Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Judgement and shaking things up

Of course the language in my previous post won't help my non-Christian friends, since the questions were aimed at my christian ones. It is the church that needs to ask itself these questions. There are different questions we need to ask our non-Christian friends.

I'm intrigued by the suggestion that Richard Dawkins is achingly successful at getting his message across. yes, he's in the spotlight of the chattering classes - interviewed yet again in the Guardian just this week - but half the population haven't even heard of him, fewer than a train-full of people have actually read anything he's written and the number of atheists in our society is not rising, according to most polls on belief.

On Sunday, I shall be talking to my congregation about judgement, the day when God puts all things right, steps in to bring justice to the world and salvation to those who've trusted him and looked and worked for his coming. Perhaps the nation can't think as far as their pensions, but some do look further and wonder.

At the end of the day I do what I do in the light of what I think God is calling me to do. The world is in desperate need in all sorts of ways and each of us is called to meet that need. So let's agree that each of us should do something to make a difference. After all, analysing the problem is easy and shouting that someone else should do something about it is even easier.

So, my anonymous dialogue partner, what are you doing about it? How are you shaking things up?


Anonymous said...

I'm not shaking things up. It's not my job. I haven't chosen to be a leader within the church. I wouldn't describe myself as a Christian, so I don't have that as a reason. I wouldn't be so arrogant as to list the things I'm doing to try to make a difference.

As I say, I'm not in a position to lead or influence lots of people. I'm not one of those who can stand in a pulpit on a Sunday. I haven't set myself as an authority figure with God on my side. Like countless others I "do my bit" because I care and because I should.

What I choose not to do is wrap it up in jargon, fluff and religiosity. I do what I can in my community to make a difference. I give what I can, to who I can. But I don't dress it up as anything else.

I'm sorry if what I wrote riled you. I came across your blog by accident and was intrigued by some of your responses to my thoughts about contemporary Christianity.

You said in your post that: "...analysing the problem is easy and shouting that someone else should do something about it is even easier."

It saddens me that you can be so unconcerned about analysis. You seem willing to listen to questions, but your response is an instant reaction and seems to me to be full of the simple statements that Christians make without thought.

Underlining all my posts has been an honest questioning of what the church is for, why it exists and why people like me have left it behind. I am pleased that you have been willing to engage.

What makes me sad is that just as we're getting to the heart of the matter you choose to dismiss my comments as shouting from the sidelines.

PS: Just to correct you about Richard Dawkins though. He has sold over 1.5 million copies of The God Delusion, it was ranked No 2 on the Amazon bestseller list and has been translated into 31 languages. Your dismissal of him is disigenuous.

Anonymous said...


A fascinating and helpful dialogue. Thank you to both of you.

Just a comment on some of the limits of blogworld. One is that it very quickly flares up into disagreement because the stray comment that looked a good idea before you hit the send key turns into something etched in virtual stone that you may prefer to have put differently a few hours later.

The other is that it doesn't lend itself to demonstrating evidence of action over words.

Yes many churches have been too wordy (a weakness skewered neatly by Bertrand Russell "poor talkative little Christianity"). And some of us have to confess to a certain self-obsession, which can make itself evident in the way we worship (which is where this conversation started). But when we try to turn that tide and act on the radical, inclusive activism of Jesus, the results are often small and unspectacular and don't lend themselves to being talked about (unless you give in to the temptation of talking them up). In fact Jesus told us not to stand around "on street corners" prominently telling people just how good we are. Not a massively promising advertising strategy? You can't help feeling he needed a better PR advisor (another line I'll probably regret in a few hours). But then PR never was the main point, was it?

I long to be part of a church that quietly and lovingly lives up to its message, while still being able to explain and explore that message with others. Since I'm also a minister, I guess it is my job to shake things up so that eventually that happens. And I hope where we are we're beginning to make some small early moves in that direction.

So thanks for the encouragement along the way. Carry on doing your bit, both of you. More strength to your elbows!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for joining the fray. You're quite right that comments can be misinterpreted or taken too seriously. I certainly wouldn't want to offend and hurt with strident remarks. It's just years of frustration from seeing self-absorbed Christians.

I thought your comment: "I long to be part of a church that quietly and lovingly lives up to its message, while still being able to explain and explore that message with others." was aposite.

I guess the point I was trying to make is that so much of the contemporary church (worship style included) is deemed irrelevant by so many people. The Christian world comes across as a closed one and one that only allows internal discussions about issues which seem arcane or behind the times. With a background in several churches, I understand the discussions and arguments about women, gay clergy etc etc. However, if I was to explain them to my colleagues and friends, they would respond simply: "who cares?".

Sadly, despite its radical origins Christianity (in general) has lost its cutting edge. Yes, there are some extraordinary people doing extraordinary things in tough parts of the UK and abroad. But I still worry that it's only pockets.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury actually said something that people in the outside world stood up and take notice of?

I became disillusioned with church when its members turned inward. There was more concern over how it felt about itself, rather than what difference it could make. I suppose I have a fondness for those giants of social justice like William Booth etc, who put their faith into action. Their legacies are ones that I would suggest demonstrate Christianity.

My challenges to Simon - and to you by implication - are really to try and understand how folks in the church (in its widest sense) can reconnect with both the UK population and with its original message. Ministers, Vicars, Pastors and Priests all have a duty of care over their flocks.

I wonder how much they (to coin a ghastly Christian expression) "have a heart" for us outsiders?

Your thoughts, like Simon's, are welcome. Who knows - the shaking up might start with this blog?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon (I hope that's not too familiar!)

I don't want to take over Simon's blog, so won't say much more. But I think you've described pretty much the task I've been trying to get to grips with since coming into ministry 2 years ago. Challenge accepted.

I suspect people like Simon are about very much the same task too. But this is his blog not mine, so I won't intrude on his hospitality further by presuming to speak on his behalf.

I'm not there yet by a long chalk, but there by the grace of God we will do our best to go.

Thanks again for the encouragement.