Thinking Anglicans

In God's Name

Updated Thursday evening

There was a television current affairs programme on Channel 4 last week, in the Dispatches series, entitled In God’s Name. Here’s the Channel 4 blurb about the programme.

If you didn’t see it and want to do so, you can find it on this website.

The film-maker, David Modell wrote a major article for the Sunday Telegraph before the programme aired, which was headlined Christian fundamentalists fighting spiritual battle in Parliament. This Sunday, there were several letters to the editor.

The article and the programme devote considerable space to the activities of the public policy director of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.

No less a person than Joel Edwards wrote an open letter to Channel 4 about it.

Stephen Green who was also featured, and whom Joel Edwards describes as an extremist, has responded to the programme here. (h/t Louise Ashworth)

Craig Nelson commented about the programme here and also here.

Updates Thursday evening

Simon Barrow has written a detailed analysis of the issues raised by the TV programme for Wardman Wire which you can read at A fundamental problem? Thinking Aloud by Simon Barrow.

In that article he also links to an earlier interview with Andrea Minichiello Williams done by Rachel Harden in the Church Times which I inexplicably forgot to include here earlier.

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Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

They are only doing what Christ commands of all Christians to be, namely salt and light.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I thought that the programme was instructive but not entirely accurate. Dorries was probably using Williams for a specific issue – I do think that there are those outside the far right fringe who agree with a reduction in the abortion limit. I don’t agree with them but I don’t think its only fringe extremists with that view. However, on almost all the other issues, the LCF and Co. etc have failed in their aims. Sure, they have some pet Tory (mostly) MP’s to do their bidding but outside the abortion issue, I don’t think their appeal is very wide.… Read more »

Graham Ward
Guest
Graham Ward

‘It is basic Christian theology that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, was crucified to forgive us our sins, was dead and buried, rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven. And it is simple logic that if Islam denies all that, which it does, that Islam is a false religion and that its deity is antichrist…….
(Modell) never managed to understand what any of us were about, or display any reaction above the knee-jerk ‘dangerous Christians’ level.’ (Stephen Green)

…No Mr Green; the programme may not have been entirely accurate, but on Christian Voice, he was dead right.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Great Britain, welcome to our world…..

Graham Ward
Guest
Graham Ward
Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

All we need to know about David Modell is: (1) I have seen him filming from a distance people who did not know they were being filmed. (2) Besides the lack of consent of these people, he filmed people for the programme who had no idea they were going to be on it. Some faces were fuzzed out, but others were very surprised to see themselves on the programme – they had no idea they were prospective tv stars. (3) In my one experience with him, he went up to me camera already rolling as though he was just having… Read more »

BIGDAN
Guest
BIGDAN

Can’t stand fundamentalists. Can anyone?

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

These hard, strong conservative Christian ideas derive and propagate inevitably from right wing USA believers, who are fairly and accurately described as literalists in their readings of the scriptures, dominionists in their economic and political systems and beliefs, and reconstructionist in their public policy initiatives. The great founding prophet of all these roots is R.J. Rushdoony whose massive Recon-Dom work (The Institutes of Biblical Law) preaches just about everything that is currently promulgated as solid gold godliness in these and other change efforts. Behind/beside Rushdoony stands Cornelius Van Til, a leading presuppositionalist exponent. The presuppositionalist choice is grand and stark:… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“But another thing strikes me while listening to Mr Solomon’s depiction of Islam as a dangerous fundamentalist belief: he could be describing the beliefs of the Christian fundamentalists I’ve met.”

Precisely! And then there’s:
“Ms Williams doesn’t see the irony.”

Any of us here could have told him that. What is most frightening about all this is that these people are the most prominent image out there of Christianity. There are large swaths of society for whom THIS closed minded, hypocritical nonsense is the Gospel!

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“The basic issue is the disproportionate power of the unelected/uninformed media. Whereas the ‘fundamentalists’ (a crude, unnuanced term) have no power at all.”

Give them time. This is how it started in the US.

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

“Can’t stand fundamentalists. Can anyone?”
observed BigDan.

