Monday, December 29, 2008

Atheist Matthew Parris hails the Protestant Christian religion

Cranmer has rarely read such a spiritually-uplifting and politically-edifying article as this by Matthew Parris in The Times. It is reproduced in full, for it is a finely-honed piece of journalism. But as readers and communicants consider his words, ask yourselves why the dawning of Mr Parris’s realisation stops with Africa. If the Christian gospel is found to be the solution to the ‘crushing passivity of the people's mindset’ in Africa, and if Christian missionaries are perceived even by atheists to liberate the oppressed more than secular NGOs ever mange to do, then why not encourage and liberate the Christian charities in the UK to intervene where the state has failed, instead of legislating them out of existence?

If Africa needs God, then so does the United Kingdom. And the God it needs is the Christian God, for he alone can bring the necessary transformation. And this transformation is, as Mr Parris identifies, the fruit of the Protestant Christian faith, for it alone teaches ‘of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being’:

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Mr Parris is right to observe that in Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. But it changes their hearts all over the world; even in the United Kingdom. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is indeed good. Which is why the Conservative Party is looking to liberate charities to work in social welfare. For the Socialist, social justice is principally concerned with equality, which is achieved and guaranteed by government. For the Conservative, it is concerned with individuals in community which is empowered by the people for the people. There are thousands of Christian charities run by tens of thousands of Christians who voluntarily give of their time to work among the homeless, drug addicts, in marriage counselling, palliative care, homes for the elderly, pupil referral units, prisons, adoption, parenting, child care, education, overseas aid, disaster relief, human rights, AIDS sufferers, alcoholics...

If the Conservative Party were to apply the principles of the free market to the principles of voluntarism and social action - understanding what motivates Christians to serve their neighbour - we might not only see the repeal of Labour’s most anti-Christian legislation, but the transformation of society through the outworking of the Protestant Reformed religion which is established by law.

All it requires is a grain of mustard seed.


Blogger John M Ward said...

Parris writes well and thoughtfully, and I too found this article a very good and worthwhile read, illuminating and with a good, positive attitude when I read it some hours ago.

I don't know why Parris himself is still an atheist: he's clearly witnessed the works of God through His people, and the difference it makes, so why hasn't he woken up to it for himself? Silly boy! Perhaps one day soon...

As for the "why just Africa?" question: I think he's establishing a principle first, and then once that had been broadly understood and (hopefully) accepted, it can then be extended worldwide, and most certainly to our own once great nation.

In the meantime, it already shows us up in comparison to these African people who have a far better outlook and lifestyle than yer typical Chav or similar in Britain. They have it: we've largely lost it; and he points to what it is we do not have that they have.

Well done, Matthew P! Come on in and become one of us youself — the water's fine!

29 December 2008 at 00:51  
Blogger len.allan said...

A change of heart, spiritual re-birth,
only the transforming work of God (through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ) will achieve this.
Religious works, religious ritual,(as practiced by some faiths) cannot achieve the transformation needed.This is a work of God alone!
Great post your grace, this is the gospel of life.

29 December 2008 at 08:57  
Blogger EUBanana said...

This stuff is all very laudable - but it is hardly the case that Christianity always uplifts. In fact over history Christianity seems to tend to stifle. At least, Catholicism sure does.

If you were born a Spanish peasant in 1900 I doubt you'd find many reasons to love the church, but you'd find plenty to hate it.

Not that Cranmer is a Catholic, mind...

29 December 2008 at 09:04  
Blogger Sackerson said...

I think Mr Parris is very sophisticated, arguing that religion is good for other people, though not appropriate for himself. The same argument applies to standing in line, for a queue-jumper.

Either the tenets of Christianity are true, or not true (not that we sem to hear much about them, even from the clergy). My wife's calendar for 26 December quotes the opening of 2 Timothy, Chapter 4. In the NAB translation:

"I charge you... proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfil your ministry."

At least then we might be able to make up our minds, one way or the other. The way it is now, Mr Parris may as well call for a mission of Jedi Knights to Africa, or for Africa to "embrace the dark"; it's all one.

