Saturday, 24 February 2018

Opinion - 24 February 2018

From The Guardian The Guardian view on religious education: teach humanism too
Letters in response Is religion really a toxic brand?

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of giving and withholding blessing

Church Times Retention, not just recruitment
Churches and charities ignore at their peril the views of volunteers, warns Stephanie Denning

James Woodward ViaMedia.News Is the Church of England Guilty of Ageism?

Alison Kings Fulcrum Anger: Not Such a Bad Thing

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 24 February 2018 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Re: Anger: Not Such a Bad Thing, by Alison Kings, the article is expertly insightful.

One can think about anger in strictly interpersonal terms. One is situationally angry or depressed. The remedy is to extract one's self from the situation. One suffers from chronic anger because of some underlying psychological or behavioral malady. The appropriate recourse is the therapy. Kings is very helpful in this regard.

However Kings also touches on anger and despair arising from social injustice either toward one's group or towards those one wants to be in solidarity with. This type of anger invites reflection not just from psychotherapy but from a theological perspective as well.

Caution is required with regard to the deployment of religious texts. Mythological texts are fluid, may become culturally disembodied, subject to projection, and capable of reinforcing bias as much as soothing it. When speaking about what appears to be 'God's anger', we may well be speaking about God as a metaphor for the human conscience.

Anger is an appropriate feeling state that calls for an intentional response. Bernard Lonergan put forward some very useful ideas here with regard to feelings, trends, intentional and non-intentional states and values. ( Method in Theology).

One way of responding to injustice that angers is to offer an alternative way of seeing things that puts values in juxtaposition.

Hierarchies narrate a need for peace and unity in the household of God. The rejoinder is a counter narrative that examines the role of hierarchies in perpetuating injustice towards minorities.

Dogmatists articulate 'orthodoxy'. So, one adverts to voices ignored or suppressed by the politics of orthodoxy.

A culture presents itself as synonymous with the gospel. Here, one articulates the mores of a different culture, one's own, making a case for its conversation with the gospel.

Finally,one must take care that anger in the face of injustice draws one into solidarity and away from isolationism.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 24 February 2018 at 6:04pm GMT

In the final paragraph of Andrew Lightbown'[s excellent article, he points to the inevitability of the Church of England's movement towards the concept of ''unity in diversity' - living with, and not fighting over, differences on the praxis concerning S.S.B.

This is why the panic-stricken flight of 'Reform' and others into the arms of the 'Church Society' - on the basis of their objections to the ABC's eirenic proposal to 'live with difference' does nothing to relieve the suspicion of civil society that the C.of E. is still sexist and homophobic.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 25 February 2018 at 9:04am GMT

Thank you, indeed, to Alison Kings for her article. But I am not sure I agree with her and Alan Hargrave about his outburst to the platitudinous ordinand. It was only wrong if it was untrue, which it wasn't. It might have been shocking, but too often nice church people are allowed to get away with all kinds of nonsense in the name of niceness. A few moments of discomfort in the face of Alan's anguish might have led rather faster to some helpful reflection and rather more subtle theological thinking. Anger has work to do with the recipients of it as well as with we who feel angry, and social discomfort is not always a bad thing.

Nor does it need an apology. If Alan's anger had been directed at the person rather than their opinion then he would almost certainly have been right to apologise. But there is something pathological and English about our need to apologise for creating social discomfort, rather than the content of our outburst, which is really what seems to be driving the apology in this case. Learning not to be sorry for being angry is a very hard and difficult lesson for English people.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Sunday, 25 February 2018 at 11:56am GMT

Regarding the article by Canon James Woodward, his macro analysis for society in general is right on. However, with regard to the church it may be wise to contextualise his analysis with regard to the demographic realities of the church.

(I'm thinking here of my own context i.e. churches are an aging demographic, and as a person in his sixties I'm considered a senior citizen).

Woodward points to variables: "Some 80-year-olds have levels of physical and mental capacity that compare favourably with 20-year-olds. Others of the same age may require extensive care and support."

The problem is that the aging demographic bulge for the church is a constant. This presents huge problems connecting with the wider society in terms of everything from the application of spiritual values to economic realities to technology. The result is that, variables at the individual level aside, the demographic constant creates a syndrome for the church as a dynamic organization attempting conversation with society.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 25 February 2018 at 4:27pm GMT

Rod Gillis seems to walk into exactly that trap of ageist assumptions that James Woodward challenges. For example why is an older demographic in the church a challenge with regard to technological connection with society? Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee are obvious but not especially rare examples of people in their 60s who are OK with technology. Economic reality the same - do you really think being older means you can’t understand economic reality both for yourself and for those of a different age with different responsibilities.

Posted by: Liz moorsom on Friday, 2 March 2018 at 5:57pm GMT

Re: Liz Moorsom, I don't think Woodward's challenge is all that successful or even relevant for that matter. His focus is on the wrong end of the spectrum. If the church is ageist it is ageist with regard to young people, which I thought I was clear about.

Bill Gates? Seriously? You think Gates is typical of his cohort or older with regard to technology?

With regard to economic realities, I can expand on my comment by pointing out the very different economic realities faced by young adults over the past generation compared with those faced by my cohort ( boomers) in terms of the cost of post secondary education, employment opportunities, employment/career stability, housing prices, access to socialized medicine, to future retirement security, and so forth.

But don't take my word for it. I have four adult children over thirty. Check in with men and women in that cohort regarding Woodward's perspective, not just in churchland but in any sector of society, and see what they offer up as a rejoinder to Woodward's emphasis with regard to ageism.

Ageism against seniors in the wider society is only one side of the issue. You might talk to some young adults about post retiree contract based double dipping v. their employment prospects.

Articulating ageism in the church in terms of seniors is one bizarre outlier set of priorities.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 3 March 2018 at 1:45am GMT

To follow on if I may, Canon Woodward begins by referencing W.H.O. One discovers how dependent his piece is for background on W.H.O. information. See link: W.H.O. fact sheet number 404 titled, Health Inequities.

The problem is that any conclusions one draws from W.H.O. about ageism must be subordinate to health and aging.

Example: Woodward states: "...we rightly celebrate the fact that there is no typical older person. Older age is characterised by great diversity. Some 80-year-olds have levels of physical and mental capacity that compare favourably with 20-year-olds."

This is taken verbatim from the W.H.O.
section, Diversity in Older Age, " There is no ‘typical’ older person. Some 80 year-olds have physical and mental capacities similar to many 20 year-olds".

The problem is that while this may be true for individuals,it is not statistically true for an aging cohort. The W.H.O. document acknowledges as much earlier on under the heading,Common Health Conditions associated with aging: "...hearing loss, cataracts and refractive errors, back and neck pain and osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia. Furthermore, as people age, they are more likely to experience several conditions at the same time."

Woodward finds a metaphor from a former ABC ageist. "The Church today seemed to him rather like a very old grandmother...". Recently I requested stats from our pension office that show the average age of clergy in the Canadian Church is over fifty years of age--significantly higher than the average age in the workforce at large. One is likely to find that many clergy are, in fact, in or very near to the grand-parent cohort.

More anecdotally, the few children we have in church seem to accompanied more often than not by a grand-parent rather than a parent.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 3 March 2018 at 4:32pm GMT
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