Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bishop: ‘Gays to blame for terrorism’

This isn’t quite what the Bishop of Carlisle said, but he might as well have, and others have certainly alluded to it.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Rt Rev Graham Dow has proclaimed that the recent floods are ‘God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society’. It also reports that ‘one diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless’. The Bishop continues:

This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way… We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused… We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate.

He then gets to the meat of the matter:

In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want… The sexual orientation regulations (which give greater rights to gays) are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance.

Whilst expressing sympathy for those who have lost their homes and possessions, he said the problem with ‘environmental judgment is that it is indiscriminate’. Indeed, and so are car bombs and other terrorist activities. Cranmer would have rather more time for Bishop Dow if, like the Prince of Wales, he had bothered to visit the homeless and weep with those who weep, or had condescended to encourage the Salvation Army in their earthly ministry, instead of pontificating from the heavenlies.

Cranmer posted a response on Mr Dale’s thread on this matter, but it has been completely ignored by his flock (if they understood it). Mr Dale accused the Church of England of being ‘out of touch’ with modern Britain. It may, of course, be modern Britain that is out of touch with God. Never one to cast pearls before swine, Cranmer would like to make his detailed exegesis available to his communicants, not least because divine retribution is rather more complex than simple cause and effect, especially if exegetes take Job into account.

If God is omnipotent (acknowledged in 9:5-7, 8-10, 26:7-14, 12:7-10, 15-25), Job has no hope of establishing his innocence once God has decided to treat him as a sinner (9:20, 29-32), so that when Job speaks of God’s power, the emphasis is on God’s destructive force (9:22-24, 12:13-25). His understanding is therefore limited as God is viewed through the filter of suffering and thereby becomes an enemy (6:4, 16:6ff, 30:19ff), or a persecuting presence from whom respite is desperately sought (7:11-21). Such a hostile response to a deity or ‘fate’ is endemic in victims of trauma. Job is presented with a theological dilemma: If God is good, he cannot be omnipotent, and if he is omnipotent, he cannot be entirely good. We cannot conclude God only has limited control (42:2), because he controls even the satan (42:11). Job may question God’s goodness, but God rejects this (40:8).

It has to follow for Job that God’s unjust treatment of him was always a part of God’s secret plan (10:8-13), like the modern view of those suffering catastrophe that God playing some kind of divine chess game which he is foreordained to win. Job desires to somehow make sense of his trauma, but knows he has done nothing to ‘deserve’ such suffering. Christians have to wrestle with the question of how can we relate to God when the world he made does not make sense, for it often appears that the God of Job is not merely one whose thoughts and ways are simply higher than ours (Isa 55:9), but quite often grotesque and totally alien to them.

Cranmer recalls a song some years ago with the lyric: 'Why does it always rain on me?’ It was followed with the line: 'Is it because I lied when I was seventeen?’ – an expression of the pervasive belief in exact retribution (Prov 9:10-12), as prevalent in twenty-first century 'church’ culture as it was in Job’s. The principal plea of those traumatised is ‘Why me?’ or ‘What have I done to deserve this?’, and the easy and comforting answer is to believe that the suffering is deserved, and that some personal wickedness or ‘sin’ was its cause, because associated guilt places the catastrophe in a comprehensible universal order, namely that suffering is explicable in terms of punishment. Job shares the premise of his friends that because God is just, he rewards the righteous and punishes the guilty, which is why Job can make no sense of his own suffering (10:5-7). ‘I’ve been wronged!… There’s no justice’ (19:7), he cries.

It isn’t easy to square Ps 146 with Job 24:1-12, or Deut 30:15-20 with Eccl 8:14-9:4. The writer of Job clashes directly with the ideology of Proverbs. Proverbs seems to say, 'Here are the rules for life; try them and find that they will work.' Job and Ecclesiastes say, 'We did, and they don’t'. But Job isn’t necessarily a contradiction to Proverbs; more a modification or qualification.

Therein lies the depth and richness of Christian theology. Bishops would be wise to avoid reducing such complex issues to tabloid headlines.


Anonymous Peter O said...

Your Grace is as erudite, and more importantly, scripturally sound, as always.

1 July 2007 at 17:12  
Anonymous Voyager said...

I find it most odd that Sheffield should be singled out for this supposed retribution - without even time to build an ark - whereas London escapes scot-free from such calamities.