29 December 2008 at 09:10  
Blogger len.allan said...

EUBanana ,Jesus Christ came to set you free!
Religion( which is what you speak of, religio( means to bind up)
Jesus came NOT to give us a new law, he came to give himself!
Religion is mans way of trying to make himself acceptable to God.
Gods way is to be made acceptable through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ!
God hates religion because it won`t save you in fact it will condemn you..

29 December 2008 at 09:19  
Blogger McKenzie said...

Great post. Bring on the mustard seeds. I love len, a real mustard seed.

29 December 2008 at 09:30  
Anonymous Preacher said...

I totally agree with John M Ward, an honest & good article from Mr Parris, lets pray that the light that is dawning in his life continues to full day. The only way to learn to swim is to get into the water & as John so rightly says the waters fine.
More to the point the remedy to the sickness of much of our own society is the One revealed living God, Jesus Christ. The proof of the pudding is in the eating!. Great report Your Grace.

29 December 2008 at 10:20  
OpenID benedictambrose said...

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

I beg your Grace's pardon---until this point in the article I had thought that you were appropriating Parris's praise for Protestantism exclusively without justification.

I wonder why it is that Parris imagines that Catholic missions cannot achieve the same transformative effects in people's values and worldviews. Has he experienced a real diference between those evengelised by Catholics and Protestants? Surely some of the missions he visited must have been Catholic ones?

Perhaps he imagines (and this is the impression I'm gaining from this passage) that (Roman) Catholicism merely replaces one "crushing tribal groupthink" with another---the Magisterium. Unfair of course, because as this poor Papist knows, "the truth will make you free"---but only properly so in its fulness. And when it comes to Catholic moral doctrines to which Parris could be expected to take most exception, Evangelical missions are scarcely less "dogmatic" on homosexuality, for example.

I also note that the old implied criticism of the (Roman) Catholic Church as putting other human beings and their wills (priests, the Pope, etc.) between God and the individual still flourishes in Parris's atheist breast. But, to say the least, plenty Evangelical models of evangelism are far more personality-cultish and "big-man"-ish than the gentle, parental and familial model of Catholicism at its natural best.

I wonder why then, in the final analysis, Parris seems to want to exclude the transformative effects of Catholic evengelism in Africa. And I'm struggling to see an answer less appealing than "old anti-Catholic prejudice".

Thank you for bringing this otherwise excellent article to our attention, your grace.


29 December 2008 at 10:44  
Anonymous The recusant said...

EUBanana, During the Spanish Civil War, 5,255 secular priests, 2,669 religious priests and brothers, 112 nuns and 13 bishops were martyred, while 17,000 Catholic churches and monasteries were completely destroyed.

Sunday, December 28, 2008 One Million attend Holy Family Mass in Spain. To celebrate the feast of The Holy Family in La Plaza de Colónan anestimated 1Million people turned out to demonstrate support for the Church as it struggles against the Zappatero governments anti-family policies.

The facts don't quite fit with your description now do they?

29 December 2008 at 11:07  
Anonymous EUBanana said...

If I was a Spanish peasant in Spain in 1935, Mr Recusant, I would happily burn down the churches myself, and I would have as much regret doing so as I would fighting the SS in World War 2. Indeed, in 30s Spain there probably wasn't all that much difference.

In 1935 Spain had less people celebrate Mass as a % of its population than any Catholic nation in Europe. And its hardly surprising, given the peasantry were literally starving to death while the bishops lazed in ridiculous luxury.

Go read the wikipedia article on Cardinal Segura. The man was no better than Stalin. Alas, the wiki article is very limited, but it does give a faint taste of the mans evil.

I'm not talking about Spain in 2008. The Spanish Catholic church isn't a fascist organisation any more.

But once upon a time, in the not too distant past, it was.

29 December 2008 at 11:17  
Anonymous EUBanana said...

..and regarding Len Allen, I fully appreciate that the evils of what I speak are hardly ones Jesus Christ would have approved of.

That doesn't stop certain people from committing them though.

Hence why even as an atheist I prefer fuzzy Anglicans. They are humanists. I think Jesus, even as a mundane mortal, was a humanist too, and far ahead of his time as a moralist. I think Cranmer's writings are full of compassion, I don't think I've seen a single harsh word out of him in all the years I've lurked here, and he's clearly a deeply religious man (ghost?).

Catholicism fails on the compassion front. Seems to be too much control and too little warmth to me.

29 December 2008 at 11:31  
Blogger len.allan said...

The simple relationship with Jesus Christ was hijacked by unscrupulous men and turned into a religion based on greed and desire for power and control of the masses.
Jesus Christ came to restore the broken( by mans sin and rebellion) relationship with God.
If you merely go through a ritual how does this help?.
Mans problem is not his individual sins but that he has a sin nature which causes him to sin!Only a spiritual rebirth will change this nature!
Jesus Christ said this truth will set you free.If you are looking at your performance you have missed the point entirely!
Your performance is the essence of religion.
Religion seems to blind people to the truth that is in Jesus Christ!

29 December 2008 at 11:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catholicism fails on the compassion front? In 2007 Catholic Charities provided services to 7,736,855 people nationwide in the U.S. In all, 171 main Catholic Charities agencies, which included 1,668 branches and affiliates, provided food, clothing, counseling, disaster relief, financial assistance and an array of vital community-based services 13,919,070 times last year.
Catholic Charities USA's members -- more than 1,700 local agencies and institutions nationwide -- provide help and create hope for more than 7.8 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. For more than 275 years, local Catholic Charities agencies have been providing a myriad of vital services in their communities, ranging from day care and counseling to food and housing. Julie

29 December 2008 at 18:16  
Anonymous not a machine said...

mathew parris seemed to come alive to me about a year ago in an article decribing the political mood as being akin to the spring storm disturbance of how the river thames behaves.
he uses words like a portrait fine artist uses a brush.

i had my disagreements with his speaking and writing , but he seems to have a found an honesty in his more mature years , his radio 4 interviews were challenging and inviting the audience to enquire and balance the veiw points.

i may not see some of things he sees as delicous intellect , but he isnt some one who works to someone elses brief , he is very capable of managing his own well , but i have come to appreciate his intellect this last two years , he wasnt made for , for the cheap point scoring of political argument , he gives flavour and smell, he could describe buttered toast as though you were tasting it.

Its a reflective piece in part , but based on his studies of the construction and knowing the subject to be far more intricate than a high handed dissmissal.

The bible still stands as great work , there are some disputes in part because its people are in an age of donkeys , shepards, fishermen and roman rule and doesnt seem to offer the specifics of our everyday life if only god had inserted "it is better to have an ISA than credit card" or "beware of the termination fees when you change broadband provider for they are worse than thiefs in the night"

it is easy to make fun , but so much of how we define ourselves is based on the adorments of life , we have really become the definition of the marketing man and the data gatherer , and we wonder why we are and see such dislocation and violence , perhaps our attention has been seperated from divorced from its purpose , just as communism requires !

29 December 2008 at 18:21  
Blogger Damo Mackerel said...

This article was a pleasure to read. Christianity also gave us our modern day science. Religion is not in conflict with science at all. It is religion that will save it because it is Christinaity that gives us Reason.

