Comments: Theos the think tank

Theos says secularisation is in reversal. Secularisation can mean loss of influence from the big public religious institutions, linear movement to rationality, the sacred dissolving into secular civic values, and the plurality that leads to a homeless mind. None of these have stopped or reversed. This has been seen as different from secularism, which is ideological; however, A.C. Grayling uses it in a political sense of separation, and it seems to me India would be a good model.

Other than his throwaway lines, like the one about Tony Blair and George Bush praying together, I agree with the general point by David Starkey; to go backwards to religion joining the State even more than now will just create an almighty mess.

The argument no longer seems to be a limited one about establishment, but on the one hand multiculturalism is in trouble, and the other that several major religions are getting the ear of the State and looking for privileges and institutions, like more involvement with schools and legal protection that could silence more than the racists.

Slightly differently: A. C. Grayling sees religion as a counter-science and counter-history, as anti-rational. For me, it is important that Christianity is not trying to put up an alternative science or alternative history, and to know the difference between theology and history and theology and science, and have an aesthetic religion compatible with subject based methodologies. In other words, something like resurrection cannot be demonstrated by historical method, and in evolution - always local and specific - there is no science involved to make all of it to be well. These confusions give Christianity a bad intellectual name.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 12 November 2006 at 7:50pm GMT

Isn't Secularization that the Gospel of God's Righteousness in Christ quietly has been winning hearts and minds while "organized religion" has been busy spewing hierarchy, subordination, division, exclusion and self-hate?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 13 November 2006 at 6:39am GMT

Dear Goran,
No I would say the opposite, the Gospel of God's Righteousness in Christ has been quietly winning hearts and minds despite secularisation, where the gospel has been preached and lived out. As to oragnised religion, if you meant that to include the Anglican communion, I think the ideas of exclusion and self-hate have come mostly form lobby groups rather than secualarisation in general. Take Sir Elton John's comments this weekend for example how can the Anglican church be anti 'gay' when it wishes to assure all those with homosexual desires that they are loved by God, and that it condemns fear and violence?

Posted by DaveW at Monday, 13 November 2006 at 9:34am GMT

Religion is like a two edged sword. It can be an incredible power for good, but it can become the blade of oppression. Secularism that encourages debate is healthy for religion, it forces us to move from beyond "because God said it is good" to develop the language to say why it is good. Securalism that seeks to stop religious dialogue in the public arena has taken on a repressive theology of its own.

To paraphrase a concept from Jung, it is in the interaction with "the other" that we find the reflection of ourself and from this comes self-knowledge and the impetus to evolve. To deny dialogue is to put a veil over the mirror. We lose touch with how we look to the outside world, and the outside world loses touch with how the world could be. It is religion that inspires us to transcend what is, to explore and embrace noble fundamental truths, to find hope when nihilism seems the inevitable rational destiny of humanity run amock. To have the courage to take the leap of faith to try to change the course of history for the better.

To trust in God is to try when no rational solution remains available. It is the trust in God that inspires millions of souls to collectively change the course of history. It is through this collective trust that humanity has managed to overcome appalling circumstances. To deprive society of public religious dialogue is to guarantee a degeneration into warring factions and power mongers. It is the fear of God and the trust in God that enables societies to form and abide by laws that are just, merciful and sustainable.

Without the knowledge of a God that can and does intervene to change history, the vast majority of humanity can not tolerate the bad times and all hell breaks loose. The knowledge of God enables souls to tolerate the intolerable (but only for a time); without which there is lawlessness as someone is always suffering somehow somewhere.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 13 November 2006 at 9:55am GMT

"how can the Anglican church be anti 'gay' when it wishes to assure all those with homosexual desires that they are loved by God, and that it condemns fear and violence?"

