Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Trolls and chimney sweeps

A few reactions on recent events from GRAS (given the organisation's acronym one can guess the content) here and from the distinguished historian Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch writing in The Times. This is a link to Damian Thompson's blog in the Telegraph, as 'The Times' now lurks behind a pay wall and I haven't the energy to type the article out myself. The Professor is becoming well-known for his less than temperate interventions on contemporary religious issues despite being on record as being now not so much a believer as "a candid friend of Christianity." Hmm.......now what does that actually mean? A liberal / low church Anglican agnostic?

But, say it as shouldn't, you might think, one of the dangers of modern forms of communication is the temptation to make instant comment (and the temptation is probably even greater if one is paid for the privilege) and engage in pointless arguments with those who have absolutely no interest in really engaging at all  (other than over-emotionally) with what is being said to them. Their blogs or comments are there simply to make crude propaganda points and nothing else. Very often anonymity is used as a cloak for simple rudeness and a startling lack of charity.

I know there's a tendency for all of us to fall into the trap of being at times negative, overcritical and obsessed with present and past injuries. On this blog I've not been exactly known as a member of the current Welsh Bench's official fan club, and I hold to the view that in our present Anglican difficulties we have from time to time needed to be reminded of broken promises, attempts to stifle legitimate debate and glaring inconsistencies in public utterances.  Sometimes, though,  this is best done by means of  satire (as in a famous and now, alas, 'suppressed' example of the genre) - designed to puncture pomposity or expose hypocrisy, but not to wound or destroy - and, of course,  particularly when it's funny, but ......'you say tomato........'  

But, as we know, times move on, and as our sixteenth century ancestors knew well, theological and ecclesial battles are won or lost, and maybe on all sides we now need to adopt a more constructive approach to the issues which face us and renew attempts to convince rather than anathematise or, at the very least, to agree to disagree - whatever that entails for each one of us.

As regards the 'blogosphere,' we all recognise the 'trolls' when they try to comment, or the bloggers who make rudeness a virtue and confuse it with charity. Hurling the truth in one's face isn't the same as speaking it in love, and when St Paul writes about heaping burning coals on the heads of our enemies his meaning is metaphorical - by means of charitable actions - rather than encouraging literal attempts at assassination. I suspect more people have had their minds changed by the force of gentle and prayerful persuasion and reasoned argument than by attempts to browbeat them into submission.
My father, a life-long and loyal churchman, used to say "never wrestle with a chimney sweep."  He was right, of course.

1 comment:

  1. I fancy we will never recieve sensible press coverage. It's all rather 'car-crash TV' and I can't help but read it but, in our liberal society, we will always be labelled misogynist fundamentalist loonies.
    I, too, read the 'Times' article and found myself aghast that a Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford should display such a lack of understanding as regards the Ordinariate.
    I was also aware of Professor MacCulloch's apparent relationship with Christianity/Anglicanism and found myself a little confused as to how on earth he feels he has the right to comment in the way that he has done on the unfolding events.
    And relax!
    Leave them all to it. They don't understand and they don't want to. We're on our own, here.


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