Saturday, 28 June 2008

Petertide comments

Giles Fraser in the Church Times Family love is a model of injustice

Robert O’Neill asks in The Guardian Do we need a global Anglican communion?. His answer is a resounding and heartfelt “yes”.

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah in a Face to faith article in The Guardian Judaism has had to evolve to survive, and Anglicanism must too. She asks “Is Anglicanism a form of progressive Christianity - and if so, what are its progressive credentials?”

Roderick Strange in the credo column at the Times Genuine conversion unveils our hidden depths

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph that the bees are back at Lambeth Palace. The riddle of the golden syrup tin

Stephen Bates in The Guardian Barack Obama and the Jesus Machine - “Televangelist James Dobson has come out against Obama. But the Democrat might just carry religious voters with him anyway.”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 9:56am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Good articles.

Robert O'Neill wrote "We live in a world plagued by division, conflict, and violence, much of it rationalised, justified, and glorified in the name of God. Indeed our world is starving for a more transcendent vision itself. So how about something new? How about a global communion that reveals a deeply challenging but wonderfully divine truth."

How about a global communion that remembers and honours Jesus' missive to be the Prince of Peace, Comforter and Counsellor to all the peopleS of all the nationS? How about a communion that comprehends that galut means that no religious community can successfully be cordoned off from its neighbours and that the survival and blessings of both the holy and mundane are inextricably bound into each other? How about a communion that models by how it treats people who want to be in communion with it, that God is a magnomious and generous God who provides for all, including the weak, the outcaste and the rebellious.

We all breath the same air, drink the same water, survive in the same biosphere. None of us are an island unto ourselves. Any model that purports to exclude any one group (no matter how unsavory) demonstrates it lacks the vision to carry humanity through to the next age.

The Shekina sheltered the Jews for 40 years in the cloud by day and fire by night. She was there at Mt Sinai, at the consecration of Solomon's temple and Jesus' transfiguration. She will not accept any solution that justifies violence or genocide of any camp.

Jesus' was annointed to be responsible for all levels of Creation. Any "Christian" who attempts to deprive any camp are in violation of Jesus' missive and God's everlasting covenants.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 11:36am BST

The Now Show on BBC R4 had a nice piece by Mitch Benn on the goings on in Jerusalem.
About 5 mins in.


ps the rest of the show is pretty funny as well.

Posted by: Kennedy on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 12:59pm BST

"One of the angriest [disputes] was between Peter and Paul, whom we commemorate together on Sunday...Their row was about power, as all our rows are. Who shall have the last word on matters of doctrine, and who shall determine who will and will not be saved?" - John Pridmore, Church Times

By eroding the hegemony of two millennia of patriarchal power, it might be said that the twin olive branches are represented nowadays by women bishops and openly gay bishops...

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 1:08pm BST

Re: Stephen Bates on James Dobson:
(1) JD is not primarily an 'evangelist' - he has a teaching and pastorla/family ministry. The kind of stereotyping that conjures up visions of Jim Bakker every time the cliche 'televangelist' is used is not of a high intellectual calibre. Besides, all one has to do to be a televangelist is to be an evangelist and appear on the telly. Does that automatically make one guilty by association of all the crimes of Swaggart, [at times] Roberts, Bakker et al.? Is it intelligent people who stereotype?

(2) It is unarguable that America and the west has become less family-oriented. Is one simply to capitulate to that trend without comment or analysis of causes? Sb might prefer that but...

(3) All the millions of JD's audience and mailing list are seen as fruitcakes by SB as though they were not different and unique individuals. That is one large bakery of production-line fruitcakes - as lazy thinkers might wish to conclude.

(4) There is no obligation to go along with what JD says as there might be with the Pope. His listeners are liable to agree with him on many things in any case - that seems logical. If he is a leader in his constituency it stands to reason that one of the main things he simply has to comment on is: what will America turn out like if such-and-such a president gets in? What could be more crucial?