Of course, if the Anglican Church actually DID this, it would be laudable, but it doesn't. I'm not talking about gay marriage here, but simple protection of basic human rights. As one example, the Canadian Church is the only one of the Churches of the Anglican communion to actually express concern over the support given by the Church of Nigeria to a law that oppresses gay people. Love is about a lot more than words, Dave, but all gay people get from the Church is pious words that are manifestly empty of meaning. Frankly, the Church likes to talk the talk, but give me one concrete example where the Church has actually done something other than make empty oh-so-pious pronouncements.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 13 November 2006 at 2:12pm GMT

Well the Church is compromised, isn't it. The cost of compromising this issue for unity, the bureaucratic motivation having more sway than the personal case motive, leads to ineffective words. It has always been compromised when others have called for equality, inclusiveness, participation, challenged hierarchy and other social and political issues. We've seen how Roman Catholic priests in SOuth America adapted belief and adopted ideology as a partner, and became critical of their hierarchy, in order to promote liberation theology.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 14 November 2006 at 3:07am GMT

Dear Ford Elms
Which Nigerian law oppresses ‘gay’ people and how does it affect God loving those people. I consider myself gay as in having a joyful disposition by the way.
You wrote “Love is about a lot more than words, Dave, but all gay people get from the Church is pious words that are manifestly empty of meaning.”
But it isnt all gay people is it. I am gay and heterosexually orientated and what about those in the church (for example the Canadian ‘ex-gay’ submission to Eames) who ‘were once active in homosexual behaviour, or who have struggled with exclusively same gender attractions’ and have ‘understood and accepted God’s Biblical condemnation of’ same sex activity.? What about the healing they talk about? You cant say the church is anti-gay by ignoring some gays views that it isnt otherwsie it just boils down to sex.

Posted by DaveW at Tuesday, 14 November 2006 at 8:58am GMT

Yes, you can. The total number of deluded 'ex-gays' suffering from self-oppression ( something which can be helped through counselling and abandonment of religion) is tiny in comparison to the number of out and happy gay people.

The largest ex-gay group in Britain has a membership in two figures. They are a sad irrelevance, but happily most who join such groups end up leaving.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 14 November 2006 at 10:30pm GMT

Dear Merseymike,
You wrote “Yes, you can. The total number of deluded 'ex-gays' suffering from self-oppression ( something which can be helped through counselling and abandonment of religion) is tiny in comparison to the number of out and happy gay people.”
Well I referred to the Canadian Anglican ‘ex-gays’ who aren’t deluded but freed. What they refer to as healing you seem to refer to as delusion. You may be deluded into thinking their healing isnt true. But I asked which Nigerian law oppresses ‘gay’ people and how it affects God loving those people…. Which I haven’t seen any answers to yet.

Posted by daveW at Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 8:43am GMT

Dave,
You haven't been following these boards? Here's a link to one report, there are others. http://civilliberty.about.com/b/a/257483.htm


It doesn't affect God loving us, Dave, but it certainly affects how the Church can express that love, even if the Church of Nigeria wanted to.

As to the execrable "ex-gay" movement, I fail to see how driving people to suicide, which is the effect of some of these organizations, is showing God's love to anybody. I have no quarrel with someone telling me I should be celebate, and that if I pray, God will give me the strength to do that (though after praying for ten years, I finally realized God wasn't going to give me what I thought I needed, so maybe, making me "not gay" wasn't on His books). I can be a celebate gay man, but not some sort of screwed up "ex-gay". It is not the love of God to go screwing with people's heads. The Gospel is not a Gospel of dispair.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 3:17pm GMT

I suggest DaveW peruse this blog:

http://politicalspaghetti.blogspot.com

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 6:35pm GMT

Dear Goran,
The link isnt much help. It depends what one believes, I think God has clearly pronounced homosexual practice as wrong and not part of His purposes for His creation, political views may differ of course.

Posted by DaveW at Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 7:11pm GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
Thanks for the link. Please see my response to Goran. The question was would God love a homosexual any less, and the answer is no. As to imprisonment, personally I wouldn't support it but neither would I support gay clubs. Why would I want to if its against God's purpose? But neither would it stop me loving anyone who practiced same-sex sex, why would it, I am not perfect either, I fall short too.

