Saturday, 23 January 2010

Opinion this week

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times Repent of a theology of blame

Harriet Baber has a Face to Faith article in The Guardian Evangelical US megachurches like Saddleback are market-driven, with transcendence not on the menu

Ruth Gledhill writes in the Times about preachers Spreading the word of preaching, from the transcendent to the bumbling
and about cathedrals in MPs want crumbling cathedrals to get Government cash

Alan Wilson wrote on Cif belief about The media’s trouble with religion

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 2:53pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Giles Fraser makes an interesting point, but:
In the 1750s, people didn't know what caused earthquakes. God's grace (or lack thereof) was as good a reason as any. Now, we do know better. I assume that Pat Robertson had some facsimile of a modern American education as a child. If he had continued to be educated, he would have understood about plate tectonics, etc. But I guess it’s much more self-satisfying to speak on God’s behalf.
Second, note that the Wesleys blamed the earthquakes on the current behaviors of English and Spanish people. They didn't blame the English earthquakes, for example, on persecution of non-Roman Catholics during the era of Roman Catholic England. They understood cause and effect, and the efficacy of punishment being contemporaneous with the crime.
So, yes, there's a parallel, but I doubt the Wesleys would approve of Robertson's God who dispensed punishment 200 years after the alleged "crime".
Mr. Fraser should have stuck to his first thought: Pat Robertson is a proven world-class, gold-plated, grade AAA idiot.

Posted by: peterpi on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 6:47pm GMT

I'm rather surprised that Fr Fraser doesn't mention the Mother of All "theologies of blame": that directed at the Jews, en toto and perpetuity, as "Christ-killers," calling down the costs of his blood "on us and our children."

I'm not saying these words must be cut out of the Gospel of John (and certainly, official declarations by Vat2, et al, against their anti-Semitic interpretation have been important).

But following them, there is a DEEP current of "Blame the Victim" in Christianity which will take intense, and intentional, efforts to *exorcise*.

Pat Robertson's words are just the rantings of a senile old man---but, unless such an exorcism is made, the theology behind them will likely persist, long after the plug has been pulled (one way or another!) on Pat.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 7:43pm GMT

The piece on earthquakes and theology is very pertinent for us to reflect on.

Notably the criminalisation of homosexuality in Europe (and therefore Western colonies i.e. most of the world) dates back to Justinian's legal code which cited adverse natural phenomena as a reason to legislate against homosexuality (including earthquakes and famine).

It shows a deeply superstitious and unenlightened view of God somewhat - a violent deity with no self control who just lashes out and for that reason you have to institute the death penalty to get rid of the offending groups or else people will be killed at random.

Such laws (the death penalty being replaced by imprisonment and Uganda is the only instance in the last couple of hundred years to want to reintroduce it so the theology is still alive and well) have formed the backdrop of all Christian theology of sexuality.

In a world where all gay people are subject to the death penalty it's obvious that moral theology is going to be either deeply skewed or complicit and hence the lack of support for LGBT people in the church's traditions of the past 1,500 years.

We are still living with that legacy and there are bishops today who link flooding to Civil Partnerships (?Carlisle) as if God wanting to kill homosexuals aims at killing heterosexuals instead. At least the victims in Lisbon were probably all Roman Catholic and God's aim seems to have been more accurate, if that was His aim.

The time to speak out against all of this was at the time of Justinian (though Christian a dictator who enshrined legislation against Jews and non-Christians), we still live under that oppressive legacy now, quite apart from attempts to resurrect it. It constitutes 1,500 years of continuous Christian witness.

This is a significant part of what is at the heart of the problems in the Anglican Communion today and we need to work hard at thinking and praying our way out of it.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 11:33pm GMT
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