Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Statesman: 'Belief is Back'

'Belief is Back' declares the front of the latest New Statesman, which has:

- a lengthy interview with Tom Wright summarised as a declaration of war on 'militant atheists and liberals'. Thanks for letting us read it with an open mind. Wright also restates his much-cited take on the resurrection: "We are talking about a good physical world which is to be remade, not a bad physical world which is going to be trashed in favour of a purely spiritual sphere."

- an article by Stephen Bates on the rise of the Bogeyman, sorry, evangelical Christians - These range from the charismatics (the happy-clappies) to the open movement, placed pretty well in the centre of Church life, to the conservatives, whose more militant fringes are now consciously mirroring some of the highly politicised techniques of the religious right in the US (they get some funding from there, too). The conservatives' tactics are also quite similar to those of the old Militant Tendency in the 1980s Labour Party.

You think I'm joking? Here is one article in the magazine of the conservative Church Society about how to take over a parish: "The rural Church is likely to be dominated by the 'old guard' who are suspicious of innovation . . . do they actually understand about the issues or even care about them sufficiently to make in telligent dialogue worthwhile?" The answer, he says, is to recruit small groups of the like-minded to infiltrate congregations "to help others see the need to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus". The conservative evangelicals are the ones who do not hesitate to tell that nice, Guardian-reading, self-designated hairy lefty, Rowan Wil liams, Archbishop of Canterbury, that he's a false teacher and a heretic. They noisily assert that they wouldn't allow him in their churches to preach because he would only confuse their congregations with wrong doctrine.

I'm sure there's an informal rota amongst journalists, so that roughly every 6 months since 1975 someone publishes a 'conservative Christians are coming to get you' article. Some of the categorising is pretty sloppy - I speak as one of his 'happy clappy' types - but the conclusion is spot on: the ultimate irony is that the more urgently they profess the need to win the nation for Christ, the more they repel those they say they most wish to save.

Finally Mary Warnock argues that God shouldn't be a trump card in law-making, arguing that an MP's religion should have no influence over how they vote. This is nonsense. If you have a religion, it is bound to affect how you vote, otherwise you are a hypocrite. Everyone votes and thinks on the basis of a value system, so to rule out theistic value systems discriminates against Christians, Muslims and other believers. You can't pretend this is even-handed, even though Warnock makes it sound ever so reasonable. Her litmus test question "Will society benefit from it in the empirical world?" is hardly a neutral one - your notion of society and what benefits it depends on your value system.

Plenty to chew on for a spring Saturday. Plenty to spit out too!

1 comment:

  1. ' "We are talking about a good physical world which is to be remade, not a bad physical world which is going to be trashed in favour of a purely spiritual sphere."'

    Wright is especially good on explaining the metaphors in Hebrews 1 :-

    In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
    They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
    You will roll them up like a robe;
    like a garment they will be changed.

    The heavens and earth will be rolled up and discarded, in the way that clothes are changed.

    The old clothes that have perished are thrown away, and replaced with new clothes.

    The old clothes are rolled up and thrown away.

    As I said, Wright is very good on explaining this 'clothing' metaphor, which many people up to now have failed to understand.