Monday, 19 July 2010

Equity and Faith belong together

St Wandrille in July is almost unnaturally lush, green and leafy. It seems a completely different place to the austerity of November. I greatly value these weeks away from the internet, emails, etc. — indeed I have now spent 3 months of my life here, spread over the past few years. On my first visits I used to take a pile of books, but these days everything centres naturally on the office and the Church.

One theme that has been jumping out of the psalter for me this week is “equity.” Some people talk as though justice and equality issues facing the Church were some kind of imposition from secular culture, to be treated with suspicion as a post-enlightenment racket.

The insistence of the psalter that God is a God of equity and justice, whose people should strive to reflect these qualities gazumps this whole illusion. If, quoting Michael Ramsey, “The Church exists that Christ may reign,” our life should be characterised not by weird exceptionalism, but intentional striving for equity and justice. What equity means pragmatically differs from age to age. However the challenge remains constant. God’s justice may transcend that of the world, but it has to be at east as just. And after a week praying the collect, much more elegant in Latin than Engilsh, that Christians may reject those things that do not fit with the name we claim and choose those that do, it just doesn’t make any sense to suggest that basic issues of justice and equity are marginal or secondary, or merely secular impositions. They spring, in fact, from the core of our faith, as reflected in the psalms.

4 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Bishop Alan, St. Wandrille is a beautiful place. The pictures of the lush greenery remind me of south Louisiana.

The Psalms speak time and again of equity and justice and have done so for thousands of years, with particular attention to those on the margins. How can we think or speak of these qualities as an innovation in our Christian lives?

...it just doesn’t make any sense to suggest that basic issues of justice and equity are marginal or secondary, or merely secular impositions. They spring, in fact, from the core of our faith, as reflected in the psalms.

Amen.

Ron Murphy said...

Hi Alan,

I think the project of discovering what humanity is, it's place in space and time of the cosmos, is challenge enough when put in terms of modern language backed up by all that science can glean. Putting one's faith in an ancient book translated from ancient languages, supposedly from a divine source who isn't too keen on either the verification or the falsification principles, seems to be asking for trouble.

And trouble you get. Is it puzzling that from something that many do consider to be divine and perfect, so many differing contradictory opinions can be formed? It would be naive to suppose that the error is solely on the part of the readers of the Bible, since this would imply that the good book isn't doing it's job - it's not revealing the same truths to everyone who reads it. In fact the readers of good books seem to have more conflicting opinions than do those that choose not to use such books as a primary guide to life. Of course I don't really find it puzzling - the outcome seems obvious when you consider it: fill a book with vague notions from ancient times and ask everyone to make of it what they will, and they will make it fit their own requirements.

"...that Christians may reject those things that do not fit with the name we claim and choose those that do, it just doesn't make any sense to suggest that basic issues of justice and equity are marginal or secondary, or merely secular impositions." - Why are Christians in the difficult position of having to figure this out, when the secular community finds it quite straight forward?

Ann Memmott said...

I think a few in the churches sometimes mistook 'equality' issues for political rantings, instead of an outworking of God's love and respect for all? 'Equality' became a word associated with secular rather than Godly life? Perhaps thought of as..."Nothing to do with us - that's a social justice issue - we're clergy - surely not our department?"

Good to see the Government confirming that most of the Equality Act will take effect from October as planned, affecting all churches and church groups. And good also to see the Equality and Human Rights Commission re-highlighting key guidance on UN Conventions for equality today.

A S Grey said...

Amen to your words on justice and equality, Bishop Alan.

What strikes me endlessly when I read the Old Testament and the Gospels in particular, is a sense of God's striving for justice. Whilst it may be painful to read Amos or Isaiah's words on how they perceive the divine's idea of punishment, it is nonetheless important to appreciate the persevering desire for justice and fairness for all.

And Jesus' actions are very much inspirational. After reading some of the stories of the Gospels for the nth time, it can be so easy to overlook the powerful truths behind them. Jesus really did sit with people that society not only treated unfairly, but actively hated and condemned. He came into a society where people were classed as 'pure' and 'impure', 'righteous' or 'sinners', and he chastised the former for their treatment of the latter, actively choosing to not only spend time in the company of, but to actually eat with the marginalised and downtrodden.

I believe in an egalitarian God whose love and compassion extends to every member of our planet, no matter how people may perceive or treat them.

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