I would have loved toread the Bishop of Carlisle's sermon during the foot-and-mouth disaster where he blamed pestilence and plague on the unnatural practices of Cumbrian hill farmers and their avarice and depravity.....but I suspect he whistled a different tune.

Perhaps he thinks the airport in Glasgow was to be consumed in fire as a punishment on the wicked, or the incineration of young women at a Haymarket nightclub was divine punishment for failing to be virtuous and wear a niqab ?

I do hope this Bishop has been misquoted by the ever-malicious Telegraph, he probably has.

1 July 2007 at 17:30  
Blogger Tony said...

I wonder if the good Bishop is preparing to spend some time with the members of the Westboro Baptist Church?

1 July 2007 at 17:51  
Blogger Laban said...

It's not at all odd about London - contrary to popular belief, it's the most God-fearing part of mainland Britain, although many Londoners call him 'Allah'.

I posted a year or more back on the bastardy statistics for England and Wales. Welsh babies were more than 50% bastards - make of that what you will. The hideously white North East of England had the highest English rate. The lowest ? London.

1 July 2007 at 19:54  
Anonymous Dr Mabuse said...

although many Londoners call him 'Allah'.

or Al-Lat or Uzza or Manat ?

Manat is believed to be the Arabs’ original goddess, appearing some time before al-Uzza and al-Lat. Her name appears in the house of Baal in 32 CE, but she originated much earlier among the Arabs. Manat seems to have arrived in Arabia from Palmyra, where she was worshipped along with Baal.

Manat was much revered by the Arabs but her worship was dwindling at the time of Muhammed, probably due to Jewish influence in Medina.

In Muhammed’s time, al-Uzza was the most important of the Meccan local deities, perhaps save for ‘the Lord’ Hubal. Her main sanctuary was in a valley called Hurad, just outside Mecca. ‘It was complete with a haram and a sacrificial altar.’

Maybe paganism is infecting the Bishop of Carlisle - he did support the building of a mosque in Carlisle....maybe he is into Neo-Paganism ?

1 July 2007 at 20:11  
Anonymous wrinkled weasel said...

What disturbs me about the Bishop of Carlisle, or indeed anybody in a position of power is this zeitgeisty thing of having to find a scapegoat for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

The same arguments were trotted out over AIDS, and no doubt, Syphilis before that. With such plagues as this, the solution was the "by opposing, end them" one. The process is part of the ebb and flow of man's toil against The Fall.

His Grace alludes to personal suffering, as that encountered by Job, and quite rightly, I think, highlights the subtlety of the issues. There is no correlation that we can see between our sins and the "luck" we have, but it is clear that there are consequences of sinful behaviour. It is also clear that some people are divinely favoured, and some are not.

The Bishop makes an analogy between the "Beast" of the Bible and what he calls "Institutional power". But this conflict this is merely part of the human condition, dating back to the foundations of society itself, and even then it can be disputed whether institutional power lies with the oppressor or the liberator.

I agree that collective greed, collective neglect, collective aggression, etc., has consequences, and impacts upon saint and sinner alike, but I am not convinced that this is due to the wrath of God.

We see through a glass darkly - if I interpret his Grace correctly - and by reducing the present misery to "tabloid headlines" we are also forgetting the Kingdom of Heaven and the world to come.

Our job here on Earth is to offer comfort and forgiveness to those who seek it, not recrimination. The latter will be sufficient for the Day of Judgement.

2 July 2007 at 09:40  
Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Was it really the bishop, or in fact the tabloid which reported him (that is, the Telegraph), which is guilty of "reducing such complex issues to tabloid headlines"? And did you in fact take time to find whether in fact the right reverend gentleman "had bothered to visit the homeless and weep with those who weep, or had condescended to encourage the Salvation Army in their earthly ministry"?

As for pre-Islamic gods, in Azerbaijan they still worship Manat, which is the name of the local currency. But I think Dollar gets still more fervent worship.

2 July 2007 at 13:04  
Anonymous cumbrian sheep molester said...


Evil spirits up your anus
Saturday July 12, 2003; part of: God and Journalism
Christian Life Books of Shreveport, Louisiana, has come through with Graham Dow’s little pamphlet on deliverance, which is the polite term for exorcism. Here is a partial list of the practices that the Bishop of Carlisle believes are caused by, or symptomatic of, evil spirits. They are all verbatim quotes taken from pages 34-37 of “Deliverance explained” published in 1991 by Sovereign World of Chichester.

