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How not to persevere: a case study from the Church of England

Wedding RingsThe Church of England has hardly been shy of expressing an opinion on same-sex marriage, having fought against it tooth and nail, describing the very idea as an outrageous imposition which destroys marriage as we know it. But this week, having been soundly defeated in the Lords despite some outspoken criticisms of the bill, the good old CofE has suddenly started to make rather more accommodating noises.

Obviously, I welcome the fact that the church has belatedly recognised that they’re fighting a losing battle, and that the will of both houses is clearly in favour of the legislation. But if it’s a vital issue of morality and fundamental definitions of terms they believe are Christian ones (as they’ve consistently argued), it would be utterly bizarre to relax your opinion and stop fighting based on a simple matter of popularity. It makes me wonder what Bible they’re reading. Read More…

FGD Bible: I will send another comforter

Rowan Williams is in the news again. In preparation for his departure from Lambeth Palace, he’s been interviewed by the Torygraph, leading to lots of comment about what he said, including his admission that he got things wrong, his regrets that he failed to communicate well, and the reported plans for a “President of the Anglican Communion”. I can’t resist an invitation like that. Read More…

Becoming the greatest – Matthew 20:25-27

Take your pick

The church is a strange institution. It seems to be caught between viewing its clergy as having a special calling, and just people pursuing a career much the same as anyone else. There’s a structure with a hierarchy, and a sort of natural path of progression (dare I say career path), but it’s not the done thing to aspire to promotion, let alone campaign for it. This is never clearer than when there’s a vacancy in Canterbury – virtually every Diocesan in the country will be hoping he (of course, they’re all men) gets the job, often working hard to subtly improve his chances, but will be trying equally hard to avoid admitting that fact. Read More…

Fundie God Dictation Bible: Matthew 18:3

Cleanliness is next to godliness

Christians of certain traditions love to talk about the importance of being childlike, obliquely referring to this passage, but this is used worryingly often to mean that you should trust the church leadership, and not ask too many difficult questions. I’d have said that the context indicates pretty clearly that the important feature is humility, which I suggest is a message pertinent to anyone who expects unconditional trust, but this is glossed over or ignored, and if you disagree with the conclusion you’re providing clear evidence that you’re not trusting like a child.

But if these church leaders are right, and we can’t take Matt 18:4 as evidence that this verse refers to humility, what else could it mean? What does it mean to be childlike? Well, I’ve had a few thoughts about that: Read More…

Fundie God Dictation Bible: John 8:1-11

This one’s for the liberals. I’m straying a little from the initial concept of the FGD Bible, which assumes selective Biblical literalism, but I’ve got good reasons for taking this on. Liberals love to quote this passage, and it’s become a standard response to criticism of anyone’s actions, but they carefully miss off the end of the story (“go and sin no more”), which as selective as it gets.

And because they approve of the message (or at least the message they take from it, which isn’t necessarily the same thing), they show little interest in the fact that authorship of this passage is heavily disputed. If the story had an overwhelmingly conservative message, I have no doubt that the disputed authorship would be used to discredit this passage, marking it out as a probable later insertion and therefore unimportant. Read More…

Fundie God Dictation Bible: Matthew 6:5-6

This is dedicated to Bideford Town Council, Eric Pickles, Baroness Warsi, and all their fellow travellers who equate religious freedom with permission to enforce corporate prayer in the guise of public service. Read More…

Fundie God Dictation Bible: Revelation 3:20

I often hear people preach an obscurantist God – one who avoids detection and acts so as to deny any possibility of demonstrating His existence, but still expects you to somehow conclude that He does indeed exist and follow Him on the basis of this deliberately insufficient evidence.

This new version of Revelation 3:20 is dedicated to them. Read More…

Fundie God Dictation Bible

It occurs to me that if the Bible was really dictated by an angry, dictatorial God as fundies believe (or appear to believe, or claim to believe), we’d expect to see a lot of things that don’t seem to appear in the text. A truly infallible, comprehensive manifesto for human living, direct from God’s own mouth would surely reflect God’s priorities, but there are some pretty big discrepancies between the contents of this manifesto and what fundies take from it, which they have to fill in with a substantial amount of interpretation, even while denying that they’re doing it. At the very least, you’d think He’d have made sure to be absolutely explicit about what He wanted you to do. Read More…

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