A short video emphasising that during the coronavirus crisis when we are unable to meet together for worship that we don’t lose sight of the importance of the church.
A blithely unaware Church is under existential threat in the West. The problems occupying the Church today are superficial in comparison with the underlying threat.
Globalisation This is the worldwide process of growing collaboration and amalgamation among people, companies, and governments. Whilst primarily an economic process of interaction and integration, globalisation has profound social and cultural implications. Continue reading “TWO RADICALLY OPPOSED VIEWS OF SOCIETY”
The evidence cannot be denied. In its traditional power base of the West Christianity is in decline. Fewer people claim to be Christians, and even fewer are actually serious about practicing it. The Church of Scotland is fast disappearing, in the mere five years between 2008 and 2013 it shrank by 29 percent, and we can be sure the decline didn’t stop then. George Carey has warned that the Church of England is one generation away from extinction.
And I’m glad. It is only when we realise the true depth of the crisis that the ordinary Christian will demand change. We cannot look to the ecclesiastical managerial class inhabiting the corridors and committees of denominational headquarters. They see their task as preserving the institution. Continue reading “WHAT’S THE POINT?”
Shakespeare writes in Julius Caesar: ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune’. Progressives have taken advantage of the flowing tide. Wherever possible they relentlessly press ahead to dismantle the Western culture built on Christianity. At times they seem unstoppable. Like Tony Blair, they feel the hand of history on their shoulders.
Superficially they may have a point. Once an action has been advanced in the name of a sexual minority, and it is usually a sexual minority given the progressive’s obsession with sex, can it be undone? Continue reading “DAM THE FLOWING TIDE”
My last video provoked this response on Facebook. My reply is too long for Facebook so is posted here.
First the original criticism:
“‘For 2000 years the church has rejected those who want Christianity to the social establishment.’ That is an astonishing statement. I should be interested to see how it could be defended against the church’s historical record. He quotes Wilberforce as an example of the church standing against the social establishment, and at the same time points out that Wilberforce was standing against the ecclesiastical establishment too. You can’t have it both ways. I doubt anyone with a high regard for scripture would allow the simple equation of ‘the ecclesiastical establishment’ with ‘the church’ but there is surely a problem of circular argument here. Disagreeing with fellow believers’ interpretation of Scripture, even with the interpretations of believers and thinkers of the stature of Pannenberg, is not the same as rejecting the authority of scripture. Refusing to see the stark divide between the Christian and the Secular which contemporary conservatives constantly hark on about is not rejecting the authority of scripture. Many progressives take the stance they do because they believe that on particular issues their position is more biblical, not less biblical, than the traditional conservative view. Let’s at least try to be clear on the different polarities involved here: one of those polarities is between ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’. Neither side makes its case well by wholesale identification of the other with the worst of those who take or can be given the other’s label.”
My response is:
The good news is that I still have the ability to do something ‘astonishing’, Although what I said was that for 2000 years the church had rejected those who want Christianity to accommodate to the social establishment. It’s also good to know that I’m not the only one afflicted by the dreaded typo. Continue reading “EXTREMISTS AND OTHER FAUNA”
In the church in Scotland there is an objection sure to be repeated whenever change of any kind is mooted, ‘But we’ve always done it that way’. In this we are probably no different from churches elsewhere. The sad truth is that it was ever thus, in fact ‘We’ve always done it this way’.
The Venerable Myopia Motionless, minister of St Rheumatics on the Knee, laid down his quill. Pushing back the scroll he shook his hoary old head and sighed, ‘Ochone and ochone’. As he ponsdered the state of the church he was forced to recall a line from a beloved hymn in his treasured hymnal Hymns Ancient & Ever So Slightly Less Decrepit, ‘Change and decay in all around I see’.
He could see no end to it all. Young ministers refusing to have a proper tonsure at the front and going in for those new fangled tonsures at the back of the skull. Well, God would have the last laugh, He didn’t create male pattern baldness for nothing.
Myopia had even heard rumours of people wanting to translate the Bible into everyday English. Preposterous, how could the church survive if people actually understood what was going on? If this continued you would end up with people in the pews actually thinking that they could understand the mysteries of the faith themselves.
Why, if that happened and all the obscurity and mystery went the officiating ministers would lose all status and esteem. The common folk in the pews might even want to start thinking for themselves and not bowing the knee to the experts, ministers like himself.
Myopia knew in his bones that once ministers stopped dressing up in cod mediaeval costume they would lose all respect. Folk would think they were just ordinary people when the magic went. What these young whippersnappers forgot is that it’s the clothes that make the man, that’s what earns respect, not the person or the message. A favourite saying of his bishop’s was ‘A dog collar covers a multitude of sins’. Just think of what a cassock and robes could cover up. Well, it worked for him.