Sermon: Terrorism, Secularisation and Logos Theology 8th July 2007
Following the latest terrorist attacks, I’d like to examine the nature and the origin of
the problems we are presently enduring. Because we are creatures with minds as well
as bodies, we can discover the intellectual and spiritual causes of events. Whatever
human beings do is not fully explained by materialism, by materialistic causes. There
are governing ideas and assumptions behind the whole way we deal with one another.
Now let me identify two main aspects of the crisis we now inhabit: Islamic terrorism
and secularisation. These two things are governed by ideas and assumptions:
particularly ideas and assumptions about God and rationality.
One of the great strengths of Islam is its exalted vision of God. Allah Akbar!: God is
great! For the devout Muslim, God is not a mere metaphor for social welfare. God is
real and very, very great. In fact God is so great that we can hardly say anything more
about him than Allah Akbar! So for faithful Muslims, it is simply a matter of
obedience. God commands and they obey. But there are serious problems with this
teaching about God. Let me quote the revered medieval Muslim scholar Ibn Hazm
who declared:
God is not bound even by his own word, and nothing would oblige him to reveal the
truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
This leads to profound difficulties – I would even say fatal – difficulties. It creates a
radical separation between God and humanity, for it puts God above reason.
According to Ibn Hazm and all devout Muslims, God can literally do as he likes. God
could, if he so decided, lie to us, trick us, break out in a violent rage and destroy the
lot of us. And even as he was thus lying to us and destroying us, we would be obliged
to call out God is great! It is easy to see how this belief about God could and does
lead to the belief that all methods of establishing the absolute rule of Allah on earth
are permitted, even so far as killing infidels and even – as we have seen – of killing
fellow Muslims.
The radical distinction between Islam and Christianity is that Christians believe right
at the centre of faith that God is reasonable. The key text is the opening of St John’s
Gospel, the words we say on Christmas Day: εϖ αρξη ην ο λογοs – In the beginning
was the Word. The Word here – the Logos – means the reasonable power. So the
Gospel begins by putting reason at the heart of everything. St John hammers this truth
in words of one syllable into our thick heads, and then he repeats his message in case
we are still too stupid to understand: All things were made by him and without him
was not anything made that was made
So it is the reasonable Word of God which is the heart of the truth about God and
about the universe. St John goes on to make the astonishing statement The Logos, the
Word, was made flesh. The creative rationality of God himself dwelt among us and we
beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and
truth. Jesus was God’s divine rationality on earth. And this is the same Jesus who says
I am the way, the truth and the life. Jesus, God incarnate, is the truth – the eternal
truth. This is the everlasting Covenant between God and humankind in which God
declares that he is reasonable and faithful. We can trust him. God does not lie to us. I
will go further and say that God cannot lie to us – not because he is bound by some
external constraint, but by his own nature – to be ever reasonable and true.
So now let me turn away from irrational Islamic terrorism and consider the other
problem by which we are gripped: secularisation. This appears to be quite different.
Secularists, atheists, claim above all to be reasonable, to be basing their ideas on
rationality. Some secularists are militant, and in the cases of Richard Dawkins,
Christopher Hitchens and Philip Pullman, you might even say malignant. Others are
liberal freethinking secularists. And, while they do not themselves believe in God,
they are actually kind enough to allow you and me to believe in God if we wish.
But these liberal secularists say that believing in God is a matter of personal opinion.
You are free to make up your own mind. God is like cans of beans: some choose this
brand, some another brand; others don’t like beans at all. In other words, like
Christians, secularists believe in reason. But in their view reason, rationality, starts in
the individual human mind and its cogitations: ultimately in Cogito ergo sum – I
think, therefore I am. For the atheist also reason is at the centre, but its origin is not
located in the divine being, but in the individual consciousness. Every atheist, you
might say, is his own god.
This kind of rationality is fundamentally irrational because it is both meaningless and
implausible. Think about it. I think, therefore I am is not a genuine proposition of
thought. It purports to prove the existence of an I; but it assumes already the existence
of this I when it says I think.
And what is this I supposed to be anyhow? When you look at it – when you look into
your own being – what do you find there? Only an ever-changing flux of thoughts,
impressions, ideas and sensations. It is one of the great moments of outrageousness in
the history of philosophy, I think, therefore I am – Descartes and all the atheists and
secularists think that their own individual existence is more certain than God’s
existence. How’s that for hubris? How’s that for the sin of pride? How’s that for
And secular rationality is implausible. Reason is the principle of order. But atheists
believe the wonderful order of the human mind arose out of the chaos of inanimate
matter. Atheists say you can’t prove the existence of God. I answer, I don’t have to. I
know that my mind and my whole being is created by and derived from the being of
God. But let me ask the atheists a question: What reason do you have for believing
that the ordered mind arose by accident out of stuff that is not mind and not orderly?
Can you prove that? And of course, they cannot.
Atheism is not even new. It is usually said to have arisen three or four hundred years
ago at the Enlightenment. But you find practical atheism in the Bible where it is put
down and ridiculed by the Psalmist and the prophets. Psalm 14 begins: The fool hath
said in his heart, there is no God. Jeremiah the prophet mocks the atheists of his day
by his analogy of the potter and the clay: Does the clay imagine it made the potter?
The idea that the ordered universe – which can be described in the precise terms of
mathematics – arose by chance out of nothing, disorder and chaos is so implausible
that we can afford to discard it completely. As the physicist Fred Hoyle said: To
believe that the universe began by accident is as if you should believe that a wind
blew through a scrapyard and left behind a perfectly formed Jumbo jet
So we have these two enemies of truth, and if of truth, then of life itself. We have a
murderous fundamentalism which preaches God without reason. And we have a crass
and implausible secular atheism which preaches reason without God.
When I say that the only defence against these two forms of destructiveness is to
return to the Christian faith, I do not mean to indicate some Patience Strong type of
sentimental piety or the mind, body and spirit shelf in Waterstones. I mean a return to
the Logos theology of St John’s Gospel: in the beginning was the Word, the divine
There are two kinds of viciousness: if you try to have God without reason, you end up
with suicide bombers and the arbitrariness and cruelty of Sharia Law; if you try to
have reason without God, you end up with abortion as a means of contraception, the
abandonment of the moral code and its replacement by an amoral permissive
individualism. We see the results all around – the collapse of civilised society.
So you see, what happens to a people, a whole society, depends on its core beliefs, its
metaphysics. Our core beliefs are derived from the being of God who revealed
himself to Moses out of the burning bush as I am. The same God who appeared as the
Logos – the divine reason in human form – in Jesus Christ.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness,
and the darkness comprehended it not