As to showing love, I agree with you, no I don't think putting people in prison is showing love its showing justice and punishment for wrongdoing; as a Christian one is called to visit prisoners and love them isnt one?
As to the Canadian Anglican ex-gay testimonies they dont need to have unloving comments like 'deluded' and 'execrable' made about what God has done in their lives. I believe Jesus said do not judge and love your enemy and bless them when they curse you.

Posted by Davew at Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 7:22pm GMT

DaveW,
Well, something that drives people to suicide is execrable, sorry, but it is. The Gospel shouldn't drive people to dispair, if it does, then you have to wonder if it's the Gospel. I also don't need fundamentalists denying what God has done in my life. These organizations take hurting people and, under the guise of "healing their brokenness" exploit it and claim they have done something good.
And I'm taken aback at your response to the Nigerian situation. How can you say that putting gay people in jail is justice and punishment for wrongdoing?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 11:58pm GMT

Ford Elms,
You wrote " Well, something that drives people to suicide is execrable, sorry, but it is."
Sorry but it isnt necessarily so. So angry were some people at Jesus teaching that they wanted to kill Him. Matthew 12:14, Mark 11:18 Luke 13:31, John 8:59. But Jesus came to save not condemn and that Satan destroys.
You wrote "The Gospel shouldn't drive people to dispair" What do you mean by the gospel? The gospel as I understand it is that God so loved the world that we have in Jesus the resurection and the life for eternity. God loves us that much.
You also wrote "I also don't need fundamentalists denying what God has done in my life." I think that was my point in that we dont need calling what God has done in the life of the Canadian 'ex-gay' Anglicans deluded and excerable.
You wrote "These organizations take hurting people and, under the guise of "healing their brokenness" exploit it and claim they have done something good. " Not according to the Canadian Anglicans, quite the opposite in fact.
And as the Bible says homosexual practice is wrong so why are you taken aback at my saying it is wrongdoing?
I am sorry I dont see your point, are you saying practicing sex of any kind is more important than anything else, in this case same-sex sex? What about celibate people?

Posted by DaveW at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 9:27am GMT

Jesus came to save, not condemn, so why is the Evangelical approach to preaching the Gospel so often about the threat of condemnation if people don't obey? Ex-gay movements do drive some people to suicide. One of the founders of Exodus left for just that reason. If preaching the Gospel drives people to suicide, are you really preaching the Gospel? And who are "the Canadian Anglicans"? I'm Canadian, and my knowledge of ex-gay movements doesn't come from the Canadian Church.

I believe God has blessed me in many ways. One of the ways is through a gay relationship. You would argue that is delusional because God condemns homosexuality. So be it, but you won't make me deny God's blessings.

I'm not taken aback that you say being gay is wrongdoing. Your approach to Christianity is quite legalistic. Sin, for you, is lawbreaking. You believe homosexuality is sin, therefor wrongdoing, therefor, it seems, crime. It is this last part I find appalling. Why is it so hard to understand that throwing gay people in jail is wrong? Why is it so hard to understand that the Church is wrong in Her support of that? To me, it's a fairly obvious example of why the Church should be separate from the State. Jesus told us to visit the imprisoned. He didn't specify which ones, and He certainly didn't tell us we should put them there. Leave that to the State.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 1:04pm GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
I thought we had acknowledged labelling wasn’t helpful. When Jesus came to save and not condemn, He didn’t have any ‘evangelicals’ to be evangelists, He just had disciples.
Now if people feel condemned enough for suicide because of what Jesus taught then they can’t have received the message of salvation, but rather the message of condemnation. But the teaching of Jesus shows us we who believe are bought at a price, by His blood our sins are forgiven, all of us whilst we were sinners.
As to ‘ex-gay’ and the Canadians, they were just an example of Anglicans who were once active in homosexual behaviour, or who have struggled with same-sex attractions and have understood and accepted God’s Biblical condemnation of such activity as sin. Some have also experienced loving and merciful healing.
Now if one preaches the gospel it is so people believe what Jesus has done,if they wish to accept Jesus and follow Him they have to do just that. That’s what Jesus says (John 14 & 15) So I am not really talking about ex-gay movements nor the preaching of the good news as such.
The problem is anyone may believe God has blessed them but how would we know. I could give plenty of examples of where people thought God told them to do things which Jesus teaches not to do.
You write “”Sin, for you, is lawbreaking.” But I don’t believe that, I believe we who have faith in Christ are no longer under the law and sin is falling short of God’s glory. Neither do I believe homosexuality as such is sin, I believe homosexual practice is a sin.
I don’t think throwing ‘gay’ people in jail just for being gay is right. I think the laws referred to are against same-sex practice and promotion. But if the law is against adultery does it oppress heterosexuals? I don’t think so. If the law is against theft does it oppress thieves? I don’t think so. But I think we would agree that if people dont believe Jesus Christ is the truth the way and the life why would they believe what He taught and whats the point of throwing them in prison.