He smiled quietly to himself as he recalled the golden age when he was a lad. The old ways were the best. Didn’t these impudent children realise that trying to change things for the better was self-defeating, how can you improve something that is perfect?
I may well have been wrong. It is possible.
At one time I would have said that whilst the USA had its culture war here in the UK there was no such thing. Any such war was was over and we had lost it before we began fighting. All that remains were a few hold-outs waging guerilla campaigns against the establishment elite who control every aspect of UK society. I’m not so sure now.
From the ’60’s onward we experienced a takeover of society by the same standardised outlook. ‘Progressive’ values are daily pumped into our homes by the media, print and broadcast. These are also the views of the major political parties who hold to only slightly nuanced versions of the same cultural ideology. The mainstream Christian denominations, despite real theological differences, articulate and practice the same progressive responses to social and moral ills.
In last week’s by-elections in Clacton and in Heywood and Middleton the main parties met with a mighty shock. UKIP won Clacton from the Conservatives and in Heywood and Middleton Labour just scraped home with a majority of 617. Both seats had previously been considered safe. Whilst considering most of UKIP’s programme to be vacuous, weak in analysis and short of detail it is heartening to see the establishment shocked into reality.
The insiders set the pace, established the parameters of debate and created the atmosphere. In these two by-elections the people, for once, said ‘No’.
We have been enmeshed in a monolithic progressive establishment holding everything in its thrall. They seem to live on some distant planet where the everyday concerns of earthlings do not impinge on their gilded lives; or if the hoi polloi are ever heard they are dismissed out of hand. This was perhaps best expressed by ex-Conservative MP Matthew Paris. When commenting on the likelihood of UKIP winning the Clacton by-election he wrote, ‘I’m not arguing that we should be careless of the needs of struggling people and places such as Clacton. But I am arguing – if I am honest – that we should be careless of their opinions.’
The establishment elite hold the people in contempt. We have witnessed in our lifetimes large scale social, economic, aesthetic and moral disruption, and been blithely assured that this is an advance, an improvement, progress. To express dissent was, prior to last week, to find oneself marginalised. When ordinary working people voiced concern about the nature of immigration into the UK they were described as ‘bigots’ by Labour and ‘loonies and nut cases’ by the Conservatives. To the increasingly irrelevant Lib Dems anyone expressing the concerns of ordinary people was racist, homophobic and probably fascist.
The usual term of denigration for UKIP has been ‘populist’. Appealing to the people and expressing their concerns is the ultimate low in the minds of our elites.
Both main parties found out last week that they can no longer rely on the tribal vote. Those who have always voted Conservative or Labour cannot be counted on to vote blue or red no matter who stands, what they promise or who leads the parties. With good reason the people don’t trust the politicians.
It is almost amusing to witness both main parties making sudden reversals in policy direction in order to hold back UKIP. Today Boris Johnson, mayor of London, says, ‘The Conservative Party must tighten up border controls to win back voters from UKIP’. Yet in 2012 in the midst of describing British workers as ‘lazy’ Johnson had called for an amnesty on over-stayers. He also criticised his own Government’s immigration cap with a warning that key firms were becoming increasingly ‘hacked off’ with the restrictions on overseas workers and that any cap was ‘damaging to business’.
Labour for their part are appalled that the working class voters whose allegiance they rely upon are actually deeply concerned about a completely different range of issues from that which exercises the bourgeois elites running Labour. We even found Ed Miliband, the day after the by-elections, shamefacedly admitting, ‘It is not prejudiced to be concerned about immigration‘.
But its not just about immigration, its about society and its direction.
Were the by-elections victories in a UK culture war? It’s doubtful. Is UKIP going to be the standard bearer for a resurgence of social conservatism? I hope not.
What has happened is that those who have found themselves marginalised and dismissed by progressive society have been given encouragement to fight back against the machine. That includes Christians.
Presented with the picture of a declining Church in the midst of a confused culture we are too inclined to despair. We forget that initially the Church grew and flourished in the midst of an antagonistic pagan culture, not too dissimilar in its moral relativism from what we know today. The Church can grow again; and a vibrant, engaged Church is needed by unbelievers as well as believers.
Today’s political disenchantment, even insurrection, is no more than a sign of the disillusionment of many with our culture. The response to it cannot be confined solely to the political, it must go to the heart of the matter.
As people generally become aware of the failures of a secular progressive society we are presented with an opportunity. Our response must avoid either the woolly liberalism which has waffled the Church into dramatic decline, or the aggressive evangelical theocracy which demands submission across the board.
