Sunday, April 08, 2007


This from an excellent article in the Observer by Richard Harries on the dilemmas faced by Rowan Williams - and, inter alia, on the difficult business of being a Christian in a culture (and that includes a church culture, sadly) marked by virulence and easy self-regard.

"[H]is style is hardly made for our simplistic, untruthful, soundbite culture. A good example is contained in his book, Christ on Trial. Rowan reflects on the silence of Christ, as recorded by Mark's Gospel. Jesus simply refused to answer the questions put to him about who he was and Rowan writes: 'What is said will take on the colour of the world's insanity; it will be another bid for the world's power, another identification with the unaccountable tyrannies that decide how things shall be. Jesus described in the words of this world, would be a competitor for space in it, part of its untruth.' Rowan will know, better than most of us, that anything he says will be part of the world's untruth and the more he conforms to the expectations of a headline culture, the more untruth there will be in it.

"One of the threads running through his writing is the idea that true religion always leads one to question oneself, rather than make claims over others. Jesus is not a possession or a badge of superiority, but the one before whom you stand, in gentle self-questioning."

Incidentally, the headline writer has, I fear, missed the point of this piece. It isn't a plea for the church to "ease the pain of Rowan's Passion" (except in the rather prosaic, though not unimportant, sense of "stopping being so nasty") -- rather, it's a plea to understand the issues he is wrestling with, and the way he is trying to wrestle with them, as part of a passion which isn't finally about "them and us", but concerns a new creation wrought from pain, difficulty and failure. In other words it is a call to stop casting stones and start listening to the Gospel. Something all-too-easily bypassed by institutional 'christianism' - a term I think we should use for the painful distortions of Christianity wrought in its name.

I can't recommend Christ on Trial highly enough, by the way. A superb book which, as the blurb says, "draws not only from the Bible, but also from contemporary fiction, film and theatre... [to] explore the ways society continues to put Christ on trial today. In fact, all Christians stand with him before a watching world. How we respond to this challenge is the focus of Christ on Trial. It increases our confidence in the faith we have received, and invites us to discover 'what we are and what we might be in God's sight'."

See also: Why Rowan Williams helps stem the drift to idiocracy.

No comments: