Thinking Anglicans

opinion for the equinox

This week The Question at The Guardian’s Comment is free belief is Who is in hell?
There are answers from John Richardson, Mary Finnigan and Roz Kaveney.
Andrew Brown has also written on the topic in his Comment is free belief blog: Hell and linoleum. “What would it feel like to believe that anyone really deserved eternal conscious torment? Is it even humanly possible?”
Andrew Brown also writes about Hooker on grief and hell. “Can wicked and stupid people ever be truly happy? One of the founders of Anglicanism thought they could not.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: I believe in death — not immortality

Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian that Gay-friendly Christianity has become a self-righteous subculture. “The Christian gay rights lobby adopts the narrative of ‘accepting who you are’ and diverts the religion towards a flabby liberalism.”

Samira Ahmed at the Three Faiths Forum asks Do they mean us? “Who‘s included and excluded in news coverage and how to make it better.”

Hymns Ancient and Modern was first published 150 years ago. To mark the occasion the Church Times published a series of articles last week which are now available to non-subscribers.
Hymns A&M: National treasure — not royal appointment
Hymns A&M: Savaged by the red tops
Hymns A&M: Let’s make it official
Hymns A&M: A candle in the darkness
Christopher Howse has also marked the anniversary in The Telegraph: A&M: the C of E in words and music.

Giles Fraser also writes in today’s Guardian Unanswered questions on Japan’s suffering. “In the face of great tragedy, we can admit we do not understand without losing our faith.”

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Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

Theo Hobson is having a bad day. His morose indulgence in stereotypes is the acme of masochistic liberal self-bashing. By his reasoning to oppose slavery or child abuse or capital punishment or nuclear weapons would be objectionable as a trendy secularist perversion of Christianity. His description of the heroic and thoroughly evangelical Bp Robinson as whiner is despicable.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Theo Hobson writes of “a man who decides he’s gay” leaving his wife. Does he really believe being gay or straight comes with an on/off switch? And are “sexual liberation, individualism, hedonism” limited to gay people? If I had a dime for every letter to a Dear Abby that starts off,”My fiance and I have been together for three years and have two kids, but he doesn’t want to commit to marriage…” I would be rich. In the States, at least, fiance has come to mean “my live-in with whom I am having sex [and babies]” – is this true… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Homophobic offering from Theo Hobson. Who has nt begun to comprehend the issues at stake, or get his language straight.

I have no respect for this pompous, ignorant cr-p.

Pluralist
Guest

Theo Hobson “It has led to the perpetuation of a rather flabby liberalism that speaks the language of self-help therapy and political correctness.”

Goodness me, I’m almost in total agreement with the man. I think we might go on to struggle with definitions of liberal Christianity and liberal religion. I’ve take the place of gays in ministry as a given, but this and the above quoted is not the main defining point of religious believing.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

‘There is no code of Christian morality other than “Be perfect”‘.

Theo Hobson’s article is so full of tendentious statements that it is difficult to know where to begin. This one sets up every one who hears the message of Jesus to be a failure. None of us is perfect and none of us can achieve perfection. That is the nature of our humanity. God doesn’t ask us for the impossible.

When God created heaven and earth he saw that it was good, not ‘perfect’.

And as for the implication that people ‘decide to be gay’. Words fail me (for once!).

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

If Theo Hobson has a point, then it is tangential to the main point–discrimination. Discrimination creates victims, and victims are often helped by becoming a community in which self-esteem can be reaffirmed and reconstructed. I wonder if Hobson thinks that African -North American churches or First Nations congregations are also a “subculture”? As an aside, when I think of subculture the first image that comes to mind are men in pointy hats and capes. I can understand why Hobson bemoans the contribution of feminists. After all feminist theologians, for example, have laid the ground work in the struggle for self-definition… Read more »

karen macqueen+
Guest

Theo Hobson:”We are talking about human desire, which is endlessly fallible. The language of liberation therefore does not quite apply.” Have you considered that some of us are talking about identity, Theo? A little science might help you to understand my meaning. Sexual minority status is the result of a complex of genetic factors, intrauterine hormonal factors, and for some a degree of isoimmunization (auto-immune reaction to the XY fetus). We are talking about far more than desire here. Brain and endocrine structures and functioning are unique among gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Of course, there is a continuum… Read more »

Peter Edwards
Guest
Peter Edwards

Moving to Giles Fraser, and the ontology of being dead, one day, somehow, whoever we are: a bold article which I find refreshing and restorative in the face of just three funerals booked in for next week. One visit done today, another tomorrow, and then the third – and they will all be different, unique even; and none of them anything to do with the local Church community, and not much talk of God, or of immortality, thus far; though I have many times heard tell of Uncle Bob looking down from above. How ghastly that must be if that’s… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Oh Karen. Thank you for your witness. I pray all blessings upon you . . . and though TA is usually a more uptight place than this, {{{hugs!}}}

God created you just as you are: a tower of strength!

