Comments: opinions in mid-May

In the contrast of articles between Giles Fraser and that of B.P. Dandelion, I know which I prefer. Giles Fraser ought to ask to what extent he mouths things he does not believe, and where the cut comes. Plus, a received tradition contains not only ethical values we might want to take up, but values found unethical that we might want to reject, when people of that community are pressing those values more and more.

The analogy is not with a child in an empty room served through a hatch, but a child in a supermarket of foods to purchase, to try and try something else. Nor does anyone have to take a packaged meal, but can mix up some fresh vegetables and meat if they want.

I'm currently looking at 'Seven Against Christ' (Ieuan Ellis) and Essays and Reviews for a presentation, and about a perceived failure of Anglican liberalism afterwards, and the legacy is a kind of double speak and conformity in the pulpit that is, in the end, a trap for the likes of Giles Fraser unless he is not, actually, quite liberal at all. These days Anglican liberalism tends to be wrapped up in a High Church tradition approach, and I think I know why.

Posted by Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) at Saturday, 9 May 2009 at 2:12pm BST

There are interesting historical linkages between contemporary postmodernisms and early 19th century theorists of the extreme anti-Enlightenment reaction. I have in mind such theorists as Joseph de Maistre , also a patron of authoritarian political movements in the 20th century, and an influence on Foucault. Much neglected in the heyday of left postmodernism some twenty-five years ago, this linkage is now reasserting itself on the authoritarian Anglican right (pun intended).

Posted by Charlotte at Saturday, 9 May 2009 at 5:56pm BST

Giles Fraser writes:

"to be a liberal in the theological sense is often understood as allow-ing human reason to stand in judge­ment over revealed religion"

Defined like this, it is indeed dark.
But it's generally only those who are not liberal who define it like this, almost as an insult against liberals' perceived arrogance in claiming superiority over revealed (implied: true) religion.

This liberal prefers to say that human experience and scientific discoveries and thinking have changed how we interpret religious revelation.
We can still make it the centre of our lives, but unless it speaks to heart, mind and soul, it cannot be "true".
We base this, very biblically, on Jesus' own words that there is much more he could have told us but we were not ready to hear it, yet the Holy Spirit will guide us.

Liberalism and revelation are not opposites.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 9 May 2009 at 7:31pm BST

Tradition and culture are wonderful stabilizing influences. They are the threads that bind civilizations together. But they can also be straightjackets that suffocate life.

God formed this planet not to be empty, but to be inhabited. When solo scripturalists announce that the only remaining legitimate manifestation for Jesus is as global mass murderer, then they contrive to bring death to this planet, and are thus in direct violation of the covenant of peace. The God of ALL Creation makes suitable provision for ALL that God creates (including Gentiles and GLBTs).

Cultures of death and oppression need to be stripped bare. The pretence of love when there is not love, exposed for the sociopathic contrivance that it is. Jesus made a promise of gentleness to the Daughter of Zion, which means Christians have an obligation to be genuinely gentle. The bible is emphatic on its defense of the oppressed, especially Zion who is responsible for both Jews and Gentiles and the covenant of peace.

Jeremiah 51:24-26 God promises to repay all those for the wrong they have done to Zion. God is vehement in Zion’s defense: “I am against you, O destroying mountain, you who destroy the whole earth,” declares the LORD. “I will stretch out my hand against you... No rock will be taken from you for a cornerstone, nor any stone for a foundation…"

Micah 4:11-13 While many gather against Zion and say, ““Let her be defiled, let our eyes gloat over Zion!” , they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, he who gathers them like sheaves to the threshing floor. “Rise and thresh, O Daughter of Zion… You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD…”

See also Malachi 4:8-9 "you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked" See the same vehement defense in Isaiah 30:10-13 where God rebukes those who tell the seers to only prophesy pleasant things and to stop confronting the. Thus the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found...”