Posted by DaveW at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 4:14pm GMT

DaveW, I'd suggest that you Google ex-gay groups to find out exactly how toxic they are, but I doubt you'd be convinced. If you choose to see them as helpful in spite of the mounting evidence they are dangerous, there's nothing I can say to change your mind. As to the "evangelical approach" I spoke of, I'm sorry, but the only preaching I have encountered from self-identified Evangelicals(not my label, but theirs) certainly was of the "believe or burn" type, what I refer to as conversion by fear. What's more, my oft mentioned anti-Christian friends certainly see the Gospel in that light, and will tell it's because of that style of preaching. Tell them the Gospel is one of hope and deliverance and they will laugh in your face, since it isn't what they have EVER been taught.

As to this:
"But if the law is against adultery does it oppress heterosexuals? I don’t think so. If the law is against theft does it oppress thieves?"

The comparison is invalid. A more valid comparison: If the law is against black people, does it oppress them? Yes! I know your response to that, it's a choice whether to act on one's "sexual urges", right? And "same sex promotion"? What is that? Are you seriously suggesting that by talking about homosexuality I can make people gay, thus "promote" it in some way? I don't know about you, DaveW, but my sexuality isn't that malleable. My experience is of being gay, not becoming gay.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 7:17pm GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
On the contrary I may have some sympathy with you as I may not agree with some ex-gay groups ideas as I believe God is the only one who can really change people.
However I think you are still missing the point. If I hear your witness and the witness of those like the Canadian Anglicans I and don’t doubt either I can only then see the Canadian Anglicans are in line with Jesus teaching and the Bible as a whole. I think its worth remembering what Jesus says about adultery, that even looking and lusting after another woman is wrong, something men in general are continually tempted by, and most Christians have to avoid and flee from. The ways of the flesh are often not the ways of the Kingdom
I am also not sure why you keep referring to ‘evangelicals’ many Christians such as Roman Catholics would be saying the same as me here and not normally be labelled evangelicals .
The problem with ‘believe or burn’ is that Jesus didn’t quite say this and didn’t come to deliver that ultimatum but to deliver the path to salvation from the destruction the world is already in. So ‘believe or burn’ is really a misrepresentation of the gospel message. People may well laugh in our faces if we talk of hope and deliverance and they don’t want to be delivered from something, if they do they do want deliverance they don’t usually laugh in our faces.
You said my comparison was invalid. In a way I would agree with you in that Paul points out that for believers sexual sins unlike all others are committed against ones own body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore to compare theft and adultery is not necessarily valid. And yes certainly if my analogy is invalid yours is too, as you acknowledge, in that we have a choice whether to commit a sin or not but we don’t have a choice whether we are black or not.
By same-sex promotion I mean advertising and celebrating the homosexual lifestyle.
My experience of being gay is having a joyful disposition, yours is having same sex desires. Mine is found in the Lord, the joy of the Lord is my strength.

It continues to be a serious debate, and I do thank you my friend for your respectful debating.