Wel,, actually, yes, I can. They are just flawed, sinful vessels like me.

It’s fundamentalism I can’t stand, which has so beguiled them into idolatry.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Whereas the ‘fundamentalists’ (a crude, unnuanced term) have no power at all.” Christopher, the leader of the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth has breakfast every week with Fundamentalist preachers. Their milleniallist ideas inform his Middle East foreign policy. The above quote is simply untrue. They have influential access to the ear of the most powerful man on Earth. “There are many people who honestly arrive at a traditional Christian view on many topics – but not many of them are activist.” Surely you’re not suggesting that the extreme ideas held by many such fundamentalists are traditional… Read more »

Kennedy
Guest
Kennedy

Christopher Shell wrote: All we need to know about David Modell is:… This sounds like if you don’t like the message shoot the messenger. The problem is the credibility of those who condemn themselves with their own actions or words: * a school *science* test with the question ‘How many days did it take God to create the earth? (5/6/7. * Someone who declares that Allah is satan. * Someone who hasn’t reconciled the creation narratives with the fossil record. As pointed out earlier, this is the impression that people have of the Christian life and beliefs. Thank God for… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

The reason Christopher doesn’t like the programme is that it showed fundamentalists in all their….well add the word you think appropriate. The staring, slightly hysterical fanaticism. The violence of those lovely Christian men as they bundled and manhandled the women’s rights campaigners out of the hall. It was Green himself who kept changing his mind about being interviewed and claimed the bird droppings were a sign from God. I’d have him on ten minutes per day – he is such a great advertisement for the liberal cause! What have the fundies got to hide? They don’t want people to see… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
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Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Christopher Shell wrote
I think Andrea MW is doing an absolutely fantastic job on many different fronts. Her 4000 year statement was utterly nuts – surely she realises that.

Surely the point, Christopher, is that she doesn’t. And you have no evidence for thinking so except a wish to keep her in the ranks of the just-about-not-barking, which I understand, but can’t allow to go unquestioned.

L Roberts
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L Roberts

I regret the exposure of the religious campaigners’ vulnerabilities; and their exploitation. I don’t think they necessarily knew what they were doing, in the sense of media savy-ness, or knowing how to take care of themselves.

I wouldnt want to be exposed on national tv like that, nor to see those I love thus exposed.

They are really no threat. The program makers’ main thesis that fundamentalism may be an increasing threat, just wasnt proven. I did, however, notice the neat cutting & editing however in support of a groundless thesis.*

* No evidence was produced. It was alarmist in tone.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Well of course any final weighing of the real threat of this sort of conservative religion depends on the projections one does from its dominant themes and trends. Plus, maybe, the comparisons one makes of UK to other locations like USA or Sydney or Fort Worth or San Joaquin where some or many or almost all of its hard tenets have been embraced, then put into some sort of intentional practice. Such comparisons have a touch of apples vs oranges to them, just to the extent that no single place on the planet is exactly like any other single place.… Read more »

kieran crichton
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kieran crichton

What an interesting little doco. I find it interesting that these people seem unable to answer a direct question – like the school head master who prevaricated about the age of the earth until it was mentioned that a book in the school said 6,000-10,000 years old. Or Andrea’s switching off the microphone at the end when being asked to repeat some pretty uncompromising views on the nature of Islam that she’d already stated bluntly earlier in the program. Frankly, they all looked like cranks. And all worried sick about Islam. I found Christopher Shell’s comment about the allusions of… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“They are really no threat.” Don’t you believe that for a minute, L Roberts, these people are very deluded, and very driven. That sort of thing sounds like Chamberlain whistling in the wind…. If anything, perhaps the economic collapse currently starting in the USA will cause their downfall, however, the deliberate de-funding of public education here is precisely what they’ve bargained for and achieving the results of a dumbed-down populace that will mop up their sick version Christianity. Tonight on NPR (National Public Radio-US) there was a program that the interviewees were video taping all the cars and their occupants… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

I think, though, that the UK and the US are very diufferent places. We are, frankly, much more secular. Nost Brits think the proper place for religion is at funerals and christenings, and certainly not the extreme variety.

