Comments: opinion

The pick of the bunch on this thread may yet again be the reflections of Canon Giles Fraser. How apt his story is about church 'greeters' - when we try our best to make everyone seem welcome, we may just at the same time seem to be 'thanking them for coming' - in such a way as to imply that they are doing us (and God) a favour!

Heartiness at the entrance to the Church perhaps ought to be kept to a minimum. A welcome? Yes, by all means - but not as if we were all about to become the audience at a popular entertainment. After all, the focus of our relationship - if we are about to participate in the Eucharist - is our reflective commonality in Christ.

As some church notices remind us: 'Talk to God before Mass, and to your friends afterwards'. Too much chatter can destroy the very peace we have come to receive. On the other hand; an icy cold reception can do even more damage. As Saint Paul reminds us: "moderation in all things".

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 18 June 2011 at 12:03pm BST

Regarding Matt Rossano's review of Bentley Hart's book, I am reminded of a Jewish acquaintance of mine. We would listen to the radio, and someone would talk about Western Civilization's Judeo-Christian heritage. My friend would opine "leave us Judeos out of it" as the speaker made a Christian reference.
Hart has apparently left "us Judeos" out of his apologia, and I think wrongly so.
In Thomas Cahill’s "The Gifts of the Jews", he makes strikingly similar points that Hart does, but Cahill talks about the compassionately civilizing force as coming from Judaism. Cahill makes similar points about the brutality and inhumanity of the pagan world, and makes the similar claim that because Jews believed humans were "b'tzelem elohim", created in the image of God, Jews were obligated to treat all of their fellow human beings appropriately. But, Cahill magnanimously extends to monotheism in itself, qualities of mercy towards all people.
Early Christian evangelists found a fertile field already seeded with polytheists impressed with Judaism's ethical ideas. Getting into "We had it first!" arguments is childish, but a tip of Hart’s hat to the older religion would have been polite.
Also, Christians have also behaved badly, creating means of torture, carrying out religious wars, etc. “Kill them all, and let God sort them out!” was uttered by a Christian. I have no doubt whatsoever that, had Judaism been THE dominant religion in Medieval Europe and Christians were the perpetual minority, that Jews would have behaved the same.
And, I get so tired of “Without God, people will behave like brutes!” I’ve known numerous atheists. They seem a civilized, ethical lot. So, no, I don’t think everyone needs a thunderbolt-hurling, Hell-condemning God to keep us in line. And, many fine Germans who went about the business of the Shoah/Holocaust thought of themselves as Christian.
Why don’t we admit that all people have the power of good and evil within them?

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Saturday, 18 June 2011 at 6:23pm BST

I have to say a "yes, but" to Fr Giles. Having spent - through a combination of choice and fate - most of my life in a variety of cathedral congregations, I heartily agree that cathedral life is "a different way of being church". But in treading a precarious line between museum, tourist attraction and christian community, I don't think it's entirely true to say that the parish model "cannot work". The trick is to minister equally to those for whom a Cathedral is home for an hour as to those for whom it is a much longer resting place. When you are part of a worshipping community that has lasted for 900 years or more, you need to retain a certain perspective. Every Cathedral has its' cliques - the 11.00 die hards, the caravan of choir families and groupies - but for many of us, the Cathedral is our parish church. A successful Cathedral has to recognise that, and to minister to us accordingly - without in any way making the visitor feel like an outsider.

Posted by Graham Ward at Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 10:08pm BST

I wish I'd had the sense to do cathedral. Parish church wasn't for me--the endless friendliness and women's groups, the depressing realization that for others church was a community center, and the Sunday service was just another one of the community activities, on all fours with rummage sales, concerts and youth group projects.

That's not what I was there for. And the Church's endless harangue that that's what I should be there for--"community"--drove me away.

Posted by H. E. Baber at Saturday, 25 June 2011 at 2:43am BST
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