OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.

Wound up by Springer?

I only discovered the raging controversy surrounding the screening of the “Jerry Springer – the Opera” show on BBC television, around about the actual time of its screening, last night.

Initially, for some reason, I was surprised to discover that the BBC had chosen to ignore the complaints of thousands of its licence-fee payers (ceefax quotes more than 45,000, the largest number in its 78-year history.)

Having discovered that it was essentially religious voices who were protesting aginst the broadcast, I was also initially heartened to hear about the fairly militant demonstration of disgust which had been duly levied. But all of that was before I began to think clearly about the relevant trends and issues (and before I head that one Christian organisation’s publication, via the Internet, of names, telephone numbers and addresses of BBC employees, involved in the broadcast, had led to intimidating threats against those employees.)

For those who hold to the Christian faith the immediate temptation, when faced with something like ‘Springer’ is to feel angered by the use of foul language and blasphemy as a technique to shock and entertain. However, I don’t believe this is the main issue we should be considering in this context.

Shows like ‘Springer’ - and we could include alongside it the recent theatrical show that offended normally serene Sikh sensibilities by representing rape within a Sikh temple - actually provide significant indicators of societies mores and tolerances. The sudden explosion of these particular shows into the limelight of the national news merely offers an exposure of what is already an established reality: the media spotlight simply acts like an x-ray or a cancer trace, to expose the rot which is already in place. Removing ‘Springer’ from the broadcast schedule would have been a powerful demonstration that forces were in place that offered the hope that the cancer could yet be rooted out, that this particular brand of poison infecting British and American society may yet be overcome. Concomitantly, the refusal to do so confirmed that the darkly creative forces which lie behind the entire endeavour - beginning with the original Jerry Springer show, through to the theatrical representation, to the BBC broadcast itself - remain firmly in the ascendancy.

This article will obviously not appeal to those who remain uncertain of whether Springer represents rottenness and baseness – such as the BBC head-honcho, who, while unashamedly proclaiming himself a practising Christian, defended the broadcast, on the basis that it was not blasphemous (were he and other Christian leaders watching different shows or just using different yardsticks somehow?) No; it’s not intended to appeal to those who sit on the fence, in denial of the obvious. My intention is to appeal to those who care about what this tells us about our society and what our response to it might be.

First of all, as a Christian community, we must recognise this, along with other similar indicators, is a sign that we are at a crossroads. It’s quite valid to see this in terms of the cultural post-modernism shift taking place, but I mean us to focus presently on the precise effect upon the Christian community. We are in the process of passing from a time in history when our story and our God was respected and consequently, we were too.

For Islam coming into British society the opposite is true. It’s new and historically not greatly respected by the British as a culture (for arguably, genuinely good reasons). However, British real-politik presently demands that we demonstrate penitence towards our colonial and imperial past by a display of tolerance and fair play towards Islam that actually goes so far that it has actually created a new form of protected elitism, alongside the pro-homosexual lobby and, of course, those who push the boundaries of decency in the name of art or entertainment.

Thus, Islam and other religions, such as resurgent paganism and humanism are on the up, while Christianity is on the downward slope. This is irrespective of numbers of adherents: I refer to the relative standing within society. What lies behind this, superficially, is an insistence on a level playing field. Where once, the Judeo-Christian voice could be raised as a moderating influence upon society, with a full expectation of being respected, if not always listened to, now society responds to the least assertiveness of Christian morality by, minimally, suggesting it must simply take it’s place alongside every other voice - including the conviction implied by the apathy of the (amoral) majority, that “nothing untoward can be afoot or everyone would be up in arms: so be quiet” - to an open reviling of Christianity for every past sin and failure that it can possibly be associated with (and preferably a few it wouldn’t normally be, for good measure, such as the new favourite of “hate speech.”)

Why is this happening now?

Well, after a long and only occasionally distinguished history of enjoying it’s dominant position upon the moral high ground, the Christian church in Britain has, allegorically speaking, been forced to exchange the high ground for the marginal elevation of the “soap box.” Having gracefully accepted that fate, it now finds itself in the process of being wrestled to the ground and towards the gutter by those it formerly, quite happily lauded (sic) itself over.