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Sunday, 10 May 2009 at 1:53am BST

Pity you can't come to our next In Depth group, Erika, where I'll tackle what your refer to thanks to those who tackled your point head on: Fred Temple, Rowland Williams (and Baron Bunsen), Baden Powell, Henry Bristow, Mark Pattison, and Ben Jowett. The failure of their book in Anglicanism was probably because a 'pupil' of Jowett's, Edwin Hatch, died early in 1889 and was never able to take on the baton. It's why 150 years on people like yourself and me are hanging on the margins of Anglicanism.

Posted by Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) at Sunday, 10 May 2009 at 4:03pm BST

I have often wished that I could come to your In Depth group!

I must admit, I found Giles' comment most depressing, because it's so symptomatic of most of our theological "conversations". We seem to have this deep seated tendency to misrepresent that which we don't agree with, the easier to knock it down.

Giles would never use half-truths as strawmen to be knocked down to score a point against homosexuals and women priests, so it was all the more shocking to see him use a similar tactic against the group of people he does not agree with.

I wish I understood why we find it so hard to see the same deep faith, the same passion for journeying into God in those who have a different theological framework than our own.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 10 May 2009 at 6:45pm BST

Call me paranoid but does anyone else see this dark thread running through quite a bit of political and social commentary recently: from these ponderings from Giles Fraser to the scathing denunciation of how the political process is running foul of venal tendencies in the Telegraph, the message seems to be that Liberalism is a Very Bad Thing. Note the examples of Thatcher and Reagan - they if anything, especially the former, were associated with the economics of self, and in an implicit way also point to Liberalism=self-interested greed.

Why no mention of John Stuart Mill, rather than these neo-Liberals and Luther, a reformer, rather than a Liberal as such?

If daily media commentary like this continues you will see a definite shift to the Right come the European elections. Yes, reveal misdeeds and wonder what the quality of human freedom consists in, but all this just sounds like you need a Strong Man or Strong Religion to Sort Things Out.

Poor show.

Posted by orfanum at Monday, 11 May 2009 at 7:39am BST

Am I being way too cynical in thinking that someone has squeezed Giles Fraser's elbow and told him quietly that this is not the time when a liberal is going to be made a bishop, and that some clear blue water would do him no harm? Watch this space.

Posted by poppy tupper at Monday, 11 May 2009 at 9:04am BST

I've heard that said before.
But the question remains. Why is it not possible to support one view without caricaturing the other?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 11 May 2009 at 11:43am BST

Poppy, Rather stung by that comment. Only once has a senior member of the C of E told me it might be better for my career if I was less vocal and I told him that if I shut up for that reason I would hear the cock crow. Preferment is no exchange for your soul. No, in fact, this piece was actually prompted by Pluralist who had something on his site the other day about me not really being a liberal and I was kind of agreeing with him. The trouble is that there are several readings of liberal, and I am emphatically not one of those Enlightenment-type liberals (too influenced by Nietzsche, amongst other things.) For all this, I am a fellow traveller with liberals on many church issues. All I was trying to say in this piece - perhaps badly put - was that there are various takes on liberalism and some of us subscribe to some of them and not others. Furthermore, recognising one's shadow side is a sign of confidence not any sort of retreat. Remember also that I do not write - or have any influence over - the title and that does invite a way of reading that piece that is more negative than I had intended. Sorry, I have gone on. That one was a little close to the knuckle.

Posted by Giles Fraser at Monday, 11 May 2009 at 5:31pm BST

I think Giles Fraser's piece was badly written and badly argued.

Why not:

(1) start with the etymology of 'liberal'?

(2) point out that 'liberal' is always a relative term;

(3) distinguish between (a) 'liberal' in the sense of personally holding 'liberal' views; (b) 'liberal' in the sense of conceding (some - degree negotiable) legitimacy to a wide range of views.

If one makes these simple moves, the discussion can proceed on more or less rigorous grounds.

I concede: it is somewhat interesting that GF wants to distance himself from the tag 'liberal'. But it's not very interesting: far, far, too much so-called 'theological' discussion is in reality ego-driven, i.e., in this partiular case, it's rather unimportant where GF wishes to situate himself.

Posted by john at Monday, 11 May 2009 at 7:09pm BST
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