Thursday, July 17, 2008

Negative feedback

The only reportage on yesterday's conference was in the 'Echo', and didn't fail to disappoint.

It was based on the press release issued beforehand, and the only quote in it was from a member of the National Secular Society, dismissing our proposals. I wonder if their cohorts contribute as much as £10.8 million to the City's economy? Most annoyingly the idea of proposing an appointment of a member of the Council Diversities Team with a remit to develop more useful working relationships with all the city's faith communities, was labelled 'religious supremo' in the report - the vocabulary of power and confrontation replacing the vocabulary of participation and service - deliberate invention, sowing division and contention. Well, I guess all those who appear in the countless number of sports new pages have it a lot worse, and more often.

Building an idol in order to smash it seems to be the ambition most cherished by the press in a power game that is determined to exclude religion from the public domain any way it can, other than as a subject of old fears and prejudices. Religious faith and religious behaviour has a lot to answer for in its many failures to be true to itself. Whilst it's arguable that religion now gets all it deserves, this ignores the powerful good done in the past and present by people of faith, whose moral and social vision has long provided much of the backbone of society, whether noticed or ignored. Trouble is, when a culture turns its back on coherent sets of religious beliefs as a guiding light, it ends up believing all sorts of foolish ideas instead.

At least in this internet age, one has the possibility of searching for information, ideas, arguments in all their variety and complexity, and is less then ever dependent upon old news sources and their dedication to 'entertaining' people's fears, resentments and vanities.

Archbishop Rowan's response on Monday to the Muslim scholars who wrote the remarkable 'Common Word' open letter, addressed to Christians, was long considered and constructive, to my mind, not minimising the difficulties of dialogue, but setting the tone for warm and honest exchange based upon Christians and Muslims being people of faith and people of the book. Reports on his response mainly highlighted the necessary cautions which one would expect from an orthodox (though not in the GAFCON sense) Christian teacher and scholar, turning something positive into something less than positive. Perhaps the truth is just too hard, too complex to craft into readable news, which puts great responsibility on people of faith to keep up the task of telling the truth, and doing regardless of how others handle it.

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