning of the blasphemy bill emailed re the pride they should feel in secularisation. This is the member of the National Secular Society who thinks he can pan members of Christian societies because of their membership. Somehow their membership affects their conclusions whereas his does not.

The point is not whether this Bill is or is not a mere tinkering with the 1990 one. It is how acceptable the 1990 one was, and how acceptable the 1967 abortion act was *intrinsically*. The number one task for intelligent debate is to realise the normalising effect that legislation (even rotten legislation) is bound to have had, and show that one can think independently of the constraining effect of one's own very sepcific culture.

Once you agree (on what evidence?) to (a) a divorce of sex/childbirth from marriage and (b) to a downgrading of the value of human life, then you can tinker as much as you like, and it will (demonstrably) make negligible difference because the damage has already been done. You will all the time be avoiding the real questions. A bit like a cannibal who agonises over whether to eat his prey with garlic or with onions.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 1:19pm GMT

Wow, the slimy, slippery slope - from carefully planned empirical research - with ethical and methodological restraints or parameters - to outright cannabalism.

Goodness knows, if conservative religious beliefs didn't stand vigorously in the way, we might have got up to any number of other slippery slope downhill things - like torturing our neighbors for their beliefs (or unbeliefs), stealing their property when they died from our rough interrogations, and generally claiming that we always know best because we know God and God especially loves us for being so strict that a pagan cannot wedge a lost penny under our tight knickers.

Alas, too often these conversations across the divides take on the character of near-parody. I will parody your understandings, if only you will firmly promise to parody mine.

As for divorcing sex/childbirth from marriage, in many cultures the links are hardly the simplistic westernized conservative religious ones an either/or reference in passing might suggest to a casual reader.

Is adopting a strict, closed conservative religious view really, really, really, really the only possible way to value and engage in the value of human life?

If we categorically cannot - cannot be allowed to? - empirically and ethically distinguish between embryonic tissues in a petri dish over a two week cycle of experimentation, and the full-blown human being who just happens to be a queer citizen, partnered and parenting, who just moved into the empty house next door - we might indeed wonder if our ethical and empirical tools were too heavy and too blunt to serve as anything better than a thrashing tool?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 2:49pm GMT

The rhetoric around these issues is rather interesting. A number of scientists and politicians are shouting very loudly about how "religion" and "religious people" are misrepresenting science.

But the same scientists and politicians seem in the same breath to grant themselves the freedom to misrepresent religion, including Christianity, as much as they like.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 3:17pm GMT

I have developed this habit of not treating Tom or N. T. Wright seriously. When I did a blog comparing Jensen's message and Williams's sermon, I had also read Wright's. His stuff on secularists was just too easy a target, and I thought about having a hack at the rest of the stuff which was full of assumptions. I'd been reading some Dennis Nineham too (in a book) and just wondered where Wright gets all his certainties from. Anyway, I may have been wrong to dismiss Wright's ranting and it is good to see that it has been picked up. His is just a display of ignorance and generating false enemies and shows a lack of confidence in his own Church and his own beliefs. If you want to shore up your own, find an enemy - it's a strategy as old as the hills.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 3:31pm GMT

Good heavens, Christopher. I had no idea the US version of "everything for the unborn, nothing for the born" had found its way to your side of the pond.

Do you really believe that a four- or five-day-old embryo, frozen in perpetuity, destined to never really become a human being, has more right to life than a 35-year-old Parkinson's patient, whose life might--at the least--be eased of suffering if not prolonged by the kind of medical knowledge that might result from embryonic research?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 3:48pm GMT

"Dr Williams attacked proposals . . . which would remove the reference to the need for a father when under going fertility treatment."

Otherwise, "Heather might have two mommies": the horror!

{Sarcasm/OFF}

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 6:58pm GMT

Question for everyone (binding on everyone): When did I begin?
Sometime between age 3-7 years after birth when language and a sense of right and wrong develop, birth, 12 weeks after fertilization, 14 days after fertilization, fertilization when a new totipotent organism begins?