(5) Yes, his position on the environment is - *if* he means it should not be a priority for Christians - absolutely nuts. If, however. he means that there should be no dilution of the fight on family issues since that is the specific purpose for which his organisation exists - then that's right.

(6) His books combine logic, statistics, wisdom and anecdote, and seem to me clearly among the best in their field - and an important field it is. There is no shortage of people able to benefit from the messages of 'Love must be tough'; 'Bringing up boys'; 'Dare to Discipline'; 'Life on the Edge'; 'Man to man about women' etc..

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 1:13pm BST

Seriously, no scorn here, but when we say "progressive", we are referring to modern societal cultural norms. We are convinced that our societal and cultural norms are forward and somehow enlightened. Well, it was once thought enlightened to burn women because in so doing we were saving their souls. It was once thought progressive and modern to believe illnesses could be caused by a surfeit of melancholy humours. Why is our "progressive" any better then the "progressive" of two centuries ago? This is not to say that things like acceptance of gay people or women's rights or religious freedom or democracy are wrong, but just because we may or may not be right in some of these things doesn't mean that everything our society validates is "progressive". Some of these ideas might be just as ignorant as the things we now scorn in past societies, and, like them, we may not realize they are deserving of scorn, it'll take the judgement of history to decide. I often wonder what the judgement of history will be on our age. Just because our society validates something doesn't mean it's progressive, it just means it's modern, which isn't the same thing at all. After all, when we are talking about religion, we are talking about eternal truth, and what can be more "progressive" than that?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 2:34pm BST

Well Mr. O'Neill nicely takes a stance for global communion - but his central question is not easily answered these days: Will folks on the middle rights to far rights in our communion let themselves be in any meaningful relationships - and here the famously localized network of inter-Anglican connections comes to mind, no doubt - with folks in other sorts of middles to lefts to far lefts? All around the planet?

The only thing that will heal - no matter how long it takes - the rifts between, say, Akinola or Orombi or Jensen or Nazir-Alir or Minns or Anderson and, say, folks pretty much like me in this or that aspect - is that we continue to relate in meaningful ways as citizens who differ yet are nonetheless connected as global citizen believers. Common worship, in a familiar Anglican phrase. And common service in a hurting world. And, something perilously near at times - the peril is perceived and weighed mainly by conservatives these days - something perilously close to common witness to Jesus of Nazareth.

If we have lost the arts of relation through which we constantly work and pray - and worship - asking God to show us how to be enriched and challenged to grow by our non-simplistic differences? What hope have we as big tent believers?

This near Lambeth could be a tipping point if not highjacked by some last minute conservative realignment juggernaut move that tries to divide and conquer, collapsing the big Anglican tent in the process. As God's good work to conform and make all our tents less various in modern life.

GAFCON has in fact not yet divided, nor conquered - though it was supposed to be a major thrust in the global campaign to do so, and even a tipping point decisive victory, displaying weaponized conservative realignment doctrines in all their steeled fineries. Yet so far, if GAFCON has shot anybody, it is themselves they have so far shot in the foot - from the point of view of the worldwide audiences (note the plural in audiences) watching and listening - for the most part carefully drawn outside the GAFCON boundaries that GAFCONites preach will surely enlighten and save us all.

Indeed, the global communion is done only and mainly if this next Lambeth cannot indeed be a deep occasion of listening and relating across our innumerable differences.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 4:25pm BST

Yes, the rabbi offers a much needed challenge to anglicanism, with clarity and optimism. So does the Now show.

She challenges anglicans to be progressive !!

As for the Now Show (radio 4) it was great !!

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 8:37pm BST

I agree drdanfee

The book of Numbers keeps coming to mind, where the Israelites were warned to draw back from the camp of Korech. The earth might not swallow this camp, but God can make clear they are power-grabbers, argumentative, violent and disrespectful like Korech's camp.

Thanks for the posting Hugh, hegemmonious patriarchy has been around for longer than two millenia, unfortunately. That's why there were Jews in Jesus' time who had been so brought off by "the system" and had thus become whitewashers and justifiers of complacency and selfishness.

I always like Isaiah 49, it reminds us that we need "another" to cover our back and redeem us when we won't redeem ourselves (Jung would like that imagery too). It's just a pity that most men stall after their redemption and get around to doing in kind for their females.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 10:00pm BST

I have just seen Christopher Shell's lofty dismissal of my article. Whether my account of Dobson is not of high intellectual calibre or not is for others to judge - and of course Shell does not hesitate to do that - but it seems to me incontestable that Dobson is an evangelist for a particular religious point of view and that it is a highly partisan and politicised one.
He has in the past sought to deny this, but has in recent years taken both to endorsing candidates (though only Republican ones) and, in the case of the Bush administration's disastrous attempt to appoint Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, rather too ostentatiously taken the government's line on trust.
As I presume Shell will have read both the transcript of Dobson's radio address last week about Obama (and of course it was Dobson who referred to fruitcakes) and the two year-old Obama speech of which it was a critique before commenting on my article - otherwise he is commenting out of ignorance of the substance of the piece - he will know that Dobson's account was a politicised travesty of what Obama actually sad.
It was so far the reverse of the Democratic candidate's speech as to amount to mendacity. If Shell has read it, he remains silent on the point.
Shell might also reflect that Dobson has used obnoxious tactics in his attempt to unseat Rich Cizik, of the National Association of Evangelicals, who has been the chief protagonist for the "stewards of the earth" position on the environment. Dobson, in a letter he co-signed with other conservative evangelicals such as Weyrich and Bauer in March last year, in an effort to get Cizik sacked, attempted to claim that since he was an environmentalist he must therefore be in favour of birth control and abortion: "How is population control to be achieved if not by promoting that?"
Much fuller accounts of these matters are to be found in my recent book God's Own Country and, particularly, The Jesus Machine, by Dan Gilgoff, which I am surprised Shell appears not to have consulted before commenting - or perhaps he too is just being disingenuous. Or not of sufficiently high intellectual calibre to engage in research before commenting.
One further point: nothing I have ever written in any forum whatsoever implies that I think the family is unimportant to individuals or society. I defy Shell to come up with any statement of mine which has ever implied the contrary. In other words, he has the impertinence to assume he knows my views on a matter of which he has no knowledge.
He is therefore indulging in an indolent, unthinking unsubstantiated and - in the context of his remarks in this forum - an actionable smear, which I suggest he might do well to reflect on, before apologising and retracting an insinuation for which he has no basis.

Posted by: stephen bates on Monday, 30 June 2008 at 12:14pm BST

Christopher Schell, given the kinds of things you say about gay people, your comments on stereotyping are, to say the least, ironic! Not only that, when you decry the loss of family orientation in American society, you ignore that the party that has consistently opposed any measures of government support for the family are the Republicans, whose major support base is these so-called "family values" Fundamentalists. If they were so family oriented, they'd be trying to ge the richest most powerful government on Earth to allot some of its resources to supporting families, not opposing any kind of government help. One of the funniest things about the movie "Sicko" was how Americans are astounded at the level of government involvement in family life that we in other countries take for granted but that they cannot even conceive of. And who voted for the party responsible for that? Not the EHBLs, that for darned sure. All this Christian Fundamentalist claptrap about supporting "Family Values" is just so much, well claptrap.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 30 June 2008 at 12:49pm BST

Several points here:

(1) The Guardian itself is culpably biased in terms of the meagre pro-arguments for abortion and the other anti-family trends. Whether individual Guardian or ex-Guardian journalists share that 'position' one can't immediately tell, and one is tempted (over-tempted, in fact) to assume that they are on the basis of their overall philosphy seeming to be a 1960s-based rather than Christian-based one.

(2) Ford re Republicans' track-record is informative & surprises me little in that they have failed to deliver on their pro-life / pro-family position - not that that's easy. The UK situation is different: slightly more help/bias for traditional family can be consistently expected from Tories than from Labour (not that I've ever voted Tory) - but there will be exceptions re points of detail.