WTF is the matter w/ Theo Hobson? If this was less reputable (?) source than The Guardian, I’d suspect a *fraud* [like the ballyhoo’d fake (celebrity) Twitter pages I keep hearing about]. Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed, and decided that it was Teh Gays, not himself, that was askew! O_o

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

The answer to John Richardson seems to be, that God’s Righteousness isn’t a mere Justice, which may be as petty as anything…

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Matthew 5:48, the verse often given as: “Be perfect!” as here, in reality sais:

Ésesthe oún umeîs téleioi ås ó patär umån ó oúranos téleios estin:

Be mindfull of the end/result as your Father in the Heavens is mindful of the end/result.

Which calls for an entirely different approach than the silly “Be Perfect”.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” The gay issue separates the advocates of Christian freedom from the legalists. It is a crucial shibboleth. Those who appeal to holy rules against homosexuality should indeed be denounced as sub-Christian.” – Theo Hobson – Normally, I like what Theo Hobson has to say about the gay issue and the Church. And perhaps the most important sentence in this latest article is that which appears above. The fact that the Pauline would-be legalists are wrong – in their assumption that homosexuality, per se, is against the Law – is a known fact to Christian Gay people. However, some of… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Thank you Karen.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

I think it is actually fairly recently that liberal Christianity has focused on gay questions. Arguably it should be a broader preoccupation, though thought that was part of the thinking behind affirming catholicism. There are times when I thought liberalism does lose its focus and isn’t Sharp enough on science, evolution (without a doubt the most important of our species) and the similarly well established but to us no less (but surely no more) important literary criticism applied to the bible. The interesting thing is that,these are intellectual areas of human life whereas being inclusive and challenging unjust treatment are… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

+karen, thank you for your post. God made all of us in God’s image. God is both female and male, for God cannot create that which God does not know. At the same time, God is neither female nor male. Peace be upon you and your house.
Regarding Theo Hobson, I can be thin-skinned, but I took him to be saying that he wants stronger theological underpinnings. He understands the civil and human rights contexts, but wants firmer theology. Maybe I’m being naive, but I didn’t see an antagonism towards GLBT people’s involvement in all levels of the church.

john
Guest
john

Giles Fraser is a (superficially) clever person who is actually very stupid. As always, it’s all about him. The fact – if it is a fact – that he (by his lights) has no personal interest in immortality or resurrection drives his entire theology. The fact that without some such belief it is impossible to justify divine goodness is completely beyond him. This is really, really low grade ‘liberal’ Christianity.

John Moles
Professor of Latin
Newcastle University.

Counterlight
Guest
Counterlight

Perhaps Mr. Hobson should look at this example of flabby liberalism:

http://counterlightsrantsandblather1.blogspot.com/2011/03/bloody-march-in-new-york.html

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Thank you Goran. That’s very helpful.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Is Theo H now a Pod Person? Just kidding, but couldn’t help wondering. Gee, TH, you must have been having a really, really, really bad day – perhaps we can blame it all on self-confident queer folks? The real fakery involved is the standard posing of the closed, unchanging, exclusive Either/Or that is so so so beloved of traditionalist religious folks – either one may be secular and flabby and sentimental and self-indulgent and hedonistic … please, do go on … or … one may be rigid, devoted to closed/final categories and essences … often in a telling medieval-like manner… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Thanks to GKS for the helpful translation corrections. Thanks also to Giles Fraser for getting me right back to Christian basics, and to William Temple. Alas, what has happened to Anglican thinking since Temple? J Richardson seems to have fallen completely into the false trap that punishment enacts any sort of justice, however much we still have recourse to punishment as a practical matter. After long, long, long years of hearing how godly punishment is on earth, with eternal punishment being even more godly, I demur. Punishment now seems to me, to be essentially a clear admission that redemption is… Read more »

Christopher (P.)
Guest
Christopher (P.)

Professor Moles–

A distinction. As I read it, Giles Fraser is ready to distinguish between a disembodied immortal soul, in which he does not believe, and a resurrected person, “body and soul.” It’s the latter that is referred to in the Creeds, and it’s the latter that he says will be part a future posting. Granted, the man has a way of picking a provocative article title!

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

Re Goran:
I would have said teleios is something like ‘complete’ rather than ‘mindful of the end’. And in the sense of complete as to its innate ‘end’ one might say perfect (or perfected?) – though I don’t much like ‘perfect’ as a translation here either.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

@Sara, and I would say neither Perfect nor Complete is within our reach as fallible human beings.