It occupied it’s former position of influence by dint of history, by becoming so much a part of the woof and warp of British society that it’s place was not only protected by the State, but it was also constantly allowed to presume upon it’s occupation of the centre-stage on moral and ethical issues - just as long as it kept away from politics! As so often happens when we enjoy the patronage of powerful stakeholders, complacency quells our instincts for justice, creativity and the survival of the good of our traditions. These are replaced instead with the instinct to please our patrons, with selfish ambition and eventually with the compromising of the purity of our religious service and faith.

Those who, in this wake of this demise, experienced or viewed consequential suffering of one kind or another, whether directly at the hands of the religious system or because of it’s dereliction of duty, are first of all quietened, then either forced to comply or pushed to the margins. Evolved religion of this kind can no longer afford to rely upon the faith of the faithful to influence society: it now relies upon its place of dominance to ensure compliance.

Now, with that place of dominance undermined and overturned, not by formal dis-establishment but by the invasion of a plurality of other philosophies into the once sacred space occupied by Christianity, in short, it’s payback time and unless we understand that, we will simply find ourselves shaking our heads in angst and disappointment and frustration at the success of those responsible for something like ‘Springer.’

In fact, the people responsible for this ugly manifestation are not innocents who have lost their way; not ordinary “folk” who simply wandered from the central path to now find themselves indulging in excesses that are way over their heads to understand the consequences thereof. No. These are architects who have long been conspiring together, working on ways to contribute to their version of a brave new world, either by detailed design or by deliberate compliance with the new agenda. A world in which the God and Father of Jesus Christ, is forced to sit it out on the sidelines.

Their aim is a glitzy modern-day tower of Babel, a testimony to Hollywood-style power of celebrity-inspired prosperity, sold to the masses by slick, ‘Madison Avenue’ advertising, embraced by corporate empires which feed off of it’s successes and its human sacrifices: a temple to Mammon which shakes its fist at the heavens in flagrant rebellion. The people responsible for these acts are riding the crest of a cultural wave, every bit as deadly, in an eternal sense, as the tsunami. They will push back the boundaries, little by little, wherever suitable opportunity can be found. The forces at work in this process will not be satisfied until all evidences of Christian morality are expunged from British society (and, for that matter, European and American - but that’s another story…)

As a Christian community we need to awaken from our slumber and recognise the writing upon the wall. The Establishment of the Christian religion is an anachronism. Our society is now quite clear: Christianity can compete alongside every other activity in the market place of life, but no more will it enjoy any privilege. And in fact, it will have to undergo a rigorous testing to make sure it has lost any pretensions it may have to be society’s leader or moral arbitrator.

There may yet come a time when our society will once again desire to value, protect and nurture the Christian community and all it represents, so that it may flower and grow fragrantly amongst it. But that time is not now. In this present season of history, we are being tested to discover whether we will simply fade away, rise up with political militancy, or, whether we will find a way to properly take up our cross and demonstrate to a world that lost confidence in our message long ago, that Christ is so real to us, we are willing to suffer as he did. When reviled, to revile not in return. To serve and not be served.

Many suggest that the Christian church really began to demise, just a few hundred years after it’s first-century AD birth in the power of Pentecost, when it joined itself to the establishment powers of the state in the time of Constantine. A careful reading of the history of men like Gregory the Great will reveal the issue less starkly than sometime presented, however, if we allow the general presumption to stand, then what we are experiencing today is surely nothing less than history finally catching up with us. Having enjoyed the protection of the State, with all the compromise necessarily involved, for long centuries, the Church must now look at how it will stand alone in the days ahead, as it’s former patron increasingly denies it.

The hope, of course, is that, faced with such a challenge, the Church can again look forward to a period in which the vindication of God becomes their true expectancy. The reality is, however, that - and this is a vital distinction to be aware of - we do not face the might of an imperial, brutal Rome, crushing everything in its way. We face, instead, the indifference of former all-be-it fair-weather allies: government, media and society-at-large, now distancing themselves from us. It is not so much vindication from the Lord that we must look for, as the emergence of a fresh and vital understanding of our role as servants of God and as “salt and light,” in a culture which increasingly values experimentation and titilation in all of the areas which our own strict morality labels ‘out-of-bounds’ for those who would seek to please God and act in harmony with the purposes and intentions of his creation.

