The Curmudgeon


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Taking Up the Cross

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has provided an eloquent demonstration of the reasons behind the Church of England's shrinking appeal. Most healthy religions, at least those with Judaeo-Christian symptoms, appeal to human arrogance: they succour their adherents with the assurance that the Universe shares their moral code and will reward the faithful for sticking to it while sticking it to those who don't. They provide answers - not necessarily easy answers, but answers all the same - for all those big questions to which mere science, stuck in its ivory tower of weapons development and baby murder, can reply only with a meek "Don't know". They provide a ready-made conspiracy theory - God is punishing me - to account for whatever vicissitudes bad luck or bad judgement may place in their acolytes' path. Above all they provide, for the comfort of the meek and humble, the illusion that the moral and spiritual itches of a minor evolutionary accident will resonate in Eternity as the cosmic birthpangs of the divine triumph.

The Archbishop of York, though, has other concerns. Speaking to some other full stomachs on Friday night, he complained about the "systematic erosion" of Christianity in British public life, as manifested in non-faith-specific Christmas cards and the reluctance of local authorities to cause offence to the differently deluded. Congregations are failing, not through any fault of the Church, but because official Government Christmas cards say "Season's Greetings"; and the Archbishop of York believes that his moral authority deserves better from the people who pay his stipend. He also criticised Plymouth council for ending free parking on Sundays, although he does not appear to have asked what Jesus would have done when faced with the requirement to pay for a space, or to have considered the possibly implied answer at Matthew 10 ix. It is all very modern, very relevant and very tolerant, no doubt; but is it really the kind of thing to set a man at variance with his father, or the daughter against her mother, or the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, as once it was promised?


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