@ Rev Peter Mullem. St Michael's Cornhill

29 December 2008 at 18:21  
Anonymous EUBanana said...

Catholicism sure does fail on the compassion front - its not like a few charities makes up for all those atrocities over the years, all that AIDS spread in Africa, and the brake on human progress that it has historically been. Wasn't all that long ago that Catholics refused to teach children to read, in case they got ideas that didn't come from them.

Catholicism does not have a monopoly on charity any more than it does on morality. If it didn't exist charities still would, and so would the charitable. Of course the same could be said about the bad things they've done... but as an essentially authoritarian and stifling force, it's hardly been a good thing for humanity overall. The scorecard does not look good. It's kept us back centuries and killed millions, like an ancient version of Marxism. No thanks.

29 December 2008 at 19:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This athiest gentleman might like protestantism, but from reading this blog, it apparently makes people pretty hateful. Rowena

29 December 2008 at 22:12  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Ms Rowena,

You are most welcome to His Grace's blog. But instead of visiting to hurl puerile insults, you might like to contribute something intelligent and/or erudite. Or even adduce a little evidence. Protestantism does not make people hateful; it is the human heart and sin which makes people hateful.

Perhaps you might care to disclose the faith which makes you ill-informed and judgemental?

29 December 2008 at 22:20  
Anonymous judith said...

Your Grace, Ms Rowena may not yet have learned the style of posting you prefer, but perhaps she is alluding to EUBanana's apparent allegation that the spread of AIDS in Africa is the fault of Catholicism?

That seems to be a fairly hateful allegation.

29 December 2008 at 23:04  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Ms Judith,

Then Ms Rowena ought to be specific. Her remark was a slur against Protestant Christianity; not against any particular communicant.

Hatred is more in the heart of the expresser than the eye of the beholder.

30 December 2008 at 00:02  
Blogger Arden Forester said...

Just like the Book of Common Prayer, he doesn't mention the word "protestant" at all. Your Grace has forgotten his own handiwork.

Interesting that Matthew Parris sees Christianity in Africa in such a good light. I wonder if he agrees with the African bishops in their quest to rectify the troubling splits in the Episcopal Church of the USA?

30 December 2008 at 00:30  
Anonymous not a machine said...

damo mackerel
interesting post !! even if by rev peter mullen

"in the begining was the word and the word was god"

thus far in my lite research of other faiths , i have not found this line anywhere else.

if there is no jesus being the son of god as opposed to being a prophet, there is no culmination , no tieing together , one prophet is equal to another and you have a faith prone to fracture and factionalism in ways more severe than in the christian faith.

islam has many aspects of god with in it , but it sees jesus differently , which to me denies the end power and work of the christ , which has shaped our society and culture.

some see similarities and shared worship , some make point of difference without thinking or even repsect.

in christain societies "the faith" has been progressed beyond islam in all its mainstream current forms that become political, the church may also lose its way from time to time.

toleration always relies on the notion that the minority do not foist agendas on the majority or reach for physical societal change whether overt or covert.

unfortunately the athiest equality PC brigade seem to think beliveing in god is delusional and offer the solution of subverting god into a quaint warm feeling , that they too can relate to and therefore we can all be the same by control and behavoir .

