Monday, November 06, 2006

Bishop Nazir-Ali

Far be it for me, unschooled and ignorant person that I am, to criticise or disagree with a Bishop of the Church of England of which I am a communicant.

Oh, alright then.

Bishop Michael, your words are a) very unhelpful and b) wrong. I wish to leave aside the nonsense as reported by the dizzy I've-got-two-blogs-for-no-apparent-reason Ruth Gledhill and focus more on the words of the Bishop of Rochester Dr Michael Nazir-Ali on today's BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Dr Ali made the startling comment that the root of today's problems was a refusal to aknowledge the Christian roots of British institutions, laws and customs in order to tackle the political, social and economic ideologies that are being presented as being Islamic. The British ethic, originating from Christian values are the best basis for an open society, he said, rather than a least common denominator mish-mash approach.

Dr Ali, this is total nonsense on many different levels. First, there is very little in public life that is even vaguely Christian. Imagine for a second - as Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat point out in their excellent book Colossians Remixed - a Body Politic characterised by humility. Imagine public services governed by the needs of the poorest and smallest in society. Imagine an economic system focussed on service not just profits. Imagine a situation where the powers of this world were not Levis, Primark, Tescos, Manchester United or the War on Terror - each demanding total capitulation of adherants - but Jesus Christ, the Lord of All.

Second, the Church of which you are a leader is a part, though not all, of the problem. In our headlong rush into debates about minutea of theology, we have forgotten service. Although the faith we process is about action - to such an extent that we are told that proof of our faith is to be seen in what we do - we are a people characterised by a lack of action. Schools, libraries, universities, hospitals. These are all examples of church action in the past. Our radical movements have been subserved into the state and institutionalised. All we are left with is to criticise how poorly these services are run by the state and to give religious backing to any kind nonsense that emerges from the mouths of our politicians.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, what is actually wrong with a 'lowest common denominator' approach. What about if the lowest common denominator turned out to be a concept of peace together with protection for the needs of minorities and the rights of others/other religious groups to do things we might not like? What if other religious groups have woken up to the notion that the church isn't doing very much so maybe they should? What if we all embraced the Sikh notion of service and fed anyone who came for food on a daily basis? Ultimately, if we are not going to look for a form of civil life where we attempt to listen and understand each other are we actually interested in building community or destroying it for the sake of some sanitised version of history that neither resembles the words of Christ nor seeks to learn the lessons of our past mistakes.

I'm not interested in your version of Christianity, Sir.

1 Comments:

Blogger ruthgledhill said...

Joe, there is one good reason I have two blogs, it is because the Times blog doesn't come up on searches of Technorati, Google or even The Times' own website, so when I have time I copy the columns onto blogger to increase my 'hit' rate.

6:52 AM  

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