Sunday, September 15, 2013

Promoting "cultural Anglicanism"

On the Spectator Coffee House, Ed West has written that "We should encourage and promote ‘Cultural Anglicanism’ in schools".

Mr West is Roman Catholic, and is probably aware that any Roman Catholic school that is doing its job is already inculcating 'cultural Anglicanism' (ie not theological Anglicanism). He doesn't really expound what he means by the term, drawing mainly on the expressed views of Richard Dawkins and his antithetical stance against any extreme expression of religion:
...Dawkins now says he feels ‘Anglican nostalgia, especially when you look at the competition’. He also admits that he would feel ‘deprived’ if there were no more churches: ‘I’m kind of grateful to the Anglican tradition for its benign tolerance. I sort of suspect that many who profess Anglicanism probably don’t believe any of it at all in any case but vaguely enjoy, as I do… I suppose I’m a cultural Anglican and I see evensong in a country church through much the same eyes as I see a village cricket match on the village green. I have a certain love for it.’
And then he dips his toes into 'British values':
Those who do not respect their own religions tend to end up respecting someone else’s, but Prof Dawkins does offer a sort of remedy for the train wreck of multiculturalism. Since July 7, 2005 experts have been agonising over how to help social cohesion and teach ‘British values’, but most of the things they’ve come up with are vague and meaningless (‘tolerance’, ‘fairness’ etc) or basically totalitarianism-lite (respect difference – or else!).
Which leads neatly to the nexus of his religio-political thesis:
Why not instead talk about ‘cultural Anglicanism’ as the basis of cohesion? As a member of ‘the world’s second most evil religion’ (c. R Dawkins), I too feel like a cultural Anglican; I love and respect the Anglican tradition and the society it helped create. The fact that I don’t even have to explain what ‘cultural Anglicanism’ means, that the vast majority of people reading this will understand, speaks for its strength; it is not just cricket on the green or Evensong, but a cultural heritage that is beautiful, coherent and benignly tolerant. (Charles Darwin was lucky that he presented his ideas to an Anglican society; a scientist who upset the world view of today’s cultural leaders would find things much harder.)
His Grace need not express his views on the matter, for the Coffee House commentariat is a lively fellowship:
Cultural Anglicanism is fine, unhappily, I get the impression that, given time, and not much, it will be up there with 'Adelstrop' as a plangent reminder of a vanished, or, rather, vanquished, England.

..It is a nice read this article, but I fear there is no such thing as "British Values" anymore. The problem is that our society is now so fragmented, compartmentalised, ghettoised, that we do not get that sense of belonging anymore. We feel like foreigners in our own country... With venal politicians, Lefty media and self loathing academia, is it any wonder that those who despise us, our way of life and culture are now British and we, foreigners in our own land?

..Cultural Anglicanism is better than cultural Islamism which is what we are going to be stuck with.

..Wishy-washy wishful thinking.

..Where the BCP is concerned, its lobby is in no small measure made up of those who are particularly attached to the later musical settings of it. Those have not recently become confined to cathedrals and to the chapels of Oxbridge colleges. Rather, they have always been so. (There are particularly naive cradle Catholics who imagine that that is the sort of thing that will be going on in the Ordinariate. It is not.)

..Cultural Anglicanism: isn't that now something to do with lady bishops, pious yet reassuringly strong and subtly moustacheoid?

..Even as a 19 year old Anti-theist, i completely agree with bringing cultural Anglicanism back. You cannot even begin to understand a large section of our history, culture and literature without a relative understanding of the Bible and Christianity. I would also like it to return as a soft way of combating the rise of Islamo-fascism and the tolerance of it that is spreading through the nation like a cancer.

..The idea of "Cultural Anglicanism" as "benignly tolerant" is a piece of public school nonsense, and wildly at variance with the plain facts of history. It is not unconnected to the idea that the Conservative Party is non-ideological and has no class motivation.

..I adore anglicanism. It is culturally and morally the rock of my life. Since I believe that life is one big circular journey, with lots of little circles running through it I found myself (now in my 50s) being drawn back to the pragmatism of Anglicanism, and to the beauty of the Book of Common Prayer. Given that England is on a collision course of competing cultural demographics within the next 25 years, we certainly need something to create the British Dream

..Though be warned - there have been many "sad cases" of cultural Christians who then realise that it's true and becoming real Christians. Tolerant love of neighbour and regular contemplation of the beauty of holiness are very perilous ground for a militant atheist.

..Dawkins says, "I sort of suspect that many who profess Anglicanism probably don’t believe any of it at all in any case but vaguely enjoy, as I do…"

..And which society did Anglicanism help to 'create', actually? Was that the one which prevented women working after getting married? Which denied them the vote until 1918? Was it the one which allowed global slavery to thrive for long enough to make people rich enough to abolish it?? Was it one which believed in a genetic master race called 'The Royal Family' and told people to know their place, fight for King and Country and pay 10% to the church or else?? Have you yet ever faced up to the fact that the reason church attendance has gone down so much is simply that the church lost its mafia-style fear factor?? The imposition of guilt and defining the means to salvation is a marvellous control technique. Are you uncomfortable with the concept of human freedom without moral blackmail?? If so, why???

..You are surrounded by cultural Anglicanism - few recognize that. Get real, Church-going religion has disappeared and rightly so. Yes the immigrants and their social/cultural baggage cling to what they have but that too will disappear as most see the benefit of discarding their middle-age mindsets. Much of the discussion and resistance is the playing out of withdrawal symptoms. Don't blame others - the real solution is regeneration from within - as the Bible says - you will recognize a tree by its fruits - and those already have the fruit better start enjoying what they have and not worry if others don't join in the feast..


Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

As you rightly say, your Grace, the responses give a good proportion of the answer.
What is disturbing is that so much of the modern media is ignorance dressed up as intellectualism. This is part of the technique of enforcing political correctness.

15 September 2013 at 10:14  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

As you rightly say, your Grace, the responses give a good proportion of the answer.
What is disturbing is that so much of the modern media is ignorance dressed up as intellectualism. This is part of the technique of enforcing political correctness.

15 September 2013 at 10:15  
Blogger Nick said...

The term "Cultuaral Anglicanism" has a decidedly secular ring to it. It sounds a bit like the vicar of Dibley approach to religion: go around trying to be as nice as possible to everyone, but please never mention God.

There are plenty of hobby-christians amongst the English Anglican community. People for whom the trappings of church life trump the challenges of salvation or the plight of other Christians around the world. The CofE, and its Welsh counterpart, have chosen to be guided by society instead of being a guide itself. Hence its diminution to the status if something nice to do on a Sunday evening.

This retreat from spiritual robustness has left a moral and spiritual vacuum in the country which is now being filled by a toxic blend of Islam and political correctness.

The good news is that there are many Christians with a more resilient faith gradually emerging from the woodwork. Does this mean a new church, a Christian revival at some point? I sincerely hope and pray it will.

15 September 2013 at 11:39  
Blogger meema said...

Nick @ 11:39

In the US, even as the Modern Mega Church swells in membership, more and more Christians are choosing to disengage with organized religion.

Home church, people quietly gathering to worship sans the rituals, mission statements and manmade doctrines, is becoming more common.

Perhaps this is the faithful heeding the call to “Come ye out”? God always keeps a remnant. Begs the question. Is Church God?

15 September 2013 at 11:59  
Blogger seanrobsville said...

The idea that Cultural Anglicanism (or cultural-anything-else for that matter) could in any way slow down the remorseless growth of Islam is wishful thinking.

Islam is like a loathsome parasite that is invading the Body Politic, weakening the host and infesting its organs as it eats away British society from the inside. What is Cultural Anglicanism expected to do to counteract this? Encourage kuffars to have more children and outbreed the rapidly proliferating Muslims on our already overcrowded island? Or attract Muslims away from their thuggish but very successful mafia-cult, when they know they're winning and time is on their side?

There can be no cultural solution to the Islam problem. In fact, history has shown that there can never be a 'nice' solution to Islam.

15 September 2013 at 12:43  
Blogger bluedog said...

seanrobsville @ 12.43 says, 'Or attract Muslims away from their thuggish but very successful mafia-cult'. Ain't that the truth. Is it just a coincidence that those parts of Europe such as Sicily, Corsica and the Balkans that were once before under Muslim domain are just so much more violent than the rest of Christendom. Centuries after its eradication, Islam still leaves a bitter after-taste.

15 September 2013 at 13:07  
Blogger JW said...

The slow eradication of Cultural Anglicanism is actually the one major upside to the growing hostility that Christians face
(Dawkins and his ilk do not actually admire benign tolerance enough to ever practice it themselves).

Well, bring it on!

Once Christian profession actually becomes truly counter-cultural and even costly we may finally be able to tell who the real believers are.
Praise God for that!

15 September 2013 at 13:07  
Blogger Anglican said...

‘Cultural Anglicanism’ is not of course Anglicanism – or even any form of Christianity. It is a residual folk religion, which is what very many people in England have had for a long time.

The principal (and very real) danger is that people will – and do - think ‘Cultural Anglicanism’ is all there is to Anglicanism, or Christianity.

On the plus side it may encourage some to delve deeper – to read the Bible and to find out what the Church actually does believe, and why. Some will be led to Christ.

15 September 2013 at 13:17  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

‘Cultural Anglicanism’. Now, the Inspector does like the sound of that, whatever it means. As an easy going Roman Catholic, he is supportive of Anglicanism in the UK. (...But make the most of it chaps, for in his lifetime, he expects to see 90% of synod demanding the right to marry gay people, and that subsequent AoCs be forevermore only drawn from the numerous women bishops then present to make up for 500 years of ‘misogyny’ in the church...)

Anyway, make the most of cultural Anglicanism before it shrinks away. It’s largely gone in our apartheid cities but it does have a future in the white countryside. It is in the nature of the white race to consolidate and conserve when alienation (the existence of an alien way of life) predominates not that far away.

Adlestrop station, on the Oxford-Worcester line, closed on 3rd January 1966. They say that all that survived was a seat, which made it’s way to the local bus shelter. But that would be wrong. The people survive as does Adlestrop church. And of course, the poem. Little changes in the Anglican countryside - would that be the same for her Anglicanism...

15 September 2013 at 14:17  
Blogger richardhj said...

Cultural Anglicanism is in very great part responsible for the collapse in real Christianity. People claim to be Christian nearly always Anglican but with no real faith and certainly no understanding of faith believe what the state tells them

Something is alright if its legal. "Abortion is fine. The law says it is". "Why shouldn't gay people get married? it's only fair"

This then gives the impression that Christians can believe this and then people become afraid to disagree.

With all due respect to the many Anglicans who are Christian, I have long believed that the Church of
England does "just what it says on the tin"

It is the "Church of England ". It is not a "Church of God"

No wonder Dawkins approves.

15 September 2013 at 14:24  
Blogger The Explorer said...

When Darwin turned out to be unsuited to medical training, the family (Unitarian in sympathy) thought he might try his hand at being a rural clergyman. (This before his 'Beagle' experience.)

Darwin was fine with the idea. Hunting, shooting, and a chance to work on his botany collection. There's Cultural Anglicanism in action with a vengeance.

15 September 2013 at 14:46  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Your Grace,
It is not unconnected to the idea that the Conservative Party is non-ideological and has no class motivation.
Thus, the Conservative party has a leader that professes Christianity yet pushes through SSM and sets to wage war that is not Gods war.
In many churches in this country, it would matter not whether God was present or not. They are 'religious' clubs. A true church is where Christians gather together to make a habitation fit for him. If God is not present, then one might as well go home. No matter what fine music, wonderfully written prayers or fine ceremonial robes, God is not impressed.
Thus the Cultural Church is already here and needs to be eradicated from the pretence of Christianity.

15 September 2013 at 15:19  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Myself, I think Locke is primarily to blame for Cultural Anglicanism.

In the C17, Anglicanism could be quite fierce. It was Locke who turned God into, first and foremost, the Defender of Property Rights. Property rights needed a religion that would keep people docile; while those who could laid up for themselves treasures on Earth.

A religion, yes; but not a religion with any hint of enthusiasm about it. Tolerate the Non-Conformists, but don't encourage them. Enthusiasm might mean following your conscience, and putting loyalty to God ahead of loyalty to God's magistrates on Earth,

I think it says it all that Locke bought shares in a slaving company. Opposition to slavery came from enthusiasts like Wilberforce.

15 September 2013 at 15:30  
Blogger David Hussell said...

As a committed Christian, who as it happened was born into a mainly Anglican family, I can see that an atmosphere of "cultural" Anglicanism is preferable to one of cultural something else, providing that it promotes tolerance and respect for genuine religious freedom, especially of all the mainstream Churches.
It would undoubtedly lead to many "cultural" Christians becoming convinced, committed ones. However in my book cultural Anglicanism, implying tolerance, could not accept grossly anti-Christian laws that close down Catholic Adoption agencies, sack Registrars that adhere to conventional man/woman marriage or arresting street preachers from simply reading out aloud sacred Scripture.

Without a core of those who really believe in the authentic, traditional versions of Anglicanism, any attempts to "conserve" cultural Anglicanism will fail. The Church of England is not like an historic building that simply needs listing, followed by sympathetic restoration and then kept at some mythical "arrested" stage, preserved like a museum piece. Without a core of the truly faithful it will die.

However it will not die, as such people including me, exist in larger numbers than is realized, but we are a small % of even the church goers. In the next few decades the C of E will shrink, a lot, but a few faithful, will endure alongside the faithful of the other mainline Churches. Christianity will survive in these island but as a remnant, that is my belief.

15 September 2013 at 15:38  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

David H,
I concur that a core of nominal believers could help prevent liberal ideology spreading into society and destroying all that the faithful believers seek to retain for future generations.

15 September 2013 at 15:46  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David H @ 15:38

Agree 100%

15 September 2013 at 15:59  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Mr Integrity,

Yes, you have the point. Spot on.

Cometh the day, cometh the man. In the chaos of the post Roman west, Benedict established a "rule' and his monasteries, precious ships on a storm tossed sea, with God protecting his faithful few, carried forward the irreplaceable knowledge, secular and Christian, leading to the later flowering of western, Latin Christianity. This was all down to genuine faith. In the same way the faithful Christians of today, and the next generation, who are not confined to one denomination, as God does not "do" administrative boundaries, faith being of the Spirit, will in some way, as yet not totally clear, carry forward the faith we received from our forefathers, into the future of europe. Possibly we will receive reverse missionaries from Christian countries in the global south, I don't pretend to be sure, but it will happen.

15 September 2013 at 16:03  
Blogger Anglican said...

Christianity in this country – genuine Christians of all denominations (not the liberals who will fade away like the smile of the Cheshire cat) will become a dissident counter-culture. Which is perhaps what it was always meant to be.

15 September 2013 at 16:15  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

The phrase 'professing a form of religion while denying the power of it' comes to mind.

15 September 2013 at 16:28  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Judging a religion by whether it's useful rather than whether or not it's true traces its lineage, I think, to Epicurus.

The gods may exist, but if they do they are irrelevant to human affairs (other than for keeping the mob under).

Believe in them publicly. (When the mob's around.) Disbelieve in them privately if you want to, but whatever you do: don't make a fuss!

15 September 2013 at 16:40  
Blogger David B said...

Reading the thread so far, I find myself wondering whether there is a parallel between cultural Christianity, and what might be termed cultural atheism, as apposed to what might be called militant, or enthusiastic, or committed or some similar concept Christianity and atheism respectively.