Indeed, i think its their very tactics which haven’t helped their cause.

Abortion is, I think, a separate issue – views are rather more nuanced. For example, Roy Hattersley, a definite atheist, has always been anti-abortion.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“The staring, slightly hysterical fanaticism.”

Slightly?!?!?!

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

I think Merseymike is right that the US is very different from Britain here. The fundamentalists have much power in the US and none here. In many ways Britain mimics the US a few years down the line, but I am reserving judgment over whether it will do so in this instance – I rather suspect it may not. We shall see. Where I think Merseymike is wrong is in hnis crude lumping together of vastly different groups and individuals (who have little in common apart from disagreeing with him and following -either in intent or in actuality – biblical… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Christopher Shell, please watch for the 400 word limit. I allowed you this one.

Merseymike
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Merseymike

But, Christopher, all the groups covered in the TV programme happily described themselves as fundamentalist. Williams, the head of the school, and Green all happily agreed to the use of that term. Evangelicals may number 2 million but include open evangelicals whose views are much more nuanced. Also, there are many who attend evangelical churches who have gay friends and so on, and their views may be far less hardline – and so would not get involved in a campaign such as this. I know a fair few of them! And I agree about many Pentecostals being essentially apolitical and… Read more »

Richard Wallis
Guest

The issue that seems to have been missed is the extent to which the programme failed to understand fundamentalism at all. David Modell’s film was based on the premise that UK Christian fundamentalism is: an extreme and dangerous religious movement; growing at an alarming rate; and has designs on Parliament and the courts to enforce its fundamentalist will on the population. He’s essentially wrong on all three points: another case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

Craig Nelson
Guest

I had a positive view of the programme overall but I think there *is* a danger in exaggerating the impact of this movement (which may be better delineated as being ‘religious right’ as opposed to religious leaders who never really got into that or are trying to take things in a more enlightened direction (like Wallis and Joel Edwards). We do need to be wise to the tactics of the *religious right* (especially when they use front organisations to throw you off the scent and especially the shady role of LCF) but it is possible to lump all things into… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

No, I actually thought that David Modell got two of those points absolutely right I think there is plenty of evidence that the beliefs held by UK fundamentalists are both dangerous and extreme, although clearly that will be contested by those who believe them. However, in my experience, they tend to be oblivious to how they come over to those outside the belief system They certainly do have designs on both parliament and the courts – or why mount major campaigns to convince MP’s to reject legislative reform on, say, gay and lesbian equality? Or why contest decisions in court?… Read more »

Bob In PA
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Bob In PA

A fundy is a fundy, be they Christian or Muslim or any other religious affiliation. What scares me is that these people can’t respect other’s rights to believe differently. As our priest recently stated they’re are a little over 6 billion people on this earth and 2/3’s are not Christians. We’ve got to learn to live and let live something these people can’t seem to do. just as a side note, We have two of those English evangelicals in our diocese here and one is the assistant bishop,,,, ughhh!!! Can we send him back???

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“biblical Christianity” “fundies (or, as I would say, the active Christians)” I am nothing if not predictable. What is this “biblical Christianity”? Christianity based on, taking it’s authority from, or in some other way making the Bible its supreme authority? You have to explain why this radical innovation in the Church’s understanding of Herself and Her God is in any way preferable to traditional Christianity, and, given that the faith was originally a Tradition elucidated by its Scriptures, why is it now preferable to ignore the Tradition and give to Scripture an authority it was never meant to have? Surely… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Simon: sorry about the verbiage – I will be more careful. Ford: Wherever there is tradition, then the earliest parts of that tradition are on average more likely to be *accurately* handing down whatever there is to be handed down. Simply by being closer to the events. Where there are first-generation and eyewitness people involved, then this is still more the case. It is therefore a contradiction in terms to champion tradition at the expense of the very best-quality elements of that tradition. Should later traditions contradict the earlier, one always wants to know why. Has there been misunderstanding? In… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