This will not be an overnight struggle, but it is not one that we afford not to embrace. As we contemplate this, we will do well to remember that it is not a struggle to protect our Christian rights: in this, our protests should differ substantially from other groups asserting their “rights.” Self protection is not our aim. Our aim is to “salt” society, to protect it from itself, its own inherent sinfulness and deviancy and corruption, its bondage to spiritual death - if it will allow us to. The only way we can do this is by allowing the reality of Jesus Christ to be authentically manifest amongst and through us by his Holy Spirit.

This will not be done by imposing our ideals and rights upon society, indulging ourselves with reasons to buy into the same powerful strategies of intimidation and manipulation as the bondslaves of Mammon. If this important distinction is lost to us, then, more than ever, the issue of something like “Jerry Springer – the Opera,” ought to draw us back to a place of intimacy with God, out of which, in days to come, we can emerge again to demonstrate that, contrary to premature reports of our demise, the Christian community has not lost its saltiness.

john - www.eternalpurpose.org.uk

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Comments

Religious seniority?

You speak eloquently at length from a very clear and probably fixed position so I see no point arguing, except to clarify one small point.

Surely you refer to ‘resurgent paganism and humanism’ in a envious younger sibling kind of way.

I would argue the dominant human position historically (certainly globally) is humanist or pagan and still is. Christianity, and Islam combined can never claim the numbers humanist and pagans systems have consistanly held as a proportion of population.

The important point here is that they still do, certainly in this country, or at the very least, practising Christians are (like fox hunters) a minority no matter how good the Evangelical (or Countryside) Alliance is at making a lot of political noise.

Laws and state controlled moral standards should protect us from danger and the worst extremes but they shouldn’t attempt to protect all from everything. I would argue our society would be healthier if less polarised by religious interference in society and law making i.e. Head of State as defender of the faith; bishops in the House of Lords and right-wing Christians in 10 Downing Street.

I can’t turn off the injustices caused by this political polarisation but I can turn off my TV, especially when suitably warned by the efforts of the EA. I do not need the state or any part of its machinery to protect me from the effects of any TV transmission, my faith does that.

seniority or superiority?

Thank you, Albannach, for your comments.

Ironically, since you remarked upon my clarity, as well as eloguence (thank you, on both counts!), it seems that both the thrust of my article, as well as some of the detail, may not have communicated itself to you quite accurately. I hope the following reiterations might answer your concerns:

regarding my reference to “resurgent paganism,” I quote:

…resurgent paganism and humanism are on the up, while Christianity is on the downward slope. This is irrespective of numbers of adherents: I refer to the relative standing within society.

As an aside: I don’t, myself, see Christianity as a younger sibling of paganism. I actually see it as a younger sibling of Judaism, a religion which traces it’s roots to creation, via the Patriach Abraham. Because I follow the Jewish Messiah, Jesus (Yeshua), I consider that I, and other Christians, share, in some way, the Jewish history, the salvation history of God’s people.

Also, I’m not envious of paganism. I beleive the story I refer to above, regarding Jesus, Abraham and God’s eternal purpose throughout history, trumps paganism in every way.

regarding “political noise” etc

You refer to Bishops in the House of Lords and the Head of State as Defender of Faith. My article pointed out that (such aspects of) the Establishment of Christianity within Britain are indeed anachronistic - that is to say, “belonging to another time.” I personally believe that Christianity and the State are not, by definition, imcompatible; presently, though they do not reflect the democratic concerns of today’s British society and the attempts of Christians to hold onto the ground we once held securely, by now looking to the state, can be counter-productive to the Spirit of Christianity.

As for “right-wing Christians in 10 Downing Street,” I am unsure: is it “right-wing” you object to? Or Christians per se, in Number 10? Or just when the two combine? Sadly, any of these possibilities sounds to me like a prejudicial position which is simply incompatible with British democracy and something you might want to seperate in your thinking from the Bishops and the Head of State.

with respect to your final summation

The thrust of my article was essentially to point out that, whatever involvement Christians have in society, unless our words and actions authentically reflect the Spirit of Jesus Christ (i.e., as the apostle Paul, for example, spoke about in Phillipians 2.1-11), then we are in danger of fighting fire with fire, falling into the same compromise, alliance and ultimately, conspiracy with Mammon, that we are (apparently) so ready to deal with in others. In other words, we must first remove the intrusions in our own eyes, as Christians, before we can remove the intrusions (we beleive we have identified) from the eye of society.

That is not to say, therefore, that Christians should not object to transmissions such as ‘Springer’ etc. We have the freedom and responsibility (let us not speak of “rights”), as every member of this democracy does to speak up and out, with our point of view. We must, however, move beyond the stage, as you imply, of expecting the State’s support in all such mattters of our objection. Instead, we need to win (again) respect for our voice and our viewpoint and our God.

That is the long and hard struggle which I refer to.

You weren't expecting the Spanish inquisition!

Thanks for the clarification but I was being unclear and imprecise.

The point I was trying to make or the questions I should have asked were these:

  • What gives any single religious, political or other lobbying group a right to a voice on the highest step on the moral high ground?
  • If it is only a belief, no matter how strongly felt, is that any more qualification than the others in society who don’t share those beliefs?
  • It is a Christian imperative to evangelize but should that be (or even be allowed) at state level when representing a minority?
  • This is why I used the Fox hunting debate analogy. Is protecting all minorty interests at the expense of majority interests remotely sustainable?
  • Are we a secular or religious society and does blurring that distinction really do God’s work, especially the work of the God of Abraham whichever group claims him?

Too many questions. I will stop now.

Yours Tomás de Torquemada

thanks, Tomás

Thanks for holding off on the thumb screws, Tomás…

What gives any single religious, political or other lobbying group a right to a voice on the highest step on the moral high ground?

Morality, is, and I think this possibly still holds true even with the postmodernist shift taking place, rooted in the idea of doing right.

What has shifted for the Christian community is that no one will any longer take seriously the idea that just because you are a Christian, or are religious, that you are therefore more right than your neighbour. I think you and I, Albannach, are saying the same thing at this point, are we not? Whosoever would like to take a moral stance in an argument, must prove their “rightness” by their actions and deeds (sounds a bit like a certain biblical writer…) It must be a position which can be understood and felt by people; this is a typicaly postmodern requirement, is it not?

It is a Christian imperative to evangelize but should that be (or even be allowed) at state level when representing a minority?

You don’t present any reasoning here and, to some extent in your next question, regarding minorities and the freedoms they should be afforded. I don’t mean to be personal, but (looking at your earlier post too) you seem to be confused about what democrasy is about (you are in good company though, because I think the Prime Minister is himself fairly confused about it, too), what values democrasy is supposed to uphold: the protection of weak, vunerable minorities being central. I cannot here explain the philisophical and political reasoning, but I believe that any democracy that sinks into “(political) might is right” - i.e., what the majority wants, the majority gets - is, to my mind, no longer the kind of democracy which is worth upholding as a central plank of free civilisation.

Are we a secular or religious society and does blurring that distinction really do God’s work?

Religious institutions are (for the time being) at the heart of British political institutions, as you said in your earlier posts. Were these anachronisms not already in place, there is little doubt that they would not be afforded that place today. But they don’t make us a religious society.

I think its an observable fact that, generally, Religion has not been particulary good at managing political power (think Spanish Inquisition, Taliban, Northern Ireland etc. etc.) Any avoidance of this reality is in danger of adopting an ostrich mentality.

However, religious conviction, leadership and service has contributed immmensely to many of the great things that have happened in the great civilisations of history. Any avoidance of this reality is equally an adoption of ostrich (“head in the sand”) mentality.

Consequently, I suggest in summary, that religious and, particularly in the West, Judeo-Christian conviction, leadership and service should be welcomed and encouraged by political institutions, BUT not confused with them. The present politics of the UK and I think the US, fails on both fronts, as does the political apparatus of the EU. I do not believe this is a good thing.

On time; on target!

I hope John’s comment will generate some real heat and “reality” based discussion. It seems to me his comment points the way to the central issue facing the Church. How can Light which has been hidden once again shine forth in darkness? How can the Church become salt again?

Rightly John notes the (preeminent, I say) issue before the Church is how can she allow “the reality of Jesus Christ to be authentically manifest amongst and through us by his Holy Spirit.”?

John’s clear vision is most evident where he states Jesus should not only be manifest through us, but amongst us also. John points us to Jesus who told us the world would know we were his disciples because we loved one another. This love can only be expressed fully to others outside the community of faith when it is expressed among and between the members of the community of the faith. I am often reminded that this love is an active verb like swim, run, walk, pray and eat.