Posted by DaveW at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 8:31am GMT

DaveW
You speak of Canadian Anglicans and seem to equate us with "ex-gay" ministries. These organizations are, thankfully, rare in this country, I don't know of any branches, and the only ones who speak of them at all are the few Essentials members whose ignorance on this issue and willingness to be led astray by any disreputable "investigator" who confirms their prejudices is astounding. Objectivity is unknown to them.

My point about "believe or burn" is that it certainly is a misrepresentation of the Gospel, but it is the way Christianity is presented by many Christians. In this day and age it seems to be the self-identified Evangelicals who are most guilty of it. It's not that people don't want to be saved from anything, it's that the message they are given is one of a vengeful God who claims to love them but is actually just waiting for them to misbehave so He can torture them for all eternity. The fact that the message pretty much explicitly tells them that what God wants them to obey are the mores of comfortable middle class society is just fuel for the fire. Dave, if this isn't the message your parish preaches, good on ya, but it is the way the loudest voices in Christianity preach the Gospel, and thus it is the way the world understands the Gospel. It's why, while Evangelical churches do attract more people than liberal ones, the vast majority look with scorn on the Church and won't go anywhere near it. As to choice and being gay, we could argue all day and get nowhere. I can't keep trying to show people how wrong their misconceptions are when they don't want to hear, so I have to stop.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 11:54am GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
The reason I mentioned the Canadian Anglicans was just as an example of some of the people who testify to the healing God has done in their lives in the area, and how to understand and accept God’s Biblical condemnation of’ same sex activity; nothing to do with prejudice or ignorance.
As to eternal life or eternal death rather than 'believe or burn', I find the vengeful God idea comes from not accepting we are disobedient and fall short of God’s glory in the first place and Jesus as the witness of how God so loves us.
But as to obedience notice Jesus so often commands and orders and tells of what is required to be His disciple. In fact Jesus says those who don’t obey Him don’t love Him. I have no idea what this has to do with “the mores of comfortable middle class society”.
Seeing as you keep referring to evangelical and now liberal, if the ‘vast majority look with scorn on the Church and won't go anywhere near it’ and the evangelical churches are showing some growth, it suggests the liberal churches are almost entirely responsible.
As to choice and being gay, I am gay, I have a joyful disposition. If you mean sexual desires we could debate all day but if sexual desires are decided at birth then I would still say sex outside marriage and adultery is wrong as a follower of Jesus Christ who teaches this.
You wrote “I can't keep trying to show people how wrong their misconceptions are when they don't want to hear, so I have to stop.” And yet, as to the question of the Anglican Church listening, it also has to listen to people like the Canadian Anglican ‘ex-gays’ who can put an equally convincing case opposite to the one you are putting and which matches the NT teaching unlike yours.

Posted by DaveW at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 3:55pm GMT

No, Dave, people think of God as a vindictive, vengeful God because they have been told that's what He is, in so many words, by people calling themselves Evangelicals.

"Anglicans are not saved, they are not truly baptised, and unless they repent, they will go to Hell." "Roman Catholics are not saved and will go to Hell." Yes, Dave, I have heard these things, and way worse, said. Frequently. By those who call themselves Evangelicals.
A large and ever growing proportion of Western society is not only not bothering with the Church, they actively hate it and the God it worships. Evangelicals seem to attract a large proportion of the ever shrinking number that is coming to faith. How can you see this as a victory for Evangelicalism when all it represents is a large part of an ever shrinking pie, which must itself shrink as the pie shrinks and when everybody who hates God and His Church tells you they do so because of ideas like yours? And again, it's not so much the message as the way it's preached that's the issue. The Bible is used as a weapon and the promise and hope of the Gospel are covered in threats and fearmongering.
We must listen to the "ex-gays", of course. But we can't ignore the growing body of evidence that such movements are extremely damaging. You can't adopt a practice that damages people just because it supports your particular ideas. You may be right in your calling gays to celebacy, but that doesn't justify manipulating people who have experienced a great deal of hurt and pain. There have to be better ways for you to help gay people be celebate than adopting this dangerous "ex-gay" stuff. And the Anglican Church of Canada does not support this, so who are the Canadian Anglicans you speak of?

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 1:20pm GMT
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