Comments: opinions in the snow

I wonder what percentage (moderate) churchgoing has to be of the population before David Walker considers religion marginal, and if it is not measured this way then how is it measured? For example, is it measured by its ready acceptance in the political sphere? I'm all in favour of the broadest possible measure of religiosity, but I'd like to know in what way it is not marginal to either how we explain things or the functions of society.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 12:30pm GMT

Regarding Mark Dowd and the upcoming visit by Pope Benedict to England: I’m reminded of an article that appeared years ago in "The New Yorker" magazine about a visit by then-Pope John Paul II to France. The left was alarmed that the Pope would use the occasion to attack the French secular state. The right was equally expectant that the Pope would confer some honor on the ancient French king Clovis I and restore Roman Catholicism to its rightful place in France. In the end, the pope blessed some French soil, said a few masses, preached against materialism, blessed some French children, and went on his way. French secularism was not harmed, and the overall status of the Roman Catholic Church remained the same. I pray Pope Benedict, while carrying out his pastoral duties, is just as circumspect.
I like David Bryant's column, especially a specific section. I get so tired of preachers and others who say, "I'm not condemning you homosexuals. Leviticus condemns you. St. Paul condemns you. God condemns you!"
Wrong! That is such a sanctimonious attitude, designed to absolve the speaker of any responsibility for his or her acts. Like a certain Roman governor, it's a way of washing your hands of any consequences for your actions. The words of Leviticus or St. Paul are just that: Words. How we use them is what gives them their import. To such preachers I say "Own up to your own condemnation, don't place it on the backs of long-dead saints. YOU ARE condemning!”

Posted by peterpi at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 9:45pm GMT

"The intention behind defensive living, like that behind righteous words, can be defective or even evil. If our purposes are anger, self-righteousness, spite or destruction, we are falling short of all we are called to be. Blessing comes from nothing less than nonviolence as an active pursuit." - Alan Wilson -

The good Bishop of Buckingham once again hits the target of what the pursuit of the Gospel is all about. Self-righteousness, spite and destruction seem to have been on the minds of several of our different sodalities in the Anglican Communion over the last few years.

We are reminded in the Lessons for today, at 'The Baptism of Christ', that Jesus - who is our Brother - is affirmed by God as God's beloved Son - surely a paradigm of what everyone who is baptized into Christ needs to understand as God's relationship to each and every human being. Jesus' notion of 'Abba, Daddy', has replaced the old idea of a distant and unapproachable Elohim.

This also was the theme of today's message from the Prophecy of Isaiah (42:1-7): "I have endowed him with my Spirit, that he may bring true justice to the nations". When we followers of Christ bring our judgement to bear on the world, rather than our Spirit-led capacity to heal and reconcile, we may be acting counter to the Gospel: the Good News of Christ to our world.

Intentional schism - breaking apart from our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ - simply because we disagree with what they see as their extravagant Gospel initiatives - is surely antithetical to the culture of mercy and justice which Isaiah and the Gospels counsels of us all.

Kalo Epiphania to ALL.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 11:41pm GMT

Amen, peterpi - concise, to the point, and true.

Posted by Lois Keen at Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 12:17am GMT

On the other hand, Peter, I thought that Fr. Bryant's column was simply awful (although I agree with him about taking responsibility for one's own moral decisions). His apparent and inexcusable ignorance about the possibility of adoption aside, the young woman went to him for advice and got - nothing. Religious professionals ought to be able to do something more than shrug their shoulders when approached by people needing help.

Full disclosure: I am not a neutral party when it comes to abortion. I probably owe my life to my biological mother mistaking her pregnancy for the beginning of menopause until it was too late to abort, and I was put up for adoption.