His comments touched me because they addressed an area of frustration and concern which has troubled me for some time and brought some fresh insights into my thinking (and now, my praying). I have been reading Ephesians over and over again now for a few days and it seems to me the epistle is a good starting point for reading as commentary to John’s posting, and vice versa.

On a side note, in response to John defending his post and stating that he felt Christianity was the younger sibling of the ancient faith of the Patriarchs, after looking at Ephesians after a lengthy hiatus, I would say that Christianity is the faith of the Patriarchs grown to full, fine manhood.

I hope John will offer some additional thoughts along these lines for consideration and discussion. I, for one, look forward to them.

Your brother in Christ,
 Alario

timely comments

Thank you for your comments, Alario. I am pleased that they were so helpful to you.

I think you are absolutely right about the ancient faith of the Patriachs coming to fullness in the Messianic Faith. The only caveat would be if we are considering Christianity - the religion: then it is not so definitely contiguous. But that opens up a complex line of argument about Judaism, Messianic Judaism, Christianity and Faith which we would be off topic, so we’ll perhaps save that for another day!

Why don’t you elaborate on your musing from Ephesians and some of the interaction between that and what you were finding relevant in my article?

Shalom!
 John

On how not to respond to Jerry...

Very interesting comments. Of course its true that the show is pretty offensive, but you only make Christianity irrelevant if you refuse to engage it except as a specimen of cultural decline. The fact that people see something comic in God the Father being portrayed as self-obsessed and indifferent to suffering, and his Son as passive and infantile reflect genuine problems people have with understanding God. The church must find ways of responding to these problems, and they can only do it by understanding why people respond to shows like this.

Moreover,it has to be said that when Christians are more vocal in opposing to what in the end is simply a silly musical than to the prevenable suffering in the world, people end up with good reason to hold us in contempt. (Your comment about the tsunami is a good example of this very problem.) Let’s try to engage more constructively, rather simply reacting in frustration to an offense.

on how to engage

Khaareji, thanks for your thoughts.

I presume you meant by your initial comments that, by refusing to engage, in this case, “Springer - the Opera”, other than as a specimen of cultural decline, Christianity is irrelevant to… what? The show? The people who watch it? etc.?

I don’t really understand your reasoning in this. Why isn’t pointing people AWAY from Springer relevant? Your final comment on the need for “more constructive” ways of engagement, suggests a hint of agreement with the tenets of my original post, which was intended to challenge the Christian community to engage with society in ways that exhibited authentically Christian spirituality, avoiding the temptation to use the same methods as those who are, to my mind, clearly users and abusers of society, manipulating society for their own selfish ambitions.

I would be interested to know whether there would ever be any “specimens of cultural decline” that you think worth engaging with as such (i.e., resisting them, rather than trying to “understand them”? Your shift from suggesting that the show was “pretty offensive” to just “silly,” suggests you are unsure about something that was, to an abnormally large number of people, quite obviously obnoxious to the point they asked the BBC not to broadcast it. I mentioned in my article that my thoughts were unlikely to appeal to people who, to paraphrase, believe everything is grey and that attempts at seeing black and white are pointless. I wonder if that might be how you feel?

You speak about the need for the Church to “understand why people respond to shows like this.” I wonder what our motivation would be for that? To what evidence would you point to support the notion that such a pursuit would be a fruitful engagement for Christians and in what way would it be faithful to the calling of a Christian, unless they were, coincidentally, a sociologist, or social commentator?

Your penultimate suggestion that by Christians being vocal about “Springer” we invite justified contempt seems particularly prejudicial and wide of the mark. Christians are very active in many ways within society and especially active in service to vunerable members of society and this is true the world over, SE Asia being an obvious example, right now. Consequently, I do not see any reasonable justification for the Christian community being held in general contempt, except by people with an agenda that finds us to be an obstacle in their path and I would suggest we should not be too quick to justify our detractors.

john - www.eternalpurpose.org.uk

Thanks very much for your com

Thanks very much for your comments. I think we may agree more than I orginally thought. A couple points in response:

1) Though I don’t think that we should become mere “social commentators”, I do think that our responses to the culture should do much more to understand it. I think it is just too easy to make sweeping criticisms of the culture. By making the problems so general, they motivate people to withdraw from the conversation. Jerry Springer was a missed opportunity to deal with misunderstandings of Christianity, and to endorse part of the general thrust of the Opera, its criticism of therapeutic attitudes to life.

