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