The cultural ones just going about their lives, while the committed ones care about persuading people that they would be better off if they were to adopt their supernatural beliefs or conclusion that there is nothing supernatural respectively, and also concerned about the best way to live to please their God, or the best way to live in a Godless universe respectively.

I am aware that some might jump on what I write above to claim that I am in fact that atheism is as much a religion as any religion, but no - atheism is still a religion in the same way that 'off' is a tv channel, or not collecting stamps is a hobby.


15 September 2013 at 17:28  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ The Explorer
I hope your comments aren't knocking the great botanical tradition in the C of E. I think Gilbert White, and all the botanist explorers and plant hunters, followed more recently by Keble Martin are a tremendous heritage.

There is something very potent about the beauty and variety and intricacy of our great flora that speaks strongly of the goodness, the colour, and the "many and various ways" (to borrow from Hebrews) God speaks to us- in this case in and through his Creation.

All power to the botanists I think, and the dendrologists amongst the clergy. It is possible to get close to intoxicated by leafing through an encyclopedia of trees or flowers.

As for cultural Anglicanism, it feels a bit like the nostalgia that creeps over one after a full working day when you turn on the TV and there is an Agatha Christie, and a shot in soft focus of the Vicar bicycling through St. Mary Mead, where the cottages have roses over the door and hollyhocks in the garden, and greeting Joan Hickson as Miss Marple on his way. One knows it isn't real, but a little part of us wishes it had been, and still was!

15 September 2013 at 17:30  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

Pity it's taken him so long to realise what he's been missing for all these years. I even feel a bit sorry for the old geezer.

15 September 2013 at 17:33  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Agreed !

Here in the west we have emerged from a phase of history when a fair sized minority, the core of true believers, drawn from different denominations, pointed out to the rest of society, who were cultural Christians, the standards to aim for; but like all "fallen" human beings everyone failed to reach them, including those in the core, and God knows that this will happen as failure is part of who we are, but demands, always, that we strive for better.

Now at present the west is undoubtedly in the phase of post Christian pagan secularism, which may be a very temporary phase, looking at current demographics. But even if those demographics alter dramatically, Christianity is still heading towards a new status as a counter cultural force, right back where it started from. The task, the mission, is to keep alive the truth lodged in Scripture, Tradition and Christian practices. And all committed Christians in all the mainline denominations will be engaged in this task, I have little doubt. The rising generation is the key one. There must be sufficient of them to endure, and pass on the faith. Leadership training to operate behind "the lines" as it were is essential. Think of Columbus and his missions in the north, or Augustine when he landed on the shores of Kent. But all in a 21st century context. It has been done before and will be done again. New forms of being Christian will emerge perhaps, not new denominations, but ways of thriving as a minority, and doing mission. In God we trust.

15 September 2013 at 17:34  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

David B. The problem with cultural atheism is that there is nothing in it. Really, there is nothing there...

15 September 2013 at 17:45  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Lucy @ 17:30

Of course I'm not.

I love ''The Natural History of Selborne, Gilbert White'S House and the Oxford Botanic Garden. And what about Mendel, Dom Perignon, and all those Burgundy monks who experimented with grape varieties? With all of them, their activities were a natural outcome of their religious belief.

I have no quarrel with Darwin's botany. My point was his priorities. What he DIDN'T say. And the fact that this seemed to occasion no surprise.

15 September 2013 at 17:49  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

One does like the definition of Anglicanism that will be around once the progressives get through with it, if they ever do.

“An opportunity for God to visit the congregation at church and to worship THEM”

Be a first for God, one does believe. Probably be bemused by it, Englishman that he is...

15 September 2013 at 17:49  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

The Explorer at 16:40

"The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful."

Gibbon, Decline & Fall

15 September 2013 at 17:51  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

I'm wondering exactly what Dawkins has in mind, and am thinking it has quite a lot to do with nostalgia, a personal liking for some clergy he knows, and a yearning towards a Matthew Arnold "sweet reasonableness" that is light to non -existent in actual doctrinal belief.

Not much wine but some fine and fancy wineskins, therefore.

@ Explorer. Thanks for clarification, and am agreed.

More parson naturalists, and viniculturalists, fewer train fanatics in Cultural Anglicanism: how is that for a provocative cri de couer?

15 September 2013 at 18:08  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Nice one. Both terse and apt !

Uncle Brian,

For "philosopher" substitute atheist, and we are back there again, are we not ? So yes, I agree totally.

And Dave's vacuous "Big Society" project which has gone strangely silent of late, was Dave wearing a sort of "Magistrates" hat, keeping good order, promoting civic virtue, togetherness and being "nice citizens", but all strangely built on a total absence of any faith underpinning. It ain't going to be like that after most of the physical churches become Tesco car parking lots.
And "cultural Anglicanism", as a faith free zone will last, at most, for about one generation. In fact I think that in some ways, the "niceness" of society, the trust, has already gone.
They want faith schools, especially C of E and Catholic ones to flourish, but mind you, don't teach them any actual faith in God, now, otherwise we'll take the public money away. So they want the results, the fruits, that flow from faith, but without any faith. Got that ? What an incredibly confused lot they are, and they accuse us, believers, of being unrealistic, trusting in "God fairies in the sky". Truly the modern secular Brit. is a blind, helpless creature.

15 September 2013 at 18:20  
Blogger David B said...

Some Anglican clergymen, with more time on their hands than many, devoted a lot of times to more than nature study.

One, I recall, devoted a lot of time to archaeology, collecting (and, regrettably, bowdlerising IIRC) folk songs, as well as having loads of children.

If it were not that he also wrote a load of hymns, again IIRC, one might think he devoted so much time to such pursuits that he must have been a cultural Anglican.

No doubt many of the educated people here will know of whom I speak, but I will supply the name on request. Kudos, though, to anyone who comes up with it first.

I know, too, that a long serving clergyman at the ancient church at Gumfreston, which no longer has a clergyman all of its own, was responsible for a lot of local 19th century archaeology. fortunately he did not ruin everything to the point where more modern techniques could be useful. I don't expect anyone non-local to know the name of Rev, Gilbert Smith though.


15 September 2013 at 18:42  
Blogger David Lindsay said...


We should encourage and promote Christianity in schools.

The idea of "Cultural Anglicanism" as "benignly tolerant" is a piece of public school nonsense, and wildly at variance with the plain facts of history. It is not unconnected to the idea that the Conservative Party is non-ideological and has no class motivation.

Another piece of public school nonsense, and wildly at variance with the plain facts of history, is the notion that any more than half of the population of England has ever belonged to the Church of England, or anything approaching even that figure at any real distance from London and the Home Counties.

15 September 2013 at 19:10  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

Peter Hitchens has been doing some work on making the case for the Book of Common Prayer based on its theology rather than on its poetry, but I can only wish him good luck.

Where the BCP is concerned, its lobby is in no small measure made up of those who are particularly attached to the later musical settings of it. Those have not recently become confined to cathedrals and to the chapels of Oxbridge colleges. Rather, they have always been so. (There are particularly naive cradle Catholics who imagine that that is the sort of thing that will be going on in the Ordinariate. It is not.)

Even beyond that, the argument is about the language. But the whole point of it at the time was that it was in ordinary speech, specifically designed to be universally understood down to every last word. Peter seems to grasp that point. But, to the best of my knowledge, no other partisan of the BCP does. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Made all the odder by the fact that many of us, even in childhood, never did have much difficulty understanding the language of parochial Evensong, which is not remotely like the cathedral or the college chapel kind's omitted confession and absolution, no sermon, almost no concession to the presence of the congregation in the room, and deliberately unpastoral timing in the mid-afternoon, although it is telling that a collection is still taken.

Nor understanding the BCP Communion Services of early Sunday mornings or of mid-weeks. That it was practically Slavonic, which we should sit back and enjoy for the rhythm if we did not understand the words, was always as lost on us as it was, and was intended to be, on the original hearers.

Bringing us to the King James Bible, rarely read even at parochial Evensongs: the Psalms in the BCP are not the King James, but an earlier translation; whereas the readings for Communion Services, which are King James, are printed in full in the BCP, those for Matins and Evensong are not, only the Bible references are given. But, again, the King James Bible was specifically designed to be universally understood at the time, and in fact has a history of fostering popular religion.

John Wesley changed parts of the BCP to suit his theology, but did not alter the language; his Prayer Book was still in widespread use among Methodists until fairly recently, and may still be in parts of the world, while the Authorised Version was universal, as it was in Nonconformity generally, and as it still is in much of the American Bible Belt and elsewhere.

Yet in the country of its origin, the argument advanced for it, even for its use in church, is that it is the text preferred by atheist aesthetes such as Richard Dawkins and Douglas Murray, or the late Christopher Hitchens. What does it say about it, that that is the case? Is its literary impact even that great, certainly compared to Shakespeare, and no one suggests that he should be read in church? Yes, many modern translations are heavily politicised both theologically and in a wider sense, as are certain lectionary arrangements of their material.

So was, and is, the King James. So will any translation always be. All translation is exegetical, whether of the Bible or of anything else. Again I appeal for someone, somewhere to reissue the Missal's RSV Edition, using by far the most edifying translation of the Bible into modern English. "The Bible as literature" is always, ultimately, a refusal to engage with the Bible as the Bible, at least if one allows oneself to stop there.

15 September 2013 at 19:11  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

There are theological arguments to be made for the King James Bible, based on its design specifically for liturgical use and in order to aid theological scholarship within the ecclesial community as such, based on the authority that Authorised it, and based on fidelity to the Textus Receptus, a position which, whatever else may be said of it, also has adherents in several other language-groups, including a particularly strong following among the Finns.

The first of those points is a very good one indeed, to which the answer is the affirmed superiority of other meetings of that same need. The second and third are also theological points, the answers to which are likewise theological.

And that, alas, is why those points are not made by "Cultural Anglicans". They do these things much better in America, in Northern Ireland, and on the ultraconservative fringes of English, Scottish and Welsh Calvinism. I may not agree with them. But at least I can respect them.

15 September 2013 at 19:11  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David B @ 18:42

Would that be the Revd Sabine Baring-Gould? Not sure about the archeology bit, but the rest seems to fit.

There's that poem about him asking one of his daughters who her father was.

15 September 2013 at 20:45  
Blogger David Hussell said...

David Lindsay,

"We should encourage and promote Christianity in schools".

I agree, absolutely.

But it's not going to happen is it, saturated as we have become by the creed of relativism, which as we all know says all belief systems are of equal value.

Is it incredible that in a nation with a head of state , who is by law also the head of the established Church, yet alongside that constitutional fact, the official government position has in a relatively short period of time, incrementally changed to one that puts all beliefs on the same level, affording Christianity absolutely no legal privilege. This is reflected in, or perhaps led by, the law courts.
In fact some feel as if Christianity is less equal than "ethnic" beliefs.

I am not a lawyer but it seems that the Human Rights, Equalities concepts flowing from the EU, reflecting a French secular system of government, has played a major role in this transformation. As I see it, probably in a legally unsophisticated way, the EU dominated, formerly independent nation states, have cast around for a way to treat their large and rapidly growing non-Christian minorities as equal in law to the indigenous Christian or Christian heritage peoples. The result of this multi-cultural relativism, expressed in law, has been the removal of the privilege formerly granted to the faith that nurtured our culture. But undermining the faith will undermine the society. So we have pressed a sort of self- destruct button. And a few of the brighter and more honest leaders of this process of destruction, as we have heard, are now beginning to realize what they have lost !

15 September 2013 at 20:48  
Blogger David B said...

Explorer, it was indeed.

I first came across his name in an old archaeological journal, because he did some digs in my county, and I am interested in both archaeology and early history.

Later, I found his name associated with folk songs, another interest.


15 September 2013 at 21:22  
Blogger David B said...

The educational system has no business promoting any religion or none.

Ethics and critical thinking would be a much better idea, but sadly it seems that politicians, industrialists and clergy are not fond of critical thinking.


15 September 2013 at 21:30  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

David B. I am interested in both archaeology and early history.

Well you shouldn’t be. You’re an atheist.

It’s here and now that counts for you, is it not ?

The wisdom of those that went before is we know nothing to you...

15 September 2013 at 21:46  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ David B
Atheism or lack of religious education in schools is not and never can be a neutral position. There are times when omission speaks extremely loudly, and this is such a case.

Much has been written on this false concept of neutrality in relation to schools. It has no legs.

15 September 2013 at 22:22  
Blogger David B said...

Inspector are there no limits to your stupidity and ignorance? What on earth could have possessed you to write such rubbish?

What could lead you to believe that an atheist cannot or should nor have an interest in history, or in how human awareness of people's, and the world's origins has changed and developed.

Lucy - I am not suggesting that religion should not be studied any more than I suggest that the myths of the Vikings, Pre Roman Britons, Romans, Greeks etc should not be studied.

But I do suggest that, as with science, looking at the evidence is crucial to education.

No religion should be taught as demonstrable truth, because it isn't. And faith should be looked at in the context of the faiths of many cultures.

Which might indeed throw all faiths into question.

Have you ever looked at Richard Dawkins' open letter to his daughter?

Easily Googled, and highly recommended.


15 September 2013 at 23:06  
Blogger LEN said...

If 'No religion should be taught as demonstrable truth 'as David B states then equally neither should 'evolution' which is not demonstrable either.

But that aside;'religion' whatever than label means can do many things but it cannot give Life only Jesus Christ can do that so 'religion' unless it points to Christ alone is merely a fabrication of man and as a body without life cannot continue to exist religion will/is suffering the same fate.

15 September 2013 at 23:36  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

You’re damn right there David B. The Inspector posted an outrageous assertion that atheists have no interest in archaeology or the ways of people before.

But consider this, is that assertion no more lame than your wish to deny schoolchildren a religious aspect to their education ? And that we have 33 million at the last census considering themselves Christian. Or perhaps as you secular types would like it recorded as – 33 million liars...

15 September 2013 at 23:41  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Cultural Anglicanism. Hmmm. A rationalistic, history and culture-anchored quiet renaissance, a "here I stand and won't be moved" declaration. It's the lack of a formal definition of what it is that perks one's attention, for it suggests an ineffable and yet fundamentally clear agreement among the people. It's when bean counters and human ciphers begin to press lists on us that one shoul begin to worry.

So, if a crafty sixteenth century martyr, a confirmed contemporary atheist, and a curmudgeonly Catholic Inspector General of this forum can raise a glass of Scotch to a revival of Cultural Anglicanism, well then, so can this Yid and so can everyone who knows a good thing when he sees it. Cheers and le hayim.

16 September 2013 at 00:38  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

David B sneered: "I know, too, that a long serving clergyman at the ancient church at Gumfreston, which no longer has a clergyman all of its own, was responsible for a lot of local 19th century archaeology. fortunately he did not ruin everything to the point where more modern techniques could be useful...."

And ongoing developments in forensic and recovery technologies in archaeology will mitigate such damage. David, do you seriously fault early clrgymen-archaeologists for their methods? For not channeling received divine wisdom and starting off with grid plans, strata analysis and perhaps dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating? In any case, even modern archaeology can fail by ignoring or destroying the evidence, such as the general environment of the broader landscape; read up on Francis Pryor and his challenges in uncovering Britain's Bronze Age culture at "Seahenge" at Norfolk. So too future archaeologists may regret some of the damage we cause now, but they wouldn't be where they are without the pioneers.