2)I do think this is a matter of criticism, not just understanding. If this puts me in the grey category, its not because I believe that nothing is black and white, its just that I think that some things can only be accurately described as black in some respects, white in others. And, even if something is only negative, there may be more and less positive ways of engaging it.

3) I didn’t mean to be prejudicial to Christians. I realize that Christians far more than many to deal with problems around the world. I also realize that we have an image problem, and some of it is of our own making. There is too much embattled reaction, and not enough effort to take the cultural initiative. This may be less true in Britain than in the US, where I am originally from, but I see worrying signs of it here as well.

intriguing

These are intriguing lines of thought. Can you give us any insight into the “missed opportunity” you speak of? What could have been done? Where was the opportunity missed?

I think the issue of Criticism is also intriguing. In many arenas of life, particularly those which pursue and demonstrate excellence, such a commerce, education etc. criticism is a widely regarded tool.

Yet in the sphere of the Church - and politics - insecurity seems to have bred a culture and a people who seem to believe that Criticism is almost always a bad thing, if not practically a sin. From where comes this idea?

I believe Christians are uniquely placed to critique societies loves and loathes, because we have the capacity to be “marching to the tune of a different drum.” If we are prepared to step into the vaccuum created by valid criticism and LEAD society towards something genuinely, tangibly BETTER, why should we waste our time trying to “understand” what we recognise as wasteful, perverse and trivial, because of our unique standpoint? The only requirement is that we do this with genuine LOVE, RESPECT and APPRECIATION for people, compassionately leading, not lording.

Respect…

Thanks again for a very inter

Thanks again for a very interesting discussion. I agree that the Church can refuse to be critical. I wonder if this isn’t particularly a problem for so-called “mainline” denominations worried that criticism will empty pews. I imagine, though, that the refusal just makes the Church even less relevant. But I see this changing for the better in a lot of areas (on this site, for instance). What’s your take on it?

I think you’ve got an excellent point about how well placed the church is to critique. I’d only add that understanding is part of a well-targeted critique. Anyway, you have to be able to discuss people’s lives with them to get them to rethink them.

About the Opera, I think part of the problem was that it presents God as putz only interested in getting respect. There is nothing worse than our reinforcing with charges of blasphemy the sense that God is out for honour and obsessed with sacrilege. After all, we are supposed to be affirming a God who died a shameful death for us.

I’m still debating how to witness in a way that’s relevant. I imagine you have better ideas on this than I. But three suggestions: (1) I imagine one good idea would be to take a leaf out of Jerry. Christians need to work on social and political satire. We seem to have lost our edge a bit. Maybe its time to give as good as we get. (2) We also need to take Christian symbols that have been domesticated (from the Nativity to the Cross) and find shocking ways of recasting them and get these out on the streets and in the papers. (3) Also, in our suprisingly hellenistic society, we can do what the early Christians did. In the midst of secular therapies on offer, make sure people in every town have the opportunity to meet and discuss what matters to them in light of Christian texts and theology. I have hope that, just as we beat the Epicureans before, we can beat the latest secular philosophies now. What would others do?

Shalom…

criticism or leadership

Thanks again for more thought provoking comments, Khaareji

I thought one or two of them to be particularly incisive and helpful:

we are supposed to be affirming a God who died a shameful death for us

and

find shocking ways of recasting… Christian symbols that have been domesticated

However, the idea of taking on the likes of Jerry et al by attempting social and political satire scares me a little. I did once hear about a US magazine called the Wittenburg Door that did this fairly well, by all accounts, but in all honesty its success was in taking the pomp out of Christians (valuable though that might be) rather than taking on “the world.” I think it requires a great deal of talent to do satire well and I also wonder how much authentically Christian material would be suitable for such a context. In other words, it doesn’t strike me as a obvious outlet for Christian expression, but, hey, if you or someone else have got some good ideas, then go for it. You never know where it might lead.

You are absolutely right that the authority to critique comes from having an appropriate understanding. I would only reiterate my view the most authorative leaders - think Churchill… think Mother Theresa… Bob Geldof… Margaret Thatcher… (irregardless of what you think of their views) - each led with an instinctive vision towards which they consistently pointed people; generally a unique mixture of immediate action and longer-term ideals.

