Jesus and politics

Politicians, we assume, are in it for power, as are journalists and those in the entertainment industry who hit lucky and become celebrities. All become, in some measure at least, recipients of our own fantasy projections, which is what makes it OK for us to make blanket assumptions about them and about their motives.

So it is not surprising that when they fall they fall hard and, to a certain extent, we fall with them. When people in power betray the trust of those who put them there, the fall is all the harder for everyone. Fallen celebrities, as well as fallen leaders, remind us of their humanity and hence of our own. Their limitations and frailty, when so harshly revealed, also serve as a reality check of sorts for the rest of us. They reveal the way we consciously or unconsciously collude with the fame fantasy, relishing the circumstances which have brought about the downfall of the famous.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Church leaders have been making waves criticising the Government’s latest moves to drive the poor into ever-greater poverty. Last week Archbishop Vincent Nichols, about to be made a cardinal, said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph:

Two things. One is that the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart. It no longer exists. And that is a real real dramatic crisis. And the second is that in this context the administration of social assistance I am told has become more and more punitive, so if applicants don’t get it right, then they have to wait, and they have to wait for ten days or two weeks with nothing… For a country of our affluence that quite frankly is a disgrace.

Protestants, not to be outdone, followed his lead.

Bible by candlelight

This is about the Church of England’s position on gay marriage and the authority of the Bible

General Synod, meeting last week, at last produced an overwhelming majority in favour of speeding up the introduction of women bishops, thus at last accepting that persistently opposing modern society isn’t a good idea.

In the case of gay marriage, we are moving more slowly.

Ageing congregation

A few days ago I put up a post responding to the statistics in the Church Times about patterns of churchgoing. I was quite struck by the comments, which not only offered fresh insights but confirmed the statistics: religious people think for themselves regardless of what church leaders teach.

The thinking is going in a particular direction. Last year we celebrated 50 years of John Robinson’s Honest to God. Those who in 1963 welcomed his approach were rebelling against the official doctrines of the churches; now, even regular churchgoers, far from rebelling against them, just ignore them. The question is: what are we going to replace them with?

It’s a good sign. The Church Times is publishing a four-part series of articles on the state of the Church of England. The news is mostly discouraging, but never mind.

The series began last week with an article by Linda Woodhead describing her research into people’s attitudes to churches. Apparently only 9% of religious believers accept the authority of their leaders, and they are mainly Baptists and Muslims. Old people turn up their noses at churches because they are boring and stuffy, young people because they discriminate against women and gay people.