Involvement in religious cults or sects which deny that Jesus is the one true God and died for our sins
Use of some alternative medicines, for example, homoeopathy or acupuncture. It is where those treatments are associated with a life force that the danger comes. There is openness to spiritual powers other than the Holy Spirit of God
Any occult practice by the person or their ancestors and relatives. [my italics]
Irrational dislike of God’s ministers or feeling persecuted by them
Repeated choice of black for dress or car; markedly unrestful schemes for dress or house decor.
Addiction, eg, drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, eating (or not eating. Anorexia, I believe, usually involves a destructive spirit.)
Immovable bondage to temptation and sin such that real attempts at repentance appear to make not impression on the problems, for example, in the areas of sexual lust, deviant sexual practice, criticism, unbelief, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger and deceit.
Spirits are indicated by a person’s attraction to occult practices and powers, eg, witchcraft, spiritualism, occult books, horror films, horoscopes, masonic practice.
You may wonder what a deviant sexual practice is: the bishop gives us a helpful footnote: “There is a view that both oral and anal sexual practice is liable to allow entry to spirits”

Note that the bishop has personal experience of a rather less dramatic wrestling with a demon — God forbid that he should ever have had a blow job — “I have myself experienced a spiritual sickness which appeared to have no life-span and did not follow the usual pattern for an infection (a mild stomach disorder).”

Two things are worth noting, apart from the obvious one that this man believes without any irony that the cure for unbelief is exorcism. The first is that African roots of all this. Simon Barrington Ward, the bishop who contributed a rather embarrassed foreword to the booklet, explains that he came to belief in all this through experience as a student chaplain in Nigeria. "The sense of powers of evil at work in the daily detail of life is common to many cultures outside our own". The second is that Dow is -- by the standards of most demon believers -- a dampish moderate. Though he quite seriously believes that having had a Mormon grandmother might give you a hereditary demon, he does not like to speak of 'possession', preferring to regard demons as a kind of psychic flu. "Demonised need mean no more than having a demon, and certainly does not necessarily have the implication of being taken over by the spirit, a concept which we understand by the word 'possessed'."

I this, he is notably more moderate than, say, the New Zealander Bill Surbritzky, whom he cites in his bibliography, and whose book, 'Demons Defeated' is quite beyond parody.

In case you think I'm making it all up, here's a little story scanned in from page 15 of Dow's pamphlet.

Frances is a woman who became a Christian eight years ago, but only when she married did a strange irrational desire to despise and verbally to attack her husband become apparent, a desire that she did not wish to have. Her mother was a dominant controlling person who had once gone for three years without speaking to her husband and always had one member of the family with whom she was not communicating.

In the final ministry time Frances, and the two people praying for her, independently received through spiritual gifts pictures of a black stone, a ritual chalice, and the words 'devil worship'. Her grandmother had practised fortune telling. As we prayed we became aware of witchcraft rituals and devil worship in Frances' ancestry. Renouncing these acts proved hard for her, but she managed to do this calling 'Jesus, help me.' As we gave her Holy Communion something in her desired to attack me, but deliverance was accomplished and the spirits were thrown out. The irrational desire to attack her husband was now gone.

The fact that two of these particular examples involved witchcraft in previous generations is not to be taken as indicating that witchcraft is frequently involved.

2 July 2007 at 18:19  
Blogger Cato, author of said...

Your Grace is very wise. The involvement of God in the workings of nature is a matter of inscrutability, about which sensible men are best to say as little as possible.

The Bishop of Carlisle might equally have mused that the troubles afflicting the land were the result of appointing women to the priesthood, but then I suppose he never considered that the behaviour of the Church (rather than sexual shenanigans) might ever be worthy of God's wrathful condemnation.

I'm sure his words have been a comfort to the people of Sheffield waist deep in water. As they curse their failure to take out contents insurance, they can always seek solace in the fact that it was all the fault of those civil partners living up the road from them.

3 July 2007 at 17:00  
Anonymous CCTV said...


3 July 2007 at 17:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As they curse their failure to take out contents insurance,

It is always insufficient....

3 July 2007 at 17:37  

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