Posted by BillyD at Monday, 11 January 2010 at 2:43pm GMT

"Awful" describes Fr. Bryant's column for me, too. Moral quandaries are painful, and people often turn to religious ethical traditions as vehicles of moral decision-making. Fr. Bryant would not have been "decid[ing] the fate of her foetus for her" if he had just led her into a consideration of the relative moral weightings of even the surprisingly limited range of arguments for and against abortion he discussed with her. I agree with his assertion of a need to engage in an "inward dialogue of moral reasoning" and to not just accept unthinkingly church tradition and scripture. But if that is what he believes, why did he not lead the the grieving young woman into just such a process? Finally, I think it may have been Fr. Bryant who was "passing the moral buck" here and not the young woman who came to him in her pain and confusion.

And not to mention the possibility of adoption was indeed inexcusable.

Another full disclosure: I, too, am not neutral when it comes to abortion. My son most certainly owes his life to his pregnant birth mother, a runaway teen illegally working the blueberry fields of Maine, discovering (to her surprise, she tells us) that she didn't believe in abortion. While I remain pro-choice, I would like to see MUCH more competent counseling in such cases than that seemingly provided by Fr. Bryant.

Posted by Peter of Westminster at Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 11:23am GMT

My reading of Fr Bryant's column is that he dealt with the his visitor's problem sensitively and with compassion. There is no indication that he didn't offer adoption as a possible solution and he certainly gave her plenty of space to consider the options and what they had discussed since she was coming back the next day. The only possible advice to be given in cases such as this, surely, is to lay out the options and let the individual take responsibility for their own actions.

I entirely agree with Fr Bryant about the dubiousness of a religion based on moral injuctions. It takes away individual responsibility and dimishes us as human beings with our God-given free will. We have to learn to be responsible for our own actions and to live with the consequences which includes the consequences for others. Anything else is a cop-out.

It sounds as if Fr Bryant's visitor went looking to be told what to do. He didn't do that but gave her space to think things through herself. That seems to me to much the best way and the best Christian way too.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 12:43pm GMT

Richard wrote, "There is no indication that he didn't offer adoption as a possible solution and he certainly gave her plenty of space to consider the options and what they had discussed since she was coming back the next day."

On the contrary. His reasons for aborting were "The child would be fatherless. There was no family in the wings to give support. She had a career to follow and a mound of bills. Motherhood would mean homelessness and penury. On top of that it seemed unfair to bring a child into the world whose father had taken his own life." Of course, none of this would be true if the child were put up for adoption. (And why, I wonder, is it "unfair" to be born if your father committed suicide? It doesn't make sense.)

His reasons for not aborting were, among other things, the "shirtiness" of people when it came to the subject of termination -- but not one word about the possibility of the child being adopted and living.

If he had counseled her concerning adoption, he certainly would have mentioned it in the article. As it was, in his own words, "All I could offer was compassion in her grief and sympathy for the agony of choice that lay ahead." The only choice, as far as he seems to be concerned, was whether to abort or not.

Posted by BillyD at Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 2:08pm GMT

I wonder if we should ask Fr Bryant whether or nor he did discuss adoption with his visitor?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 10:03pm GMT

"I wonder if we should ask Fr Bryant whether or nor he did discuss adoption with his visitor?"

That sounds like a great idea! (And if he did, I'd like to know why he neglected to include it in the column.)

Do you know him? Does he read TA?

Posted by BillyD at Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 12:50am GMT

I looked for contact information on his Guardian profile but didn't see any...

Posted by BillyD at Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 2:18am GMT

"I wonder if we should ask Fr Bryant whether or nor he did discuss adoption with his visitor?"

Yes! It would be interesting to know that, Richard. And he may not have included it, or a fuller description of his counseling session and his planned follow-up, because the column was really about the inappropriate use of moral precepts in religion to rob people of their independence of thought and action. The abortion counseling example was the most extended of several such examples, all presented in the service of his larger point. Your reading of the column could possibly be correct, Richard, though Fr. Bryant's included pros and cons for aborting, and his statement that it is somehow "unfair" to bear a child whose father has committed suicide do not incline me to believe that you are.

We do all seem to agree on the larger point Fr. Bryant was making.

Posted by Peter of Westminster at Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 2:05am GMT
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