We can, with prayer, trust, hard thought and work, make real a church today which is modelled on the New Testament Church; engaged, creating caring communities, embodying the love of Christ, a Church determined and willing to turn the world the right way up again.
Last week archbishop now Cardinal Nichols, closely followed by 27 Anglian bishops, intervened in the debate over welfare reform. This was met with the usual boring cry of, ‘The church should stay out of politics,’ as though God’s sovereignty somehow ended at the doors of parliament.
What was more interesting were the predictable complaints from the political right that the church has gone left. What the latest intervention by the massed clerics is held to illustrate is the apparent tendency of church leaders to intervene on only one side of any economic debate and take a line which can be charitably described as soft left.
Are political and economic matters really either so clearly morally good or morally evil? Is there only one side a Christian can take?
Church leaders have few qualms about making sweeping pronouncements regarding economic matters. A few years ago we had senior English churchmen sounding like spokesmen for Occupy Wall Street. Dr Rowan Williams, then archbishop of Canterbury, wrote that ‘unimaginable wealth has been generated by equally unimaginable levels of fiction, paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit for traders’. Williams added that Karl Marx had been right in his assessment of the nature of capitalism, ‘if about little else’. His counterpart in York, Dr John Sentamu, said the market took its rules of trade ‘from Alice in Wonderland’ and branded speculators who had short-sold shares ‘bank robbers and asset strippers’.
Seemingly incredibly sophisticated financial products most assuredly bring problems, they also enable reasonably efficient flows of capital, from those who have surplus funds to those who require funds, e.g. for investment in a new or growing business. They may be more complicated but they operate on the same principle as the TV programme Dragon’s Den. The outcomes from such transactions are more than ‘profit for traders’, and bring real and tangible benefits to a significant number of people, including those who gain employment in such businesses.
The recent failings of the global financial system, and they are many, do not demonstrate that the system itself is a fantasy from down the rabbit hole. It is this same system which enabled a sustained global economic expansion throughout the 1990s and into the first years of the 21st century. We did not hear church leaders then lamenting that that expansion was built on sand.
One common justification for this soft left stance is that the Bible is clearly on the side of the poor and the New Testament in particular is proto-socialist if not communist. Blithely ignoring its historical context Acts 2:42f is regularly trotted out with a quasi-fundamentalist flourish as an illustration of the church at least starting out as a communistic community sharing everything. Church leaders are said to be merely enunciating a biblical vision of economic and political reality.
As usual there is another approach to the question. Our church leaders are not sitting up conducting their evening devotions over Marx’s Capital. There are two underlying reasons why church leaders consistently hold to a redistributive economic stance – compassion and ignorance.
Clergy are profoundly influenced by the fact that they spend a great deal of their lives thinking about or in close proximity to the sheer wretchedness of poverty. Clergy, even those in leading positions, tend to have far greater personal contact with poverty than politicians. When confronted by real poverty the compassionate response, the Christian response, is to give immediate help. Thus we have church food banks, urban aid programmes and help given on an individual scale, sometimes sacrificially.
The problem arises when this laudable compassion is combined with economic ignorance. The cry of compassion against poverty can be simplistically converted into a cry of rage against wealth.
There are Christians working as professional economists, such as members of the Association of Christian Economists, who approach economics from a distinctively Christian perspective. Unfortunately, with very few exceptions most clergy are woefully ignorant of the most basic economic principles.
Our seminaries offer and our denominations require courses in all manner of useful or useless ‘outside’ disciplines; sociology, psychology, gender studies even anthropology. How many denominations require Economics 101? The result is that when even intelligent church leaders make economic statements they are not made on economic grounds but on the basis of familiarity.
Church economics operate on the redistributive principle, money is gathered in and then shared out. At its simplest the plate is passed around on a Sunday and on Monday the bills are paid. If there is not enough money to pay the bills and do the work of the church the minister stands up and puts another layer of guilt on the congregation. Clergy have a static approach to money as though it were a pie that has to be distributed, if someone is to get a larger portion someone else has to get a smaller portion.
However, outside the Occupy movement, Greens, Lib Dems, SWP and other fringe groups, the real world operates on the production principle. The amelioration of poverty requires the creation of wealth. If money is to be redistributed to those in need first of all value has to be created. We cannot help the poor by taking in each other’s washing. Unlike the clergy the entrepreneur talks of making money not collecting it.
The French Thomist philosopher Etienne Gilson pointed out the inadequacy of good intentions, ‘Our first rule of action (is) that piety is never a substitute for technique; for technique is that without which the most fervent piety is powerless to make use of nature for God’s sake.’
