Friday, April 27, 2007


Why we need to rid ourselves of 'the god of the slots' The church looking for ‘God slots’ in relation to culture is like religion seeking a ‘God of the gaps’ in relation to science: a huge mistake. The Gospel points us elsewhere.

In a post-Christendom era, Christians cannot expect the education system, government or the media to do their job for them or make other people Christians. If they do that they will be constantly disillusioned, they will be despised, and they will lose the capacity for independent thought and subversive action.

There are two sides to this: exercising freedom, and recognising limits. Rowan Williams put it well in his BBC Newsnight interview on Tuesday 24 April 2007. First, in response to the question about whether Bush and Blair had prayed over the Iraq war, he turned the issue on its head. Politicians are not there to pray. But if, by chance, these powerful individuals had prayed, maybe they would have opened themselves to a decision that went against their instincts and interests – maybe the Prince of Peace, whom they both name, would have convinced them not to put their trust in armies. Who knows?

Then Dr Williams said this: “I don't expect government to be talking religion. I do expect government to be giving space and opportunity for the kind of moral discussion informed by religion, as by many other strands of humanistic thought.”

That is both pluralistically defensible and theologically appropriate. Taking “religion” to mean, in this case, the life and testimony of a group of people (rather than the institutional abstraction I have criticized), the Archbishop seemed to be suggesting that both those of faith and those whose commitment to human flourishing is otherwise defined should be part of a conversation sustained by public space, but without expecting government to talk their language or do their work. (He then spoiled it all by defending bishops in the House of Lords, but no-one is perfect).

All of which makes me wonder… if Christians were to stop bleating on about protecting their preferential “slots”, and were instead to focus on what they had to offer in terms of peacemaking, hospitality, community-building, forgiveness, and many other gifts of the Gospel, people might just be interested in broadcasting them – not because of a “religious label”, but because they had something worthwhile (and a bit quirky) to say. More here.

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