For ‘though-cultures’ read ‘thought-cultures’. Merseymike- JEdwards would otherwise not be allowed on the EHRC – that’s neither free-thinking nor democratic. Having gay friends is irrelevant – RU admitting that our views are affected by who our friends are? It’s logically possible for all someone’s friends to be gay and for them still to have examined evidence and concluded against homosexual practice. That’s what I’ve always said: our ‘views’ are affected more by whom we know than by what we know. That’s intolerable for any academic. Such ‘views’ don’t qualify as ‘views’ but merely as in-house conformity and/or fear of deviance.… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Wherever there is tradition, then the earliest parts of that tradition are on average more likely to be *accurately* handing down whatever there is to be handed down.” Absolutely. And it is from the earliest days of our faith that we get the idea of the centrality of the Eucharist in worship and the idea that the Spirit leads us into all truth and that this will at times appear to be in contradiction to Scripture. The concept of the Christian life being manifested in the Church’s celebration of the sacraments comes from then, as does the three fold order… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Christopher: do try to deal with the points raised. They did not disagree with the term fundamentalist. Use sophistry to explain that if you must. The tern fundamentalist was exactly as defined by one of the participants – the Headmaster of the fundamentalist school. Personally, I think Barr’s definition is reasonable. You clearly do not realise what the role of the EHRC is if you think its Commissioners do not have to accept the premise of the law. It is not there to make law but to ensure that it is applied. Any personal prejudices cannot be part of a… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- The NT never mentions any ‘the Eucharist’. A word from the word-group is used in a Lord’s Supper related context in 1Cor. 10, tho’not to describe the worship-sequence as a whole. The Didache is thought by *some* to be the first possible instance: Vdebatable. 3fold ministry is certainly not in NT. NT has Christ’s high priesthood; priesthood of all believers; 2complementary types of sets of ministry-titles (one more hierarchical and one more gift/anointing-oriented). Bishops are mentioned, ie overseers, but it is not clear whether or not they are precisely the same as (a) elders and/or (b) pastors –… Read more »

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

Coming from a ‘Fundamentalist’ background myself, I think it is easy to make generalisations and demonise ‘fundamentalists’ inadvisedly. I fall into this too, at times, when paranoid or just worried. I think F. can be problematic for individuals concerned, more so than ‘society’. Insofar as religion treats of the inwardness of the individual, we should tread carefully, as with people’s sex-lives, loves and relationships –which are no concern of ours (or tv researchers etc). It is a call to some kind of love and truth I guess, that we find (hidden or not) in most forms of Christianity. So maybe… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Christopher, the error in your argument is the assumption that the NT in some sense gives us a handbook for how to do Church. It does not. The NT was written for people who already were Christians, with assumptions as to what that faith meant. They had received something, and the NT was written to explain that thing they had received. It is not possible to connect the Church as She emerged from the catacombs in the 4th century with the Upper Room, to borrow an analogy. The fact is that there were many varieties of Christian in those early… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Christopher: I don’t believe in ‘religious truth’ at all. Its a myth.

As for the EHRC, the current commissioners are there to work within the current law – and it isn’t their role to alter it.

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

Now I remember.

The book I alluded to above (yesterday), was by David Boulton — Godless for God’s Sake.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- The heavenly worship in Revelation corresponds to the temple worship. John saw himself as a true Jew who would not necessarily have owned to the designation ‘Christian’ (if he had heard of it). Like ‘Prime Minister’, ‘Christian’ started off as a bit of a smear term – or at least one originated by ‘outsiders’. One would in fact need to be in the temple to conduct that kind of worship (not in a synagogue, least of all in a house such as the early Christians often met in). The NT is full of the message that the temple… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I would justly require more evidence that one strand of the church as she was in Constantine’s time (the strand that ended up ‘winning’) preserved intact first-century patterns.” Unless of course, one sees the hand of God in it. One has to ask, why did all the other strands of Christianity fall by the wayside? If it was not God, if indeed, one or more of those strands preserved the Truth, why did God not side with one of them but just let them wither away for over a millennium and a half? To say that He did is to… Read more »