16 September 2013 at 01:07  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 September 2013 at 06:41  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 September 2013 at 06:58  
Blogger OldJim said...

David B

If I had to choose between a school that taught about all of the other world religions and Christianity together, or a school that taught all of the other world religions and never taught anything about Christianity at all, I would choose the latter.

The modern atheist and the 20th century Christian want the world religions taught together as though they were nothing more than mix-and-match anthropological stories for the same reason: because if the child thinks no more about it than what they are told in the lesson, they will not have to work hard to understand the implicit message: these are all instances of the same thing; dismiss one and you can dismiss them all, accept one and you must give grounds for dismissing the others.

That's why Christians used to teach all the other religions together, and that is why atheists want to teach Christianity alongside them now.

If I were to teach lessons giving the biographies of various "kooks" and "cranks" and their inventions and ideas and attempted inventions from world history, and were to throw in the biographies of a couple of scientists, and call that "teaching science" I daresay that you would object.

Because without my actually teaching and imparting the scientific method, what divides the "cranks" from the scientists is completely unclear; and my placing the "kooks" uncritically alongside the scientists discourages the pupils from discerning them to be special cases.

In fact, so unhappy would it make you that you would doubtless prefer it if I omitted the scientists from my lessons and merely continued to refrain from teaching the scientific method. You could teach the method in your own time, and at least in that scenario you wouldn't have to undo the damage that the unhelpful juxtaposition of scientist with crank in the classroom would do to the attitudes of your impressionable children.

Teaching children what something looks like from the outside is not the same as teaching them how something works from the inside. And teaching children how something looks similar to other things from the outside can actively damage their ability to appreciate what makes these cases special in how they work from the inside.

This holds true across both examples.

16 September 2013 at 07:08  
Blogger OldJim said...

To be clear:

In saying that the reason why Christians wanted all other religions taught together was that it made them easier to dismiss and to regard as "all the same thing", I am expressing a judgment on my view of the historicity of modern RE's origin, not a value judgment.

I would much prefer give my child the tools to understand all religious traditions "from the inside" and to give them the conceptual frameworks in which to evaluate them. Obviously, some of those conceptual frameworks would be explicitly Christian, but even those would not be imparted uncritically. I couldn't expect my children to be able to keep the faith unless I had helped give them the most conceptually tough and resilient form of it. I just do not believe that this is what modern RE does, nor that that is what it was designed to do. Additionally, I do not think schools would be willing to invest the time or the intellectual discipline to do such a thing.

Nor do I wish to denigrate other religious traditions by referring to "cranks": one of the men on that hypothetical syllabus, for example, could have come up with a great model for how society works. My point is that this would not be science as we understand it sensu stricto. And by putting the two together as examples of the same thing, you would not only fail to equip a child to see how the scientific method works; you would also do a grave injustice to a consideration of how the internal logic of the sociologists' model worked. Rather, you would erode interest in both by reducing the two men's ideas to their "psychology" or the superficial resemblance of certain "obsessions" of theirs.

In the same way, direct comparisons of religious traditions in Judaism and Islam do not seem to me to be used to cast light on the internal logic in either. Rather, they at worst serve as "look at the strange things people do when they believe in God" and at best as "look at what a vibrant bouncingly diverse place modern Britain is!"

By encouraging people to look at what is similar and what is distinctive in these traditions you discourage them from looking at why either system works as it does.

I think that that is probably the whole point of the thing.

16 September 2013 at 07:09  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

One of the strands of thought in tge Spectator discussion on 'saving cultural Anglicanism' seems to reveal a gradually growing grudging awareness that the dechristianisation of Britain may have significant unwanted side effects.

Sometimes in medicine a second drug is given to ameliorate the side effects of the first. But if the initial diagnosis and prescription was wrong this is beside the point at best.

The dechristianisers are gonna reap what they sowed. If the England that has been lost can be saved, which I doubt, it will take more than a veneer of ersatz cultural nostalgia religion to do it.

The words of Saint Peter (Acts chapter 2) still ring down the centuries...'know that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and yourselves from this wicked generation.'

16 September 2013 at 07:11  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

David B there is a substantial body of evidence supporting Christianity as true, not least fulfilled OT prophecy and the resurrection of Jesus

I became so irritated by the frequent bombastic assertions to the contrary that I have adressed some of the evidence on my scruffy little web site I criticise your hero Dawkins in the essay 'Occam's razor and the death and ressurection of Jesus.'

Its a hard thing to answer a simple lie with a complex truth, but one tries.

16 September 2013 at 07:31  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Appleseed @ 07:11

The C!9 thought you could ditch the metaphysics and retain the etthics.

The C2O discovered that when you ditch the metaphysics, you tend to lose the foundation for the ethics as well.

The C21 is slowly waking up to the consequences.

16 September 2013 at 07:51  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The Explorer,

Exceedingly well put ! Sums it up nicely.

All I can say is how slow so called intellectuals are at grasping, "the bleedin' obvious", as Alf Garnett put it so eloquently (for foreign friends, a crude Cockney 70s TV series. )

The whole thrust of the Christian message, is that without a true, voluntary faith in Christ, a genuine change of heart or the being "born again" idea, then there will be no improvement in a person's behaviour, and St Paul's " natural man" is what we are. Some "niceness" will live on as a cultural heritage, but as a decaying social asset, and it will not stand any strong tests. At present we are living off the spiritual capital of our forefathers, but as every economist knows, eventually the capital runs out.

16 September 2013 at 08:27  
Blogger David B said...

Hi Steve

I've had a quick look, and what you write doesn't start well.

I quote "The Christian faith stands or falls on this one asserted historical fact"

Well, to a degree I take your point, but 'one asserted historical claim' would be better'.

It is not a good idea to assume your conclusion, implicitly or, as here, explicitly, before making your case.

I'd be happy to explore this with you further - perhaps you would like to post the piece on my discussion board, and defend it.


16 September 2013 at 08:49  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David B @ 08:49

Surely an asserted fact IS a claim? Think how different Steve's sentence would be if he'd left out 'asserted'.

And he's absolutely right: Christianity stands or falls on the truth of the Resurrection as a physical event. That's why those who deny it tend to end up with no congregations.

16 September 2013 at 09:01  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Absolutely. Which is why any distinctly "liberal" form of a denomination will inevitably die. Continuing Christianity, albeit shrunk in numbers, will be of the more robust variants, strengthened in faith as they witness the fate of their weaker brethren. I think that the last Pope understood this point well. Many in the C of E hierarchy have yet to grasp that essential point, as they are to focussed on their country, England. Those who have a wider global vision tend to be more orthodox, in my opinion.

16 September 2013 at 10:16  
Blogger David Hussell said...

My "to focussed", above, should have said,

too focussed.

16 September 2013 at 10:17  
Blogger LEN said...

IF you' get rid' of Christianity(the Biblical sort)or attempt to turn Christianity into some sort of harmless Politically Correct' social club' then a spiritual vacuum is formed which spiritual forces will fill.The' spiritual force 'rushing in to fill this 'vacuum' is the very antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ of which the main factor is 'love' love for God and for ones neighbour. Islam has a raw power and intends to subjugate(by any means) all who oppose it.

16 September 2013 at 10:25  
Blogger LEN said...

IF the Gospel you are preaching is not offending someone then you are quite probably not preaching the Gospel at all?
The Gospel is an offence to many in fact if you preached the Gospel as Paul did today you would probably get arrested as Paul did (often) and far worse!.
The Gospel tells people that they are sinners with no hope at all of saving themselves.(This offends their pride)
The Gospel definition of sinners will get you accused of 'hate crimes' (causing fear and distress)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is divisive and will possibly get you arrested on' public order' offences.
This is the' negative' side of the Gospel equally important is the 'positive' side of the Gospel.Which is that God loves you , that Christ died that you should not have to die, and all you need to do is accept the atoning death of Christ in you place and to repent and to place your faith in Him.There is more but this is the basic 'first step'.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ can never be made to conform to 'Worldly' value and morals because it is entirely of another World.