Question for Christians (binding only on Christians): When did God start to love me?

Posted by: Leo on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 8:44pm GMT

Surely the logic of all in favour of 'research' would be to permit using embryos up until the limit of the number of weeks permitted for abortions?

Posted by: Neil on Tuesday, 25 March 2008 at 10:38pm GMT

The PM withdraws the whip in favour of the Vatican's. In doing so, we can move on from whether Catholic Labour MPs should be given a free vote, to focus on issues of substance.

The main proponents of the Bill - leading health charities - could hardly be described as "a militantly atheist and secularist lobby", wanting a "secular utopia". They are merely speaking on behalf of those with incurable diseases who might benefit from such research.

The liturgies of the Triduum are self-explanatory and don't require sermons, in my view. Humility shown at the Maundy Thursday foot-washing gets forgotten during Easter Day sermons, which are exploited to exert political muscle, especially by those who don't also have a seat in the House of Lords.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 12:16am GMT

Leo:

First question: When did you begin what exactly? Life? Being human? Having sentience? It's also perfectly possible to argue that you have no separate beginning...that you start as an egg in your mother's ovaries, an potentiality that is there from the moment your mother's ovaries form in HER mother's womb...

Second question: God loves all his creation...but we don't argue whether it is moral to kill, say, a paramecium.

I don't claim to have a perfect answer to all this, but I can say this: I don't think Jesus would have counted the "life" of a frozen embryo as having a higher value than the chance to cure disease.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 2:22am GMT

Question for Christians (binding only on Christians): When did God stop loving some of us?

Or

Why are some forgiven and others never? e.g. Cheva

Or

Why are Christians acknowledged but others who helped Christianity and/or Jesus not only not acknowledged but Christians are trained into how to make them extinct? e.g. the two Cherubim of the Ark between which and above the Ark is meant to be David's (aka Jesus?) throne

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 9:20am GMT

Hi Pat-

Precisely - I believe in saving/allowing/prolonging as many lives as possible. And if embryo research promised to be the best means of delivering same, as opposed to the third best (at best) which has so far delivered nothing, then by all means it might in some circumstances be the best way of delivering that end. It is difficult to see that being often the case, since it is not clear why someone who has already had the chance of plenty of life should be saved at the expense of someone who has not. The opposite would be more logical.

Hi Neil-
The proponents of embryo research set great store by the 14-day embryo not being recognisably a human being, since it is not possible to distinguish the cells that will make up the body from those that will make up the placenta. (No question of the placenta being regarded as a temporary part of the body.) They then conveniently forget this point when they support abortion of thoroughly recognisable human beings. (As though our failure to recognise them was to be rewarded rather than identified as being down to our own ignorance.) Just as Mary Warnock has conveniently forgotten her pledge to respect the embryos, and is happy to have them flushed dowen the chute as we progress towards a situation where human life is accorded ever-greater value.

Hi Leo-
I'm real glad that you (by implication) see it as a live option to exterminate people between 3 and 7 years. I bet you wish they had done it to you. :o( No? Why not?

Hi Pluralist-
Dennis Nineham (like you?) was renowned for being a splitter rather than a lumper, in other words, one who ideologically emphasised dissimilarities and de-emphasised similarities. Both splitters and lumpers are (at worst) enemies of proper scholarship which seeks to recognise both similarities and dissimilarities where appropriate and in proportion.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 1:25pm GMT

I'm a Christian and I support this kind of research. Maybe I'm not the right kind of Christian???

When we have the possibility of helping those with diabetes, parkinson's etc... and we throw that away (when we throw away the unused embryos), the quality of life is diminished not exhanced.

Posted by: BobinSwPA on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 2:38pm GMT

I just imagined myself in the place of a frozen embryo and suddenly found myself, as the embryo, thinking, "What if it is my ministry, my purpose in life, to give life or relief from misery to others by giving up my life?" Even as we, living now a sentient, adult existence, are commanded by our Lord to give up our own lives for the sake of others, in order to gain our lives.
Lois Keen

Posted by: Lois Keen on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 3:38pm GMT

Can I recommend a visit to Bishop Alan's blog, (http://bishopalan.blogspot.com/) where he asks and replies to some pertinent questions with wisdom, candour and coolness?