it suppsedly eliminates difference and thereby creates a more harmonious society , of course every aspect of a persons construction has to be the same to turn out the same person who can then fit into the structure.

given we have differnces in physical as well as mental abilities , it is clear that you cannot enforce "total same" unless via some sort of repression or heirarchy .

the jesus i love , would ask if i had really known him , as through him we can see the father , he did not leave this open to interpretaion .

the story of jesus visit to the temple where he kicked over the tables of the money changers , in his only known out burst of rage , would seem appropaite for those people in finance that have "bet" on the formuale for ecnomic salvation that has created this bust.

"doves for money, doves for money"

it is a shame that their was never any "money for doves" and like our foisted corrupted and broken society , they have flown away, in thsi goverments case very far away indeed .

30 December 2008 at 00:41  
Anonymous the recusant said...


It is not really surprising that if Matthew Parris were to endow Christianity with any credit it would be of the Protestant kind considering their position (Anglican and US Episcopal) on his particular concern, homosexuality, birds of a feather and all that. And I don’t mean that in any condemnatory manner, just as a reflection of his many statements and actions on this subject in the past, when tolerance and acceptance are the watchwords.

Regrettably this brand of Bon Homme does not extend to a Catholic Church (unlike its separated brethren) that can’t be bullied into changing its position that considers homosexuality a disorder. This being an affront to the militant homosexual lobby, which not only demands all accept their orientation but also must agree to its normalisation as well. Where in the past it has conquered all before it, if necessary with threats of hate crimes, naming and shaming of so called homophobes and when that fails prosecution under law or good old fashioned violence, it comes to a grinding halt before the Magesterium of the Catholic Church.

I happen to think that his Grace should take cold comfort from the words of the Matthew Parris’ of this world and believe he is mistaken to laud this mans apparent damascene enlightenment, indeed I recommend to His Grace the Lyrics of that well known children’s ditty Never Smile at a Crocodile.

Unfortunately EUBanana when you had the chance to shine and put cogent, well informed arguments to substantiate your case all we got was a starvation diet of plain ignorant ill-informed rants, hatred and bile. What a shame you should let yourself down so badly with comments that are simply beneath contempt. I wonder do you have any particular reason the make common cause with Mr Parris, similar interests perhaps as you do with your Church burning heroes of yore.

30 December 2008 at 01:19  
Blogger len.allan said...

When will you give up your religions, your denominations, your factions , your arguing , your bickering.
Jesus said"Follow me"
This seems so simple you would need help to misunderstand it!
God isn`t going to ask you what denomination you were, but did you follow Christ!.
Don`t place your trust in your denomination ( however good or bad) but place your trust in God alone.

30 December 2008 at 11:26  
Anonymous Margaret Coles said...

An ancient devine said that Christianity should manifest itself as a "heart-felt desire to live a God-pleasing life"
A hundred years ago my grandfather arrived in Nyasaland as a pioneer missionary. His first stumbling words in their language, as he rushed ashore were "Do you love God?" a question we will all be asked one day. A life of selfless service encouraging the people to be industrious, was accompanied by, as my grandmother said, telling the "old,old story of Jesus and his love". A life-changing Christian faith replaced animism and bore the fruit of concern for the uneducated, ill and orphaned which continues in Malawi down to this day. The pure gospel will never change but its followers will.

30 December 2008 at 12:14  
Blogger EUBanana said...

I somehow get the impression that the Recusant would like to live back in the times when Alan Turing - a hero of WW2, who did as much as any general to save the world from Nazism - chose to eat an apple laced with cyanide. No, I do not support that point of view.

I am an atheist, but I got no problem with religious people at all. (Or I wouldn't be here, would I). I don't even mind being told the Good News, even if the spiritual components of it rolls off me like water off a ducks back. I still find that the theological points Cranmer makes are stimulating and rewarding to read.

I'm not a fan of authoritarianism and obscurantism, though.

...and regarding the 'hateful' comment, buh? Is it or is it not Catholic doctrine to forbid condoms or not? Sorry to see people unwilling to face the outcome of that doctrine because of their tribal loyalties, but no, it isn't "hateful" to criticise it or acknowledge what the actual consequences have been.