16 September 2013 at 10:59  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David H @ 10:16

Interestingly, Alister McGrath said something very similar. Can't remember the title now, but the book had a chapter on the future of Christianity.

He suggested that Catholicism and Pentecostalism (Trintarian version) would both thrive. National-type churches would probably amalgamate, or become more global.

The loser wouold be theological Liberalism, which would be left talking to itself until even that dwindling audience dried up.

16 September 2013 at 11:52  
Blogger Naomi King said...

This is why "cultural anglicanism" is a lie, it is an attempt to utilise the power of the State Church to support the current secular doctrine of the State, rather than the doctrine of Holy Scripture which rebukes, corrects and instructs in righteousness. However most in this nation seem incapable or unwilling of repentance.

Dr Scott Lively, who was at a Bible Conference in Bournemouth for 10 days, gives this evaluation of where we are spiritually as a nation.

"I am a non-denominational American pastor of British heritage. This week I was speaking at a Bible conference here. On the Sabbath I visited a local town center and wandered through the streets talking with people about Jesus. It was an enlightening experience.

"The majority of the “Christian” people I spoke with were, Biblically speaking, virtually illiterate. One woman who called herself an Anglo-Catholic had never heard that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world -- the central tenet of the faith. She promptly rejected that idea, saying that “God would never condone human sacrifice.” Most of the people I encountered were self-professed atheists and simply rejected Christianity out-of-hand.

"My most significant conversation of the day was with a Moslem man walking home from the market with his family. “I have a stronger faith,” he said. “And I keep the Christian laws better than most of the Christians.” His tone was slightly scornful, but I admitted to him that he was right. In fact, thinking back on the day, I don’t recall seeing a single non-Moslem family walking together: Dad, Mum and children.

"I know that there are still genuine Christians in Britain, but there seems to be only a remnant still struggling against the rising tide of secularism. And they seem to be found mostly outside the walls of the Anglican Church (though I know several faithful Anglicans still laboring mightily to defend the Bible there).

"From what I have observed in the recent history of Britain, the greatest impediment to Christianity is her own state church, whose recent response to sensing disaffection in the younger generation is the astonishing plan to promote homosexuality to them instead of teaching them Christian virtue and the blessings of authentic marriage."

Food for thought perhaps.

16 September 2013 at 20:33  
Blogger Naomi King said...

Britain was one of the first countries of the world to be Christianized, and it’s role in bringing the light of Christ to the rest of the world is virtually unmatched. But today, Britain’s lamp stand is removed. She has lost her first love and refuses to repent. Her state church has turned to apostasy and her people have fallen prey to false religions and atheism, like sheep without a shepherd.

In His letter to the Church at Ephesus, written by the hand of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, Jesus lamented that the Ephesians had “lost their first love.” He exhorted them to “repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place.” In other words, He would revoke their right to be called Christians.

16 September 2013 at 20:40  
Blogger Naomi King said...

You can't be a "cultural anglican' and a Christian the two are not synonymous !

16 September 2013 at 20:42  
Blogger LEN said...

Amen to that Naomi!.

16 September 2013 at 23:06  
Blogger B flat said...

This is the least literate of all the articles I have read in His Grace's blog, and I take it to be a forgery.
Religion is a part of the culture, of the nation or it is alien to it. While people take their religion seriously, and I do, then the culture itself has to be strong enough to maintain peaceful co-existence when several competing religions exist in a nation.
Multiculturalism was foisted upon British society by barbarian politicians who wanted a revolutionary breakdown of social order without actually leading the inevitable fight from the front.
The poison fruits of what they sowed are still ripening. Which is why the government and media in Britain are able to talk of overthrowing the peaceful government of a well ordered country which Syria was until three years ago, as if this were a moral imperative for Great Britain.
We are governed by madmen and urged on by journalists utterly devoid of conscience or moral sense, preparing the ground for the same "spring", the same "civil war" as they call what is happening in the arab world, to happen here.

16 September 2013 at 23:20  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

What a lot of you zealous types here don't appreciate is that to draw people...I mean normal people, not just the loners, loons, the intense and the a religious life in a secular age, you do need to provide a broad enough cultural and social environment, sound communities and status. This is what "cultural" Anglicanism can do and sermonizing and threats can't.

17 September 2013 at 00:09  
Blogger Peter D said...

Maybe if all you want is a culture built on the Noahide laws.

The 18th-century Rabbi Jacob Emden suggested that Jesus and Paul intended to convert the Gentiles to the Noahide laws while expecting the Jews to follow full Mosaic Law. Christianity doesn't quite work like that.

Mind you, Pope Francis may be in agreement with you given his latest pronouncements on atheists following their consciences and absolute morality being a "relationship", whatever that means. Maybe he has an effective strategy in mind but personally I think more moves to a watered down secularism spells trouble.

17 September 2013 at 01:12  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter, you're way, way off. This isn't about reducing Christians to generic Noahides, nor about adopting a liberal, relativistic religious approach. I'm an orthodox religious conservative after all, and couldn't advocate such to anyone of any religion.

This isn't an Anglican or Christian problem alone either, you know, as secularization affects us all. And I make the same argument with my more intense co-religionists who also take an all-or-nothing approach and cut ties with the majority, their "culturally Jewish" brothers. The bottom line is that if people can't be culturally Anglican, Catholic, Jewish or Hindu because it's not good enough for the purists and enthusiasts, they will simply drift away to more hospitable environments in the increasingly eclectic secular culture and you will lose them. Religiously and culturally. Forever.

17 September 2013 at 03:44  
Blogger OldJim said...

I agree with Avi; a culture in which many people are not Orthodox, fervent Christians as we should like them to be but in which they nonetheless routinely assume Christian frames of reference and smile benignly at the actions of the Church is vastly superior to what we are discovering now.

Besides, it would be better to have a slightly unorthodox but tolerant milieu than a shrill uniformity of some kind.

It would just be better to have a kindly but universal orthodoxy than to have either.

The point is that we should not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good.

17 September 2013 at 09:44  
Blogger Peter D said...

Old Jim
"The point is that we should not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good."

Tricky one this but we shouldn't water down the essentials of our faith in order to make it more appealing. I fear some of Pope Francis' messages are doing just this. This merely confuses those who are committed and weakens the Church as it increasingly adapts to world.

17 September 2013 at 11:12  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter, methinks Old Jim puts it much better than I did. Neither one of us, I'm sure, proposes watering down of anything and the faithful you worry about should not be confused if they are truly faithful. "The perfect should not become the enemy of the good" needs to be engraved on stones, brass plaques and sown onto quilts. It is demonstrably possible to remain committed, to maintain standards for one's self and one's community, while accepting the less faithful and observant on their own terms and challenging them, by reasonable word and example, to take on greater duties. I see it all the time, sometimes every week, and the results are a stronger community and more opportunities for the unaffiliated to rejoin.

17 September 2013 at 12:28  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Begging His Grace's indulgence for the OT question. Just this morning, after posting I went to our second floor balcony to sneak a smoke and found, huddled on the floor, a young Blue Jay. It chirped a bit, tried waddle off but didn't try to fly. The animal rescue society here didn't pick up the phone and usually they take a few hours and at busy times a day or two to get back. I have it in a shoe box, cuddled in a tea towel and in the bathroom to keep it away from kitty. Do any of you folks know what else I should do to give it a chance of making it?

