Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Why on earth..?

Whatever convinced the BBC to think it a good idea to run the risk of alienating much of its Radio 4 audience by broadcasting a grotesquely extended 'personal essay' in twenty episodes by the former Christian, Bishop Richard Holloway * at 1.45 p.m. each weekday? It is a good indication that the Corporation (which is paid for by U.K. taxpayers - or rather, licence-payers) has a fashionable agenda to promote with regard to the Christian faith - that is all over but for the sneering of its detractors. 
Neither is it clear why it should be the BBC's role to add to what it obviously perceives as " the melancholy, long, withdrawing roar" of the Sea of Faith. 
Bishop Holloway is, of course, right to view religious experience, