Thursday, 17 April 2008

Them and Us — The Truth

After a bit of a blockbuster about clergy bullying, with some very interesting comment, something profoundly relevant caught my eye yesterday at our senior staff Eucharist. We were in Christ Church Cathedral, using the millennium Altar commemorating George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, supporter of resistance against Hitler and courageous opponent of saturation bombing during World War II.

The Altar is from a single huge oak, blackened. Renewed humanity is hewn out of, and emerges from, a charred and defaced reality. It carries this quotation from Bell, framed in the context of calls for reprisals in 1945. Today, from parish breakdowns to Iraq, there’s a simplistic sense among otherwise intelligent people that we are OK and they are evil. Bell exposes the root of the matter. In reality, we are all complicit, and in need of redemption:
No Nation, no Church, no Individual is guiltless. Without Repentance, and without forgiveness, there can be no regeneration.


Hilary Unwin said...

I have warm memories of George Bell. I spent my teens in West Sussex, going to school in Chichester. I used to hang around the cathedral if I missed my bus. I attended a sixth form conference in 1955 and George Bell was the guest speaker. As a Vicar's niece (couldn't they find anyone better!) I was asked to sit next to the Bishop at lunch. I had a terrible dilemma over the soup. I obviously couldn't sip it when I was talking to him, and I didn't like to sip it when he was talking to me. So I had to slurp it down speedily when the plates were collected. He was delightful and so kind to a gauche teenager.

Jocelyn Chappell said...

Thanks for the link to George Bell's page on wilipedia -- and for your blog post. I spent Monday with family enjoying break from school at Chatham historic dockyards -- climbing all over three fascinating Royal Navy ships in dry dock (actually two ships and a boat (submarines are called boats)). I was reminded in a new way how technological advances (economic even) have been foundational to this country's development through the centuries -- but concluded that has not been good.

Noel Heather said...

Alan, Might I attempt to at least adumbrate a partly-dissident discourse here (on the you and us business)? Though contrary to much in the Zeitgeist, there do seem to be useful models based on 'difference' emerging, intra altra, from St Paul ('bound to differ'); Foucault (competing discourses); and Marx (dialectic). A good starting book is "Bound to Differ: The Dynamics of Theological Discourses"
by Wesley A. Kort; Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. Kort points out that 'theologies...are about each other': this is how we progress quite a lot of the time. The fact is that there are two deep-structure church mindsets in the UK (R1 (if fact R1A+R1B), and R2), based on two alternative social cognitions (see eg my 2003 Theology article on the 'Linguistic physics of church'). These 2 discourses can always be differentiated by a litmus test question: whether or not the church culture allows you to **say overtly** (what you do is another matter), 'I'm not coming to church this evening: the family's coming round'. The culture of R1 (subconsciously) disallows this universally; but R2 people, for whom this statement is unproblematic, are typically mystified that anyone can find this statement unacceptable. I'm afraid this is just routine stuff in the wide world of Critical Discourse Analysis, though is of course 'sensitive'. It can also however be terribly liberating for some. The first time I attempted to outline all this in an R2 church meeting, the normally v.discreet, unmarried woman there started shouting out, 'You're good at this aren't you!' (I was moved, gratified but also saddened.) There is a rather sad 'antichurch' website in Surrey which does however carry some resonances on this: eg 'church is no place for the single'. These are the first steps into a wide and long avenue which can be very illuminating for the courageous to follow down. It does all seem to fit the facts as observed, as well as revealing some of the ways of God through time.

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