Amanda Goody
Guest
Amanda Goody

Many valuable comments, especially those from Karen and Goran. However I am surprised no-one has picked up on Theo’s rejection of ‘accepting who you are’ and his belief that it is contradictory to any progress towards perfection/completeness. In my experience it is those (rare?) communities where you feel accepted as you are which most profoundly demonstrate Christian love. As a concept I have heard it from many spiritual sources, but the two which remain most clear are from a local Benedictine nun and from the introductory week of the year-long Ignatian retreat (on-line). Neither would seem to fit the description… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

@Goran – mine was only a linguistic comment. Teleios as ‘mindful of the end’ seems to me be stretching the Greek a bit. Surely though you are right to point out that we are never ‘complete’ much less ‘perfect’ in the here and now where we see only as in a glass darkly.

Tobias Haller
Guest

Many seem to understand “perfect” as punctiliously correct, rather than “brought to a completed state” or “finished” as in a work of art. Thus it is vitally important to “be what one is” and act in accord with the best that is in one. I recently cited the late Canon Richard Norris for his observation that ‘we will say to one who is to all appearances a man, “Be a man!” No one would dare or need say, “Be a cat” to a cat!’

Amanda G has it exactly right.

John
Guest
John

Christopher (P.), You may be right – or you may not. I’m probably over-influenced by other postings of his. I don’t like it when someone loudly proclaims full gay equality (including having Gene Robinson preach at his church) and then publicly proclaims that he won’t give a church blessing to gay couples: seems to me that the primary motivation there is to tell the powers-that-be: I’m a tame poodle really. I’ve read other postings where he has argued – or seemed to argue – that human continuance consists only in children. And the posting on the Japan disaster seems characteristicaly… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

I – personally – find Hobson and Fraser both to be . . . media personalities. Nothing else. Of course they are going to say controversial things, take the eclectic stance; they do it for the same reason as the annoying hipsters we’ve all known (or, like me, been) at some point: to seem cool, cleverer than everybody else by not approving the crowd’s prevailing tastes, and, most importantly, to make everybody pay attention – which, in their case, means boosting readership. Both are clever enough to know how much word choice matters, so, their provocative statements and phrases can… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Mark I’m a little surprised by your comment. I don’t know anything about Theo Hobson but Giles Fraser is certainly busy living. I only met him once, when he had been brave enough to invite Gene Robinson to preach at his church just before the Lambeth Conference to which he was so publicly not invited. Of course it attracted media interest but that’s not the same as saying it was done purely for PR reasons. The church itself was a thriving parish with lots of groups and activities and I would be very surprised if you could say with any… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Sort of true, Erika, but that same GF has publicly stated that he won’t bless gay Christian partnerships. That surely should be a difficulty for you?? As for ‘effective communicators’, ‘yes’ also, but also ‘no’, because one can’t evade conscientious evaluation of the CONTENT of what they are communicating, in which, I reassert, GF is consistently low-grade. The point is more general (and it’s one which you yourself have frequently made): one shouldn’t, one really shouldn’t, evaluate contributions ONLY by whether the contributors belong to a particular ‘camp’.

Malcolm French+
Guest

There is nothing inherently unprincipled about believing a rule should be changed yet declining to break the rule. Indeed, “passive obedience” was an historic hallmark of Anglicanism.

I’m in much the same position as Giles on this. While I will not criticize those who choose to break unjust rules, and will commend them for their courage, on this issue at this time, I believe I can do more good for the cause this way.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, I don’t find this difficult at all. You join an institution and you agree to abide by its rules. You may want to change the rules, you may campaign for the rules to be changed, but until they do, you abide by them. That’s a time honoured principle. I personally would not act like that in this case and I personally respect every priest who believes that in the case of same sex equality the time has come to put good theology and human rights before institutional politics. But that is a genuine difference of opinion and approach that… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Erika, I’ve said nothing about his committment to his work! However, he does spend a great deal of time in the spotlight, and I don’t consider media clips and paper articles to constitute “communicating his faith.” Doing that requires a good deal more than soundbites and interviews. Sorry, but we’re going to disagree on this one. He may be great at what he does, but that doesn’t preclude being a bit of an attention seeker – there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a common personality trait – and doesn’t make him a solid spokesman for the rest of us, liberal,… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

The liberals in the Church of England have done, and do do very little consistently to support lgbt people in a practical, principled and again consistent way. In my experience over six decades this has been so; and those who talk the talk most, actually DO little or nothing, or go back on their word. The current archbishop of Canterbury must be the most outstanding contemporary example of this. And most diocesan bishops have knowingly ordained lesbian and gay people as ministers, but when those people need support, they turn their backs;and if necessary lie in public about it. and… Read more »

john
Guest
john

I tried to post again on this last night, but either I committed some technical error or I was censored. I’ll try again now. Erika, I specifically said that it was OK (a) to espouse full gay equality but (b) not to bless pro tem. What I objected to was the combination of (a) and (c) – public announcement of policy not to bless. That seems to me lick-spittling. These points made, I think there is tremendous force in the objections of Laurence Roberts and Karen McQ. Like the latter, I believe the Episcopal Church has done a great and… Read more »