I suppose my hope for the Christian community is that in the areas we are (individually or corporately) called to, we can similarly (learn to) lead people authoratively, with our instinctive vision, garnered not so much from understanding every whim and concern and protest of the masses - in other words, not with “I’ve got all day to listen to you” kind of sympathy - so much as with urgent compassion that says, “This is what’s important… come on, follow me,” because we really do know what we are leading people towards really is a better deal… and that they can trust us to lead them there.

On a related note: I wonder if the Asian tsunami disaster hasn’t highlighted the greater (more important) issues facing us as Christians in the West: namely, to become long-term contributors to the atonement (defn: compensation for a wrong; compensation: providing a counterbalancing act; making reparation) required to address the imbalance between rich and poor. I think such thoughts will need to be addressed in depth in another post, but in the context of this discussion, I raise it as a spectre that perhaps haunts us with the message: “I was hungry and thirsty and naked… but you were too busy looking at ways to engage your own wayward culture.” Hmmm.

What do you think?

Stressing the small stuff

One of the things about postmodernity that I find most disturbing is that it seems to embrace the "politics of despair". The Big Picture is just too big to do anything about. Whereas in the 60s we thought we could change the world, we now seem to think we’ve done well if we can do something to change our own back gardens. This is a response to compexity and our increasing awareness of it. One of the reuslts is that we concentrate all our efforts on ever smaller aspects of the picture, leaving the broader canvas untouched. So, for example, we send someone to jail for 14 years for throwing a cannabis party in their home - because we can - but let the major players in the drugs game go free because we can’t touch them - and we know it! "Zero tolerance" then becomes a slogan with a narrowly defined referent - "not in my back yard".

What has this to do with Jerry Springer? I was shocked at the professionalism with which Christians mobilised. I was shocked by their tactics. Shocked, rather than impressed. Oh, they were impressive in terms of effectiveness, but what shocked me is the selectivity of the cause. Why Jerry Springer? Because it is blaspheous and an affront to Christians? Because our sensibilities are ruffled and nerves scratched a little? But what about the government policies that condemen people to poverty, or deport people like Edneth Gotora and other Zimbabweans? What about the billions that is being spent daily to develop ever more sophisticated means of wiping out other human beings? What about the consumerist lifestyle of our nation which helps to ensure that 8 billion people go to bed hungry every night, and thousands starve to death over the course of every Communion service because they do not have even the amount of food we eat at the Eucharist! Oh - and then we have theological arguments about what to do with the leftovers!

My point is that these are ongoing, daily blasphemies in which we particpate with remarkable equanimity. A friend of mine was preaching about world hunger and said, "While we are worhipping God here, over 10 000 people will starve to death every minute. These are God’s children. I think that’s fucking awful!" And, in the shocked silence that followed, he said, "So which do you think offends God more? That I said ‘fuck’ in Church, or that God’s children are starving to death? And which offends you more?"

He’s right! I’m not saying that we ought to pay no attention to how God and Jesus are portrayed in the media. But it is the Big Picture that is at stake. Does God get as stressed out as we do about the Opera? Is God’s ego that fragile? I wonder: can God have a laugh at God’s own expense? I watched the Opera. I didn’t think too much of a lot of it as good theatre. Other aspects were stunning. It was clever, thought-provoking, offensive and hilarious. If we were not postmodern, we’d call it blasphemous because we wouldn’t have the sophistication to register the genre.

I didn’t watch it and think, "Gosh, God must be so offended! This is so blasphemous! We Christians ought to be doing anything and everything to ensure that it isn’t aired." I actually assumed that God, if watching, was laughing. An opera which at least got everyone talking about God and Jesus (when the Church fails so miserably to engage the interest of the wider public) and had some really good laughs to boot, plus managed to make some serious points about the shallowness of the TV show culture and got everyone steamed up and huffing and puffing with righteous indignation - all this must have come as some very welcome and light relief to God after having to watch what was going on in the wider world. In fact, the only thing that I assumed really got up the Almighty’s nose was the fact that all the moral indignation and energy was being deployed over this issue rather than about the things that really do deny our belief in the God we profess to meet in Christ.

But then, God’s probably thinking: "Still, at least there’s Edinburgh tomorrow …"

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