☆ Easter Message

Old Vienna Reflected In New ViennaWho said this?

“The Church in its own bubble has become, at best the guardian of the value system of the nation’s grandparents, and at worst a den of religious anoraks defined by defensiveness, esoteric logic and discrimination.”

No, it wasn’t Richard Dawkins or indeed any other spokesman for atheism. It was the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, in a blog post this week entitled Time for a reboot, not a bailout. I’m hardly an insider to the topics he discusses, which are the manifestations of the deep politics of the Anglican Communion.

But for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, I’m reading words by a bishop who has at very least a glimmer of insight into the problems Christianity has in the 21st century. Those problems have been a frustration to me for more than a decade now.

There’s a core to Christianity that’s impervious to change – the Heart of Christianity, as Marcus Borg put it. But that heart is not to be found in the traditions received from the society that embraced the industrial revolution. Throughout its history, Christianity has embraced society and found the essence of the Jesus Way in it awaiting redemption. “Tradition” changes.

By assuming the prudery of the 18th and 19th centuries defines “tradition”, the church has failed to understand or adapt to modern sexuality, globalist capitalism, the meshed society and more. Instead, it worships an idol. In each case “tradition” means intolerance of change and a failure to see where Jesus would have been found in each change. The result is the disconnect Bishop Alan describes:

” The C of E used to be the guardian of the nation’s morals, but is increasingly perceived as irrelevant, or even a threat to them.”

As well as all the things Bishop Alan pinpoints I keep hearing those “anoraks” voices calling for internet censorship – most recently the “snooper’s charter”, CCDP. I long to hear their voices speaking into the emerging meshed society instead of against it.

“The real fault line now in the Church is between those of all stripes who are at home with social change, and whose Jesus inspires them to find ways of living authentic lives in this culture, and those who fear it, and whose religion is a way to prevent it, or even reverse it.”

Yes, yes. Let’s hope the new Archbishop of Canterbury, whoever he is, understands these things and has the wisdom and courage to engage.

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5 Responses

  1. But where is the grounding in theology? I am an Anglican who stands with those who believe the C of E has become irrelevant not because it has failed to “adapt to modern sexuality” etcetera, but rather because it has neglected its duty to stand for the “faith once delivered.”

    • There’s plenty of theology to read (I linked to one excellent book), but it’s the belief there is a conflict between the two positions you describe that’s the root of the problem.

  2. “the problems Christianity has in the 21st century […] have been a frustration to me for more than a decade now.”

    Can you explain why they’re a frustration to you more than, say, to A. C. Grayling?

    Can you explain why they’re a frustration worth commenting on, more than, say, the problems Hinduism has in the 21st century?

    • Well, Grayling is just another extremist atheist and I am not a Hindu, so neither is unusually frustrating.

      But I am a Christian and an Anglican and I see no real progress in adapting to new realities of daily life. In particular I keep encountering people banging on about Victorian values they claim are “traditional” but which would have been unfamiliar to plenty of earlier generations. Some of those same people also want to censor the Internet in the name of a faith they claim to share with me.

      In both cases, it’s less the topic and more the instant judgementalism associated with any attempt to have a serious conversation about the subject that’s frustrating.

      • I have much to say in response, but a comment thread might not be the best forum. I’ll try contacting you by email.

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