(3) I wouldn't dream of taking Dobson's position on 'the environment' (ie the planet & its environs) - it's small-horizoned vis-a-vis the broadest horizon there is. In America there's unnecessary/illogical tribalism among evangelicals on this: Campolo, Wallis, Sider (and UK's Chalke and Bartley) are perceived to be pro-environment, pro-poverty relief. The whole idea that this is a multiple choice where one can only be *either* (a) pro-environment &poverty relief *or* (b) pro-traditional family and anti-abortion - but not *both* -is manifestly illogical. Maybe Dobson sees this tribalism as I do, &fears that the pro-environmentalists (if they gain ascendancy within evangelicalism) will take an either-or position in practice. You don't get many Greens standing up for the trad family (why not??).

(4) If JD persuades ppl not to vote for any candidate with BO's stated views on abortion etc, he's doing the right,Christian,logical thing. But misrepresentation is the worst thing ever - esp.when it's deliberate - not that one can always tell.

(5) Aging leaders who've been thro' heart attacks are v.concerned for their legacy.

(6) Who doesn't hold 'a particular point of view'? No-one at all. Moreover, the world's full of consistent right- & left- voters. But many floaters (ie -often- thinking people) are Christians, including in 2008-9 Dobson.

Hope this clarifies?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 1 July 2008 at 1:32pm BST

Readers may notice the casual dishonesty of Christopher Shell's attempted clarification. He excuses his ignorant and disingenuous earlier comment on my beliefs by seeking to claim that all Guardian journalists are the same, so must think the same. The rest of his latest comment is muddled, incoherent and practically illiterate. If he can't express himself clearly, he clearly can't think clearly either.
I still await his apology for his lazy assumption of what I must believe but, frankly do not expect him to have the courtesy or common decency to retract his smear now he has been exposed as peddling a cheap falsehood.

Posted by: stephen bates on Wednesday, 2 July 2008 at 3:56pm BST

Hi SB-
What I said was the opposite - that I had been over-tempted to classify Guardian journalists together without enough differentiation, although in your case this was attributable in part to the greater congruity of some of your views with those of the mythical average Guardian reader as opposed to the mythical average Christian.

Any clarifications you need of any remarks, just ask - as I tend to have a habit of writing very elliptically and telegramatically born of the need to keep within word-limits.

Sorry if I mischaracterised your views on family matters. I'm not sure whether or not I did, until you lay out what your actual views are. But if I did, sorry.

I was very encouraged that the Guardian gave airtime to Anne Atkins and Chris Sugden, since my main campaign is against the pointlessness of preaching to the converted and on the need to understand one's supposed opponents - typically (traditionally, and if one believes the perhaps partly-true stereotypes) on the part of papers such as the Express, Mail, Telegraph, Guardian and so on.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 7 July 2008 at 12:48pm BST

My central point, however (aside from pettier gripes about the annoying way that the words 'evangelist' and 'evangelical' are confused with one another or made to overlap too greatly in semantic range) is that in a world where a good deal of our problems arise from the dissing of the trad family, and in a world where there are 7bn people, if one had a mind to target anyone, one would never get round to targeting those who are fighting *for* the trad family. Of all these 7 bn people, these would be among the last to be targeted: they'd be the ones one would support.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 16 July 2008 at 12:27pm BST

Great, Christopher. I look forward to your support of the stable, loving and secure family my partner and I are giving my children, the care and love their father and his wife give them, and the mature way in which both families work together despite our personal differences to bring our children up together.
It's good to know you're on our side.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 16 July 2008 at 8:13pm BST

They are not a 'family' - not all related to one another. That implies agreement with a state of sin e.g. separation or divorce (the separation being amendable, reversible and reconcilable, but the acceptance of it and agreement with it being something else altogether). I.e. it implies calling division good and reconciliation bad. I.e. calling black white. Secondly there is the biological fact that no child was ever produced other than by one man and one woman. In a world where simple patterns of facts are hard to find this one is reassuringly simple and universal.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 1:29pm BST
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