It just occurred to me now that this is actually on topic. There was no option of doing anything else, of "letting nature take its course," even if it made my youngest late for school and messed up my schedule. This thing is a pain in the butt, to be honest, but it is is a prime example of the influence of "cultural Anglicanism" on the broader society. While many religions may promote kindness to creatures and individuals all over the world perform what are seen as kind and extraordinary acts, it was in Britain where dedicated animal protection and rescue societies first formed, found funds and supporters, developed methods and spread the culture of helping little critters as a social contract, a duty, a matter of a citizen's responsibility, rather than a unique act of charity. What begs the question is why these societies, originally run by religious people, did not develop and grow institutionally within the Church.

17 September 2013 at 14:43  
Blogger Hannah And Rachel Kavanagh said...

Hi Avi,

I hope the jaybird is OK...Are you asking 'why did these things off start as Christian and why aren't they now being run by churches/religion?'. That's a good question. Haven't got an answer.

17 September 2013 at 15:05  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Hi Miss Hannah, "Blue-Blue" as our young daughter already named it, was opening its mouth and chirping when I checked on it last. I went online...the wildlife people haven't called yet...and got what I hope is good advice. So, I just gave it some drops of water from my finger tip and a few little morsels of canned cat food which it took. I'm sure kitty won't mind.

As for our question, I suspect it's the theologians and idealists among us who, with their eye on the sky as it were, and with their tendency to leave many difficult problems not clearly covered in scripture to the "will of God," discouraged or closed any opportunities for such things as animal rescue efforts to develop as organized, practical solutions within our religious institutions. No, a church or a synagogue should not be a full time bird sanctuary or even a soup kitchen or a hostel for that matter, but incorporating activities, on some formal level, which are important to people may be a smarter strategy than letting them wander off.

17 September 2013 at 15:25  
Blogger Hannah And Rachel Kavanagh said...

HI Avi ,

Hopefully Blue -blue will get better! And good point about the practical/spiritual aspects of religion and how those interact.

17 September 2013 at 16:52  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

An update on Blue-Blue, Miss Hannah: A happy ending. After warming up in the bathroom and gorging on cat I presented with pair of chopsticks (I can pick up a single grain of rice with those), it started flying around and even landed on my hand a few times, but I was unable to grab it safely. Eventually I gave up, turned all the lights off, drew the curtains and opened the balcony door. This it understood right away and so it flew right out into the light, first landing on the railing and then on a nearby branch from where it regarded me not with suitable gratitude for the delicious meal and the generous hospitality, not to mention my valuable time, but with the superior air of someone who cleverly escaped from a horrible monster who was about to eat it.

17 September 2013 at 17:35  
Blogger Hannah And Rachel Kavanagh said...

Hi Avi,

Good for you and the bird.

17 September 2013 at 17:41  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Much better for the bird, Miss Hannah; it got free bed and breakfast, while I lost three hours from my workday. O, and I'll have to deal with a very disappointed little girl after I pick her up from school, one who had already named it and probably made it her new sibling. Kids and critters can give one grey hair, Miss Hannah; think long and hard before acquiring such.

17 September 2013 at 17:49  
Blogger OldJim said...

Peter D

I wasn't actually thinking so much of Pope Francis' portrayal in the media; I'll tell you what I did have in mind in a second, and I think that Avi and I are on a fairly close wavelength.

But it's interesting that you should mention Pope Francis, because I was thinking about that earlier.

Call me naive, but I really don't think that much of this stuff is image management on his part. If it was, he wouldn't harp on so much about Satan, for one.

Rather, I think that the media has a tendency anyway to simplify its portrayal of someone or something so that it forms a convenient narrative; in the case of Catholicism, which in any case most quadrants of the media do not understand, this tendency becomes particularly exaggerated. The less you understand something, the more alien will be the categories you impose upon it when you talk about it. especially if you're obliged by your profession to regularly talk about things you don't understand ad nauseam.

Alright, you say, so the problem is that straight-shooting Benedict was portrayed by the media the way he was; "atheists-go-to-heaven" and "I-can't-judge-gay-people" Francis is more susceptible to being taken out of context and made to look like a more liberal version of the Dalai Lama.

But hold on... that's not right. Benedict was never portrayed as he was. He was portrayed as saying "atheists go straight to hell and gay people are subhuman", and really we both know it. We've just got so used to this misrepresentation that we're more desensitised to with it.

Somehow, it's got to the point where we are so comfortable and reassured with Catholicism being portrayed as positively possessed by hate that we don't think about the effect that that'll have on non-Catholics; we relish being stigmatised and misrepresented by a media we regard as being incorrigibly evil and mortally opposed to us, and comfort ourselves that at least no-one will forget that Catholic moral teaching is not indifferent to liberal society.

Whereas when a Pope gets portrayed the opposite way, refreshingly as being animated chiefly by love, which has always been true, but also despicably as being far too congenial to the modern world, we reflexively tense up: what if people think that Catholicism doesn't fundamentally disagree with the sinful secular world?

17 September 2013 at 17:56  
Blogger OldJim said...

Don't get me wrong, I don't like this; I would much prefer that people knew exactly what Catholicism was and taught. All I'm saying is that when you think about it, I don't actually know that I think that this is a worse situation than the one we had before.

I think we're so used to the way Benedict was portrayed that we imagine that in reality atheists know exactly what Catholicism teaches; they're just misrepresenting it out of spite.

But that's not true, a lot of people were probably seriously misled.

That people are now being misled into thinking that Catholicism is just the cassock-and-robe division of the "Just Be Yourself and Promote Social Justice" school isn't necessarily any better, but I don't see that it's worse.

The question is the fallout. If people were so turned off by "Catholicism is evil" that they never enquired, then perhaps they'll enquire now.

But if people are now led to indifference by "Catholicism thinks you're fine as you are", then we won't do any better.

The other thing is our lives as Catholics. I know that my life will get more uncomfortable. Under Benedict's pontificate, explaining Catholic teaching was always "No! Catholicism doesn't actually teach that gay people are subhuman", which is always an easy thing to be able to say and to explain, and will get you an attentive hearing. Under Francis, it's more likely to be "No! Catholicism doesn't teach that gay sex is fine!", and coming off as more-Doctrinaire-than-the-Pope. I admit that that is going to be harder.

So I don't think that Francis is "watering down teaching"; I just think that the media are fundamentally incapable of explaining Catholicism. Partly this is because they very rarely understand it.

17 September 2013 at 17:57  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

17 September 2013 at 18:31  
Blogger OldJim said...

Peter D and Avi

Three days ago, the Guardian published this article:

I am not ashamed to say that as soon as I read about it, I instinctively hated the idea.

I had to think for some time about why. I am not a fan, for example, of evangelical mega-churches, "Christian Rock", or Pentecostal festivals peddling "religious experiences". My chief problem with such attempts to make Christianity attractive or relevant is that I think too often they actually actively hinder the development of a spirituality: you're so caught up with thinking that your cool new friends or your passionate religious experience are "Christianity" that you fail to develop a meaningful relationship with God, or a mature intellectual framework in which to think of Him; eventually, when the heat wears off, you drift away. Or, you don't, but you stay to keep your friends.

So I was surprised to have myself thinking "they can't take Church! That's our thing!" precisely as if this not-actually-Christianity-just-an-attractive-feature thing were some sort of "hook" with which I could catch the indifferent or agnostic in order to entice them to engage. Am I not myself trying to make Christianity "relevant"?

That's what got me thinking about "Cultural Anglicanism". Because I think a big problem I have with the evangelical modern stuff above is that I think that it is fundamentally irreverent. It's not just that I think that it's not what Christianity is basically about; it's that I think that it's actively unhelpful, completely unconducive.

Whereas say what you will about Anglicanism, it is a genius at creating points of relevance that aren't fundamentally irreverent. Tea after Church? Anglican. Church fete? Anglican. Bring and Buy sales? Anglican. Soup Kitchen? Creche? Jubilee celebrations? Oxford and Cambridge?

Avi's right to point up animal protection societies, too. In fact, Christianity is littered with such things, from churches-as-sanctuary to the missionaries of charity, from monastic poor relief to CAFOD.

And let's not forget the art and the music and the literature and the architecture, Catholic and Anglican.

These things served several functions:

a)They were high expressions of the virtues of the faithful

b)They were points of friendly contact with the unbeliever or agnostic

c)they rallied assent around Christian principles even among those who didn't self-identify as Christians. In this way, they changed public discourse. Even in a society where the majority were not Christian, Christian principles could expect to reign unchallenged, because enough people thought about one strand or another of Christian teaching as "common sense". And of course, were an atheist or agnostic to find themselves suddenly close to death.. they were familiar enough with Christian teaching to know what to try to do.

The capture of so much of this by the left and by atheism, the retreat of Christianity into the Churches, the suspicion the Christians increasingly can have of engagement with anything but orthodox belief... this is part of the problem that we must solve.

I don't think that it involves compromise. I think that it involves deep and heartfelt expression of our faith, but willingness to accept partners whatever they believe. We set the rules, but we let anybody play.

It's not the only loss that has led to where we are today, and it might not prove sufficient to get us back to where we were. But it's an admirable use of our time on its own merits, and it's something that we can do to make things better.

17 September 2013 at 18:39  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Interesting, this perception issue, isn't it, Old Jim? Several decades ago many in the Gay community would point to what for then seemed like a fair and respectable approach Orthodox Judaism holds regarding homosexuality, namely as a sinful behavior rather than an identity, but one of many sinful behaviours, and one which can't be accepted as right or normative, but which should not lead to hatred, nor demonizing an excluding people from the community. This was seen as an enlightened approach in an era of anti-Gay laws, of brutal arrests, harassment and openly and acceptably expressed hatred. Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I strove to explain to a frequent commenter here why authentic Judaism cannot accept SSM and homosexuality as a religiously and ethically valid lifestyle, much less one which should be "celebrated" as a positive. My religion was quickly and rudely dismissed as a fossilized incarnation of hate and bigotry.

17 September 2013 at 18:50  
Blogger OldJim said...

Lest I be misunderstood, when I speak of "Church" above as "not-actually-Christianity-just-an-attractive-feature", I am not making a classic "Len" point about the sufficiency of individualistic faith.

Of course, I think that several things about Church are integral and normative to Christianity: the Confection of Sacraments by a priest, liturgical worship by a community, the keeping of the Lord's day come immediately to mind.

Obviously, neither of these things occur at an "atheist sunday assembly" - it is the remainder of things which both services share to which I am referring; for example, the opportunity to be surrounded by a community of like-minded people, or just having something to do of a Sunday morning.

And where I earlier mentioned that increasingly charitable organisations, educational bodies, art, literature, music had been captured by atheism and the left, I should perhaps have added the State. I am more left-wing than most, so I don't enjoy saying it, but the state has done an awful lot to de-sacralise and bureaucratize an awful lot of those things.

17 September 2013 at 18:54  
Blogger OldJim said...


Of course, you're right. The public mood has changed so fast on this issue that now opposing legislation for "equal marriage", a concept that didn't even exist in the anglosphere not four years ago, lest we forget, is now in the eyes of many a despicable hatecrime.

And so you're right, there are many who would hate the teachings of my Church for what they are.

But you know, I'd still prefer that to their hating them for what they aren't, which I still get far too often.

This perception thing is very tricky, and it's never clear whether people are genuinely misunderstanding, or brutalising a position all the easier to refute it.

Not a couple of threads ago I read an apparently earnest screed that conservative Christians' objections to female priests necessitated their believing that women were not made in the image of God.

This from a clearly devout believing Christian, who I had no reason to believe was being disingenuous. When you see things like that happening, you begin to realise how possible it is that atheists often really cannot see any more distinction between objecting to homosexual sex and objecting to homosexuals, unless you are very patient and very thorough in explaining. And you are not often given that chance.

17 September 2013 at 19:09  
Blogger LEN said...

The problem with 'the Church' is that it has become so bogged down with its dogmas and theologies that it has lost sight of what its role is.

The Church has become to some (evidenced on this blog) as an 'Institution' to which they join and owe their allegiance to and they will be loyal to regardless of whether their 'church is based on Biblical Truth or not.
Rather like supporting their local football team and sometimes with much the same spirit.
The Church age must be drawing to a close soon and where will those who use the Church to' prop up' their faith be?.

17 September 2013 at 21:59  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

This perception thing is very tricky, and it's never clear whether people are genuinely misunderstanding, or brutalising a position all the easier to refute it.

What a perceptive observation you've made there, Old Jim. Something to keep in mind and even ask about directly in the course of disputes.

17 September 2013 at 23:14  
Blogger The Justice of the Peace said...

The transcript of HH Judge Peter Murphy`s remarks re his decision on the wearing of veil is found below:-

18 September 2013 at 10:53  
Blogger LEN said...

Perhaps the answer to some of the above questions might be that people just don`t care about the truth anymore?.
As Pilate said to Jesus "what is Truth"interesting that Jesus didn`t answer. If Truth is standing before you and you cannot recognize Him what more can you say? .The Word of God is Truth but people will not accept that either whether IN religion or out of it.

18 September 2013 at 17:28  
Blogger LEN said...

The Anglican Church has become so contaminated by the State that it need to repent and to return to its roots (before it is too late)

Cranmer and all the martyrs who suffered cruel deaths at the hands of Roman Inquisitors have been betrayed by those Church leaders who bowed to the dictates of various Governments to bring into the church 'practices 'which God says will being judgment upon those who either actively practice or condone.

18 September 2013 at 17:51  
Blogger Peter D said...

Old Jim
Interesting observations and much to consider.

A growing problem is that mauy Catholics no longer understand their faith. Priests rarely teach the fundamentals and many 'quietly' oppose the Vatican and the Catechism. In the attempt to find a place in the 'public square' don't we risk confusing believing Christians as well as appearing lukewarm to agnostics and atheists?

I've read and reread the text of Pope Francis' recent letter to atheist Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari. It is, at best, confusing and, at worse, heretical. This kind of ambiguity helps nobody.

18 September 2013 at 19:04  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Peter D
Although I realise that he is not speaking "ex cathedra" I thought you Roman Catholics could not say that the theology of your Pope could be heretical?

What would the Spanish Inquisition say? Perhaps I should ask John Cleese!

19 September 2013 at 12:50  
Blogger Peter D said...

Of course Popes can speak heretically - and some have!

19 September 2013 at 18:54  
Blogger OldJim said...

Peter D

This more or less breaks down my impression of the coverage of Pope Francis:

I admit that I preferred Benedict's approach, but I think accusations of heresy are a bit strong for my taste. The letter you cited above is amenable to an orthodox reading.

20 September 2013 at 10:58  
Blogger Peter D said...

Old Jim
"The letter you cited above is amenable to an orthodox reading."

That's the problem - it's amenable to any sort of reading! There are one or two sections that border on, if not cross, the line. His latest article too is riddled with ambiguity - but I'm sure is also amenable to an orthodox reading as well as an unorthodox one:

Finally today we have from the Pope a condemnation of abortion!

"Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world ... And each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the "culture of waste" proposes! They cannot be discarded!"

This is what we need from a Catholic Pope. Clear and orthodox statements.

20 September 2013 at 14:38  
Blogger LEN said...

Well the Pope has got one thing right since' 1054'(Yes... I got this right... this was when the 'Roman' Catholic Church was formed or should that be mis -informed!).I wonder how long it will take the Pope to get the rest of his theology to line up with scripture?

23 September 2013 at 00:54  

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