30 December 2008 at 13:32  
Blogger len.allan said...

EUBanana, The true Gospel is the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus,
Religion however has an agenda all of its own mainly control and manipulation.Religion has a lot in common with communism and fascism etc, ie it controls through fear.
Don`t confuse the Gospel of Jesus Christ with religion!

31 December 2008 at 10:44  
Anonymous the recusant said...

EUBanana, what is hateful is to endorse the burning of Churches as you have done “I would happily burn down the churches myself, and I would have as much regret doing so as I would fighting the SS in World War 2”. Well we know what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane (a reflection of their previous behaviour in the east) and the above statement was from your own mouth so the only conclusion that can be drawn is that you have more in common with the SS than you may care to recognise. You do have a fixation with the war, are you saying that Turing’s suicide is the Catholic Churches fault as well?

I take it by tribal loyalties you mean faithful Catholics (as opposed to those who disregard the teachings of, and criticize the Church) and by condoms & consequences you mean the spread of HIV predominantly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A short examination of the HIV/AIDS rates of those African countries that have a large Catholic population shows that the Church's accusers have not done their homework or are deliberately misreporting the facts, consider this fact: In every African country in which HIV infections have declined, this decline has been associated with a decrease in the proportion of men and women reporting more than one sex partner over the course of a year—which is exactly what the Catholic Churches fidelity programs promote. The same association with HIV decline cannot be said for condom use, coverage of HIV testing, treatment for curable sexually transmitted infections, provision of antiretroviral drugs, or any other intervention or behaviour. The other behaviour that has often been associated with a decline in HIV prevalence is a decrease in premarital sex among young people.

The available statistics show that countries with a large Catholic percentage population, show significantly lower rates of HIV/AIDS infections than countries with mostly non-Catholic populations. Statistics from the World Factbook of the US Central Intelligence Agency, shows Burundi at 62% Catholic with 6% AIDS infection rate. Angola's population is 38% Roman Catholic and has 3.9% AIDS rate. Ghana is 63% Christian, with in some regions as much as 33% Catholic and has 3.1% AIDS rate. Nigeria, divided almost evenly between the strongly Muslim north and Christian and "animist" south, has 5.4% AIDS rate.

Strongly Christian Uganda continues to frustrate condom-pushing NGO's by maintaining its abstinence and fidelity AIDS prevention programs and one of the lowest rates of AIDS in Africa, at 4.1%. Uganda's population is listed by the CIA Factbook as 33% Roman Catholic and 33% Protestant.

Of African countries with low Catholic populations, Botswana is typical with 37.3% AIDS, one of the highest in Africa, and 5% of the total population Catholic. Swaziland is shown to have a 38.8% AIDS infection rate and only 5.57 % Catholic population.

Also have you considered the UNAIDS relationship with condom companies, in light of recent oil-for-food scandals and the corruption that has been exposed in the UN, are you not suspicious about this. The cause of UNAIDS officials spending billions of dollars on condoms without any evidence to back to them up. Dr. Edward C. Green, a research scientist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development, has speculated about economic motives behind the puzzling support for methods that have proven ineffective in preventing AIDS transmission. "It is by no means clear that empirical evidence can overcome ideological blinders or compete with the big business in pharmaceutical products (condoms) that AIDS prevention has become,"

If AIDS prevention is to be based on evidence rather than ideology or bias, then fidelity and abstinence programs need to be at the centre of programs for general populations. Outside Uganda, we have few good models of how to promote fidelity, since attempts to advocate deep changes in behaviour have been almost entirely absent from programs supported by the major Western donors and by AIDS celebrities. Yet Christian churches—indeed, most faith communities—have a comparative advantage in promoting the needed types of behaviour change, since these behaviours conform to their moral, ethical, and scriptural teachings. What the churches are inclined to do anyway turns out to be what works best in AIDS prevention.

The bit I can never figure out is how critics of the Catholic Churches position on contraception come up with the logic that a person who ignores the Catholic Church’s teachings on promiscuity will have quibbles about disobeying her teachings on contraception, in other words how many Catholics are devout with their adherence to the Church's teaching on contraception and condoms, but have no problem with adultery and fornication. Can you see why it is illogical to blame the Church for the spread of AIDs because of its teaching on contraception? It is an easy banana to swallow for those gullible enough to believe any old tosh against the Church but in reality, if you are prepared to think a bit deeper about the substance of the claim it just doesn’t make sense.

Also don’t forget that the Catholic Church is by far the largest provider of health care for Aids victims in Sub-Saharan Africa, collectively larger than all the UN sponsored NGOs together.

31 December 2008 at 20:12  
Blogger Richard Corfield said...

The problem for atheists or agnostics comes in comments like this one early in the comment list:

"Only the transforming work of God (through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ) will achieve this."

While we can see that religion can help, we get unstuck here. I have a Hindu background which teaches that there are many paths, many forms of beliefs, so yes it is understandable that Christian belief can work. Then we get things like the above which denies that other beliefs can also work. Hinduism, in scripture such as the Bhagavad Gita, teaches a more abstract understanding of what works and what doesn't. There are a lot of parallels in Jesus' teaching.

So yes, faith in Jesus can be positive for the people that have it. As can faith in Krishna, Buddha, Allah perhaps. Faith can also be expressed in very negative ways and it is these that make people like myself more nervous of things like Christian missionary activity. Christian mission seems commonly associated with comments like the above and emphasis on the word "Only" in the above comment. Christian belief with its "original sin" and salvation only by faith seems structured to conclude that.

Some other comments to this article talk about the burning of churches in Spain. Recently many churches were burned in Orissa, India. Some people claim that the church burning was done "in a way not to harm living beings", as a way of excusing it perhaps. What was certainly expressed was anger and frustration at the activity of well funded missionaries. I suspect that the individual situations there are far more complex than I can know from the comfort of the UK. Consider a reversal of the situation. Consider a UK crippled by the credit crunch where we are impoverished. Consider a situation where those that come to help us are well funded Muslim missionaries rich from their oil. We've had race riots here over far less.

So, we have a situation where religious activity whether it is Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, all sorts can have benefits in the life of its adherents. Unfortunately coupled to it we have the negative aspects of dogmatism, of failure to recognise the good in other people's ideas, and of belief systems that in the end teach that who you worship is more important than who you are.

It is quite a dichotomy. If we were to drop the bits about having to explicitly believe in Christ from Christianity and just stick to being "Christ-like" and loving others would what remains still be Christianity?

4 January 2009 at 13:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I could just be "Christ-like" and love others, but I cannot without knowing the saving grace and power of Christ in my own life.

5 January 2009 at 23:37  
Blogger Richard Corfield said...

Can you not? How does knowing the saving grace actually impact on your ability to love others?

It's one I've seen, someone recently applying the idea of "grace and forgiveness" to a situation they were in and trying it for themselves. I just love a parable from Buddhism on that particular situation, one of a number on this topic and a different view of the need to forgive. The protagonist was "still carrying the load of an ungrateful passenger they had helped by allowing themselves to carry the 'injury' in their mind even though the passenger and situation had long passed.
The Christian had done it by feeling in themselves Christ's forgiveness of them and passing that one, an idea like yours I think.

Maybe indeed focusing on the love of Christ is what works for you. It's not a strange idea. It's one I've met before. You feel the love of your chosen deity, or even love from supporters here on earth, and that makes it easy for you to share that feeling of love. The Bhakti (devotional) path in Hinduism is said to culminate in that way. I suppose the difference in understanding is that you believe in a literal Christ, Hindus in something more abstract, and I'm looking at effects on the person and not asking whether Christ or Brahman do exist.

Do you accept that others manage it but on different basis? Interconnectedness is quite a powerful one - the recognition of the divine in all around us.

It's an interesting question - whether such belief systems are needed. I've seen first hand the effect of belief in the divine within. Interestingly it's more an "Original Goodness" doctrine than an "Original Sin". Combined with the non-labelling ideas it has enabled me to look at people who would normally be looked at negatively in a good light and ask more about them. I don't think I discriminated before though. I used to go help others even before I started looking at any religious reason for doing so.

Buddhists drop the god part of that equation and work on recognising others as human just like us, with hopes and fears and history and future plans just like us. They have interesting meditation practices focusing on this and focusing on compassion.

Different things work for different people.

6 January 2009 at 09:19  

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