Posted by: cryptogram on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 5:36pm GMT

"Question for everyone (binding on everyone)"

"Binding on everyone" you say!

Question for Leo: who made you God?

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 6:07pm GMT

I am glad to see the Bishops coming out on this issue. However it would be far more effective if they all came out together, in unity there is strength. And where are all the Christian leaders from other denominations? It always seems to be the Catholics leading the way on these issues. What about Church of England cabinet members and MPs, why are they never talked of, are there any?

I firmly believe the time has come to form a broad moral coalition in this country of all the Christians and, where possible, have the Jews and Muslims join us. We need a powerful lobby like that to keep our secularist politicians in check. In America they have achieved this, with the 'value voters' keeping the democrats out of power election after election.

Posted by: Sharon Roberts on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 8:22pm GMT

Christopher: Evan Harris used to be my MP, in which capacity I occasionally came across him, and I must say my impression always was that he is one of the people with the highest integrity and ethical standards you could come across in public life, which is probably why he is so popular in Oxford. You might perhaps avoid rubbishing his views: he is a medical doctor by profession, and a lot more respected by his constituents than some of those peddling prejudices who believe they are automatically moral merely by being religious. I might add that I had always voted Tory until I saw what a good MP Evan Harris is, particularly because of his unequivocal commitment to equal rights for gay people.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 9:31pm GMT

"I believe in saving/allowing/prolonging as many lives as possible. And if embryo research promised to be the best means of delivering same, as opposed to the third best (at best) which has so far delivered nothing, then by all means it might in some circumstances be the best way of delivering that end. It is difficult to see that being often the case, since it is not clear why someone who has already had the chance of plenty of life should be saved at the expense of someone who has not. The opposite would be more logical."

We don't yet know what the promise of embryo research is. We haven't been doing it long enough and without ridiculous restrictions. If we historically took your attitude toward research, then polio would still be a summer-time scourge throughout the world, because research on a vaccine would have been cut off as not being the best means of dealing with the problem.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 9:46pm GMT

"In America they have achieved this, with the 'value voters' keeping the democrats out of power election after election."-S. Roberts

Yes, you certainly can see the results in Iraq.

4000/5. $12 Billion/month.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 9:57pm GMT

Sharon Roberts the RC bishops who have spoken to date clearly do not understand the scientific facts of the case. It is criminal that they are speaking ignorantly and therefore rubbish.

They are also speaking untruths -- is ignorance any excuse ?

I am ashamed of so much of the 'leadership' given by bishops.

Your viewpoint does not have the monopoly of truth you imagine it to have. Nor is there anything distinctively Christian about your stance here --- if it where otherwise we should be a great deal of trouble.

Listen to what the 100 charities have to say from there postion on the ground ....

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 at 10:21pm GMT

I am currently trying to find a list of the charities who have been lobbying MPs to support human/animal embryo bill. I know Cancer research are one. I had a monthly standing order to them which I'm now seriously considering withdrawing and diverting the donation to Christian charities.

You may mock the Americans but the value voters have put a born-again Christian in the White House and have kept the sympathisers to the homosexual lobby and other ungodly lobbies out for a generation. Bible-believing Christians in the UK need to look and learn, we can't take our MPs for granted to respect Christian ethics in our lawmaking anymore.

Posted by: Sharon Roberts on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 12:27am GMT

Dennis Nineham asks what can we know and how can we know it. He asks do we actually believe that today: how can that relate to how we think now. Yes, I also ask these questions, but I will give more time for a good story, so long as we know what it is. You would never find me, for example, allowing Simon Mayo to think what is a story to be history.

Anyway, I did have a go at what the present Bishop of Durham preached on, and the more I looked at it the more I came to the view that he was engaging in little more than a rant. He presents himself as academic but this sermon was appalling, and it is not the first time. Perhaps he likes throwing his weight around but the danger of that with some heavy people is that with a little push of a little finger they fall over.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 12:38am GMT

I agree with about 90% of what Polly Toynbee said on this in the Guardian on Tuesday. Her question why this is a matter of coscience whilst other issues - the Iraq War, the replacement of Trident, an increase of the minimum wage below inflation - are not is a very valid one.
I agree with almost all of this statement - "The clerics' claim to the moral high ground is breathtaking. In their obscurantist dogma, the sanctity of a drop of human DNA outweighs the epic global distress caused by these diseases. The Bishop of Durham helpfully reminded us this Eastertide of one dark strand of Christianity's passion for pain and death when he accused "secular utopianism" of believing in "the unstoppable human ability to make a better world". Yes, he's right. Secularists do think that trying to make things better in the human here and now trumps imposing needless suffering on the sick for perverse doctrinal reasons." ...except to say, not just secularists. That's not far from my brand of Christianity either - that's how I read John 10:10.

Posted by: Graham Ward on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 1:05am GMT

"You may mock the Americans but the value voters have put a born-again Christian in the White House and have kept the sympathisers to the homosexual lobby and other ungodly lobbies out for a generation."

I object to the term "values voter" as it suggests that everyone else has no values...I value all life, not just that of the unborn; I value all cultures, not just my own; I value diversity, not conformity.

And as for that "born-again Christian" in the White House...is homosexuality a greater sin than torture? Than lying to start a war?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 10:23am GMT

Yes, well said Graham Ward. Thanks for the reference and quotation.

Also Mt 25; and 'the sermon on the mount' / plain.

Yes, I too ahve been wondering why 'ethical issues' are framed so narrowly. So uselessly. Christians are shamed by humanists. I am ashamed. If the anglican priamtes and Canon Sugden had traveled the world to say raq or Darfur ....

Sharon Roberts may imagine Geo Bush to be 'born again' but I don't see it. I really really do not. If he is the whole things becomes meaningless.Worse than.

You clearly don't believe in 'sinless perfection', then ? Not in Bush's case.


Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 10:38am GMT

Sharon
I have a daughter who is being treated for leukaemia.
I am not impartial when it comes to assessing the respective absolute value of her life and that of a 5 day old embryo that would never become a child anyway.
But neither are the ethics immediately and blindingly obvious. What makes you think they are? And are those of us who come to a different conclusion automatically un-Christian?
Sometimes I’d give anything to have such a wonderfully simplistic view of life, but life just isn’t like that. Nor is Christianity.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 10:38am GMT

"You may mock the Americans but the value voters have put a born-again Christian in the White House and have kept the sympathisers to the homosexual lobby and other ungodly lobbies out for a generation. Bible-believing Christians in the UK need to look and learn, we can't take our MPs for granted to respect Christian ethics in our lawmaking anymore"-S-Roberts

Oh, yes, there are priorities aren't there? Invade a country and kill tens of thousands of innocents, but by God, we've kept those queers at bay! Thing of it is, once we elect an ethical person to the White House, we queers will get a more equitable tax code for our domestic partnership, then we'll pay for the war that the born again devil foisted on us to begin with. Ain't life great. You get your wonderful war, get to smear us with constitutional admendments (on the state level mind you, soon to be tossed by the Supreme Court as "unconstitutional"), then have those LGBT clean up your nonsense.

Proud of yourself aren't you Sharon?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 3:32pm GMT

Sharon dear, you are very wrong about the current US political system. The "values voters," as you call them have been hoodwinked in one election after another since 1980 (Reagan). The pols promise to pass laws forcing everyone to become (or pretend to become) born-again, pure and moral, but once in office nothing happens. GWB, like Regan, talks the talk -- very sincere -- but exerts no leadership for, say, putting an anti-abortion amendment into the Constitution. Wonder why? Can it be that the vast majority of Americans aren't "born-again" and aren't particularly interested? On the other hand, those of us who have have had to watch friends or relations suffering from Parkinson's Disease, muscular dystrophy, cancer, and the like would very much like to see some way to stop the suffering. Most pols realize this, too. Please take the time to read some recent US history that isn't written by Pat Robinson.

Posted by: SHP on Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 7:46pm GMT

SHP, I wish I could say U.S. voters have been hoodwinked since Reagan, but it is outright obnoxious anti-intellectualism and simple-mindedness of an increasingly uneducated society (which is what the power structure wants for sure) that has put these monsters in charge. It is ultimately the product of what Sharon seems to want, to trust totally in her (version of) God and let the nit-picking bible police have their ways. The U.S. today is the result of Christian fascism, and it will true test of the strength of our constitution to get us back on the track of the truly righteous.

Evangelical Christianity is not the same here as it is in U.K./Europe. If you feel inspired after attending the vicar's weekly bible study at St. Swithin's in the Swamp, that's fine. The mass-production facilities of fundamentalism in U.S. white suburbia are powerful a diversions at keeping a populace away from reality and have nothing to with God. It is power and politics, plain and simple. A "soma" to keep one's attention away from that "man behind the curtain" in the Wal-Mart of religious edifices.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 28 March 2008 at 1:53am GMT

Hi Fr Mark-

It is good to learn that Evan Harris is a devoted MP. My quibble is, rather, with: (1) his intellectual standpoints (ie the fact that they are not those supported by the stats, but are by coincidence those most congenial to himself and his peers); (2) his clear bias. Out of 18 people invited to his consultation 6 months ago, 13 were so-called 'pro-choice' (whose choice?). Those who were not were grilled about their memberships of Christian organisations as though this somehow disqualified them from the debate. Surely you cannot support a man who does this while being a firm and proud member of the equally ideological National Secular Society himself, and considering that that is somehow different?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 28 March 2008 at 1:23pm GMT

Christopher: I am not Evan Harris' PR man, but I don't hold being a leading light in the National Secular Society against him. Indeed, if it protects gay people like me from losing our rights to those claiming the right to be hateful to us on the basis of religion, then I'm in favour of it. I don't know whether he is so much in favour of anti-religion as an a-religious basis for law-making, which is surely sensible in such a divided society as 21st c Britain.

If professed Christians were dispassionate advocates for the marginalised, and fighters for justice and equality for all, then perhaps they, by their sweetness and kindness towards everyone else, would attract secularists to think there was something to our holy religion. As it is, the Church seems to be undergoing a take-over by the most small-minded militant anti-everyone-elsists imaginable; in which case I'm all for its influence being curbed, and having legislation made by more balanced and broad-minded intelligent people, such as Anglicans used to be.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 28 March 2008 at 9:37pm GMT

Shame the government has given a free vote on the details. I was looking forward to the odious Ruth Kelly resigning.

And its worth pointing out that the preface to the 1928 Prayer Book has the following 'We are living in a new world: it is ours, if we are true to the faith that is in us, to seek to make it a better world.' What has happened between 1928 and 2008 which leads the Bishop of Durham to regard contemporary efforts for a better world as the result of the evils of secular utopianism and therefore worthy of his intemperate condemnation?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 28 March 2008 at 11:14pm GMT

Hi Fr Mark-

Although I don't see being a believer as a 'religion' (in your terminology) - and nor does the New Testament (as opposed to modern sociologists) we'll let that pass. Your more substantial points:

(1) It is not so much what basis you *don't* have for lawmaking but what basis you *do* have. It's no good replacing something flawed with something even more flawed. Secularism is heavily ideological and often not at all evidence-based.

(2) Suppose everybody made a big effort to be socially active and kind (and let's face it, a lot of Christians are both of these things already, a possibly unintended byproduct of which is nonchristian appreciation: Mt 5.16 // 1 Ptr 2), would that make the metaphysical claims of Christianity any more or less true than they already are? No. You seem to be advocating the idea that people are more likely to be speaking the truth if they are nice. That entirely erroneous supposition has been exploited by people who think they need only to dress well and speak fluently and plausibly to get off in court. And by those who think that merely talking coolly and calmly will win them the argument. There is enough style-not-substance in the world without our adding to it.