Our clergy make pronouncements on economics with the best of intentions, and we all know what is paved with good intentions.
What most people don’t fully appreciate is that it is jolly hard work being offended. If you want to further your cause and are tempted to go down the route of offence be warned, it requires planning, patience and an underlying passion rarely seen today.
The simplest way is to be offended because of your chosen sexuality. If you wish to advance your cause, say the further acceptance of homosexuality, whilst acknowledging that you are pushing at an open door, you have to accept that there is still work to be done.
Fortunately there is a well worn path to follow. The example to emulate is that of the plucky B&B pioneers. Their route also has the added advantage of the increasing marginalisation of the Christian faith.
First of all comes the research. Christian magazines often carry adverts for B&B establishments. That does narrow the field significantly but it is just the start. The next step is an internet search for those establishments whose website clearly states that they don’t let rooms to unmarried couples.
The casual B&B user doesn’t appreciate just how difficult that is. The vast majority of B&B’s couldn’t care less who slept with whom in their rooms, as long as they didn’t go “Baa, baa” too loudly in the night. In some rural areas this is not an insurmountable obstacle.
It requires diligent research to find a B&B which would refuse occupancy to practicing homosexuals. You can’t expect to just stumble over them by accident, the chances of that happening are astronomical. You may have to book into hundreds of B&B’s before you manage to find one which will turn you down because of your homosexuality? It is not an easy path you have chosen, but if you persevere you will find the mother lode and finally be offended.
Once you have your target you have to choose the correct season. You don’t want to choose a time of year when they are likely to have vacant rooms. Being turned away on the specious excuse of being full up may have got Mary and Joseph the sympathy vote but they would never have won the court case. Remember, you are after something more important than a room for the weekend.
Having found your target establishment and checked the seasonal occupancy pattern you then have to drive past hundreds if not thousands of other establishments to your target B&B. Once arriving unannounced you then, at last, have the opportunity of being offended.
From then on it is plain sailing. You can immediately contact a well-heeled organisation which exists solely for the purpose of furthering your passion and they will take up your cause. The BBC will portray you as civil rights martyrs, the Guardian will express outrage at this latest manifestation of fascistic homophobia, there are legions of lawyers all too ready to defend your human rights and a myriad of politicians who will support your cause. The whole politically correct establishment will rally to your side.
There will be court cases and television interviews, media calls and messages of support from those who “feel your pain.” All very trying but you can be assured that when it reaches this point you have already won. It is hard work but no doubt the diligent offence seeker will feel that it is worth it in the end.
That is how it has worked in the recent past and there is no reason to suppose it will not work today. When it becomes the law, as it will, that homosexuals are allowed to be married in churches we can be sure that some vaguely religious establishments will allow it.
Even in those denominations which refuse to sanction homosexual marriage some individual ministers will throw over the traces. Given the inability of mainstream denominations to discipline their ministers for even the most appalling heresies they will be perfectly safe. There is little likelihood that the minister will become a martyr, but they will get what amounts to second prize for the progressive Christians, recognition as a civil rights pioneer.
Being allowed to be married in only some religious establishments will not satisfy the eager to be offended. It is a virtual certainty that some homosexual couple will search out a congregation where the minister refuses to carry out homosexual weddings.
They will ask, they will be refused, the whole circus will start all over again. It will go to court, if the court finds for the church there will be appeals, eventually the European Court for Human Rights will intervene and we have a pretty good idea of how they will decide. What will happen when the minister refuses to pay a fine?
David Cameron states categorically that in any forthcoming legislation there will be provisions for those churches who refuse to marry homosexuals. But then Cameron is the politician who gave the British people a “cast iron promise” on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and we know how reliable that promise was. A bit of window dressing in the form of a few insignificant changes to the Treaty, a new name for it and Cameron smiled it through.
David Cameron may come from a wealthy, privileged background, he may have gone to Eton, know the right people and be distantly related to the Queen, but he is not a gentleman. You can trust the word of a gentleman. Nadine Dories is right, Cameron is merely “an arrogant posh boy.”
Cameron claims to be “passionate” about homosexual marriage. He should realise that there are others who share his viewpoint, and they are willing to push the limits at every opportunity. That may mean the shattering of the church, but for them that is a small price to pay, you see they too are passionate about the acceptance of homosexuality.
If you encounter an ex-smoker he is sure to lecture you on the evils of smoking, how it stinks up your breath, soaks up your cash and eventually kills you. He speaks from experience, he has been there and knows first hand the results of the addiction.