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

Tobias Haller recently reminded us of the orthodox Chalcedonian teaching that, at the incarnation, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity derived his full and complete human nature from a woman, the BVM. How can we then say that women cannot represent the fullness of Christ in the priestly/sacerdotal ministry? Karl Rahner, SJ (at the time of the Vatican II) taught that there were no good theological reasons to oppose women’s ordination. Judaism circumcised only males by way of a rite of initiation. Pauline Christianity rejected circumcision as a boundary marker, saying, in effect, that in Christ there is neither… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“There is only one kind of truth: the true kind. “ You haven’t dealt with many people under a great deal of stress, have you? One of the things that struck me working in Emergency departments is that, in a crisis situation, the number of “true” versions you get of the situation, from eyewitnesses, is equal to the number of eye witnesses, plus one. And it isn’t minor details, either. This realization was one of the things that drove me back to faith. The fact that this seems to be the situation in the various Resurrection accounts is to me… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Tobias Haller recently reminded us of the orthodox Chalcedonian teaching that, at the incarnation, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity derived his full and complete human nature from a woman, the BVM. How can we then say that women cannot represent the fullness of Christ in the priestly/sacerdotal ministry?”

Thanks for this, I hadn’t heard this before, though in thought I knew what Chalcedon was about. Why hasn’t someone reminded Constantinople of this, since they are all clearly Chalcedonian Churches, or have they made a response to this argument? If so, do you know what it might be? I’m curious.

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

Ford, when I referred to Tobias Haller’s comments and Chalcedonian teaching about the incarnation, I had the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon in mind. The Council of Constantinople in AD 381 settled Trinitarian teaching, but opened again Christologial questions, which were settled at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

John Henry, I knew what you were talking about. I don’t know the position of the “non-Chalcedonian” Churches on the issue, but what I have read in recent years from the Ethiopians suggests that their understanding is that the “Chalcedonian Schism” is largely a result of a misunderstanding of terminology between the Greeks and the Semites at that Council.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- I agree with you that different eyewitnesses very often claim to have witnessed different things. I have to agree, since it has happened so many times after I have finished a sermon that people have told me I said things which I didn’t in fact say. (Of course I guess my precision standards and expectations are a bit high which doesn’t help.) It does suggest that one main reason they make different reports is that some correctly understood while others misunderstood. Again, in the case of dreams, people will manipulate the fairly nonsensical dreams they actually dreamed into… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Very anti-academic.” Christopher, speaking as a physician whose return to faith was at least partly fuelled by dissatisfaction with the inadequacies of science to address significant areas of human life, and seeing religion as asking different questions than science, I am quite pleased to be called “anti-academic” when it comes to religion. As to religious truth, let’s ask this question: do you believe God made the Universe? I suspect the answer is yes. Do you believe it happened as described in Genesis? I suspect no. We’ve been here before, and I still don’t get it. Either you have to say… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- I very much doubt that you personally are anti-academic. The spurious category ‘religious truth’ is, however, anti-academic. People may want to avoid the evidence imperative, but there is no way round it. Truth must be evidence-based. To say ‘you need concrete truth’ is once again to psychologise the whole thing. Truth has nothing to do with our psychological wants and needs. In fact, they are the one thing that most stands in the way of our attaining truth, and therefore can be counted the greatest enemy of truth (together with our local cultural presuppositions). I have said a… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I very much doubt that you personally are anti-academic.” In matters of science, you would be correct. In matters of faith you are dead wrong. I do not have much faith in the attempts one sees by fundamentalists, whether the consetvative type or the “Spongian” type, to enmesh science and religion, or to use one to discredit the other. They are not about the same things at all. To put one over against the other makes about as much sense as a bunch of artists telling people they shouldn’t watch baseball because baseball isn’t art. “I have said a hundred… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“In any case, simply having different eyewitness reports does not mean that all of them are true, or that it is not the case that only one of them is true. The one speaking the truth is the one who conveys what a video-camera on the scene picked up. (Of course, video-cameras do not show everything at once – but if they did….) Some people have trained themselves to be more precise than others, and less inclined to impose non-existent patterns onto events. And another proviso: no-one ever notices everything that happens. It remains the case that a video camera… Read more »