(3) You want Anglicans to be balanced, broad-minded and intelligent. Well, their first task is to be Christian. Next, intelligent - definitely. Balanced - yes, provided it does not mean their being cautious even on topics which do not require caution (false learnedness). As for broad-minded - well, that needs a bit more unpacking. We should have as broad horizons as possible - yes. We should be aware of the many things that exist - yes. We should approve the said things - hallo? It can only be determined on a case-by-case basis whether we should approve them or not.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 1:02pm GMT

Sharon et al,

How blinkered the reading is we get on this list is apparent in the interpretation we get of George Bush. He is "born again," he is "the devil" himself. In the case of the first reference in evangelical circles the wine has been so often mixed with water that there is a question whether there is any wine left. Of course labels or slogans about why the war began are easy if you forget 9/11 and over 4000 innocents killed. And it forgets that the Democratic party also voted for this war from Kerry to H Clinton on down. So if you pin the label of devil on people where will it end?

I said at the time we have the UN in there, keep the scrutiny up and the pressure on UN to do their job (the Iraq war was a mistake from day one). It would just be good now to get a little balance in the picture, perhaps a measure of human understanding might even be in order. Then think about the steps to take so that now the country is not simply abandoned to chaos.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 8:38pm GMT

Christopher: no, my view of what is basic Christianity is not really that it is to do with being nice. (I'm a fan of Iris Murdoch's novels, as I am sure all Thinking Anglicans are, and of course, in "The Nice and the Good" she portrays a group of characters, all of whom are nice, but questions whether any of them are good.) However, it must be admitted that a large part of traditional "Broad Church" Anglicanism was an intelligent niceness - the religion of good taste, reasonabless and manners, in which the clergy always knew how to wield a fork correctly and how to address a viscount's younger son properly. From Jane Austen through Barchester to Betjeman and St Mary Mead a rich literary tradition attests to this. I used to be rather mocking of that sort of religion, but, now that it is being replaced by something much less genteel, and in fact altogether cruel, I am beginning to lament its passing.

My own preference is for a Christianity that is focussed not so much on niceness or harsh Puritan moralising as worship. What we lack more than anything at the moment is a sense of rooted spirituality. In the light of the daily round of prayer and sacramental celebration, of waiting on God, all human failings and all human loves are seen in proper proportion, and our sense of our own humility sees both our judgmentalism and our anxiety fade away: we kneel together as equals before the throne of grace. Who cares who considers themselves more worthy than their neighbour?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 9:12pm GMT

Pluralist,

One does not have to read very far into N T Wright's message to see why you might have a hard "go" of it.

If one is of a mind to live in a world where it is always dusk all cats will necessarily appear to be grey. And in the "pluralist" world they MUST all be grey (otherwise there would be some differences that make a difference!). In this world to recognize concretely the action of God in raising Jesus from the dead does not fit nor specific standards that inform and guide human response. If we see ourselves as finally in charge this must be refused. Wright is to the point when he says this "wishy-washy religion has little to do with any actual faith, particularly with real Christianity."

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 4:47am BST

Ben W: being on the progressive side of the current debates in the C of E is not the same as being wishy-washy. Some of us are very colourful, characterful individuals with strong convictions, who just happen to believe that behaviour such as stigmatising gay people and treating women unfairly are plain wrong. Don't suggest that such opinions make us feeble, please!

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 9:58pm BST

Fr. Mark,

What can "progressive" mean in these cases? Sometimes "progressive" is stretched so far or becomes so diluted that it simply comes around as the other side of regressive.

What is the premise of "pluralism" itself in general? One way to say it, you don't stand for much except that you don't stand for much and you are against people who do. Indicated here in that you remain installed in old assumptions without regard to most of what I have said about gay people and no account at all of what I've said about women.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 11:00pm BST
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