My motivation is that I am an ex-progressive. I have read the books, I have been on the marches, I have proselytised. I have been there, and know the results. Exposure to the addiction of full blown progressivism either rots the brain or invokes revulsion.
So many fall into the trap. You are young and idealistic, fresh and full of hope. One day you are sitting in the college cafeteria and a sociology lecturer sidles up to you and mutters “Would you like to see this?” He pulls back his jacket to reveal a Guardian.
When you wake up several years later you find yourself wearing sandals, eating tofu, with a joint honours degree in Media Studies and Underwater Basket Weaving and a job as a Diversity Officer in your local council.
Just say “No!”
The progressive assault on society is everywhere, from the Church to the media to politics. Wherever it touches there is decay.
Your challenge for the week is to find a more deranged effort of publicity seeking theological decay in the Church than that portrayed by Dr Susannah Cornwall a researcher at Manchester University’s Lincoln Theological Institute. Dr Cornwall describes her occupation as “research and writing in feminist theology, sexuality, gender, embodiment, ethics and other fun things like that”.
Dr Cornwall has recently written a paper titled: Intersex and Ontology: A Response to the Church, Women Bishops and Provision. In all seriousness she writes: “It is not possible to assert with any degree of certainty that Jesus was male as we now define maleness. We cannot know for sure that Jesus was male, since we do not have a body to examine.” She continues to defend her argument on her blog where she writes that “Jesus’ maleness is simply a best guess.”
Dr Cornwall’s thesis is straightforward. There is a very small minority of people at either end of the gender bell curve whose sexuality is not unambiguous, these people she refers to as being “intersex.” Therefore it follows (in Dr Cornwall’s logic) that there is no real scriptural authority that bishops should be male. After all, Jesus could have been “intersex” Her evidence for this? Obvious, He didn’t marry or have children.
This is not theology, this is campaigning for a particular progressive viewpoint. In this case it is targeting the Church, but it is part of a relentless push throughout every facet of culture to reconfigure society in the image of a progressive utopia. Dr Cornwall admits as much when she writes: “In my first book, I argued that theological and social uncertainty about sex is really uncertainty about lots of other things: about power, authority, perfection.”
Dr Cornwall’s primarily interest is not theology, it is in challenging and changing the way people think and act, and gaining acceptance for an all encompassing understanding of society where anything and everything is accepted, and the more outlandish the more welcome.
Progressives dominate the media, especially the state funded broadcast media. The BBC pushes the environmentalist propaganda so relentlessly that it makes sensible people so fed up that they want to go out and drown polar bears.
It’s not just the BBC. A few days ago, to mark the end of Occupy London, on Channel 4 News Jon Snow hosted a discussion on Occupy between an occupier and the past president of the National Union of Students. This was the chap who ‘organised’ the student fees demonstrations last year which degenerated into riots and scenes of anarchy. The discussion was basically about finding the most effective way of overthrowing society. There was not even a hint that there might be any other viewpoint.
That’s the way totalitarian progressives work, completely blank out the possibility of a rational alternative. What has to be grasped is that we are not facing isolated incidents, but rather a cultural tide on all fronts.
In the UK, despite the plethora of smaller parties we basically retain a two party system, Conservatives and Labour. Plus, for charity’s sake, the Liberal Democrats, those people who write their manifesto in brightly coloured crayon.
All main parties are culturally progressive, think the traditional family has had its day and wish to promote ‘alternative’ lifestyles. Yes, the misnamed Conservatives just as much as Labour and the loony Lib Dems.
Today Keith O’Brien, Scotland’s leading Roman Catholic, rightly describes the government’s proposals to allow same-sex unions as “madness” and a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.” On the other hand Prime Minister David Cameron, who is a Conservative but not a conservative, is said by a government spokesman to be “passionate” about seeing legislation allowing same-sex unions enacted.
There will be a Budget in a few weeks. Is there anyone holding their breath waiting for family friendly tax policies? There is no mainstream political party promoting values which could be described as even vaguely biblically based.
If you find yourself already trapped in the mindbending morass of progressive totalitarianism don’t despair. There is a way out. It isn’t easy but it is possible. What you have to do is open your eyes and really look hard at the world around you. See what is going on and, most importantly, begin to think for yourself and question the mainstream. Be a rebel.
Sure, going cold turkey is frightening, and you may have a relapse and find yourself doing something crazy like nodding in agreement with George Monbiot, but don’t give up, the struggle is worth it. Progressivism may be all warm and fuzzy and accepting, but it can’t beat the cold clear light of reality.
Come on, reject progressivism and join the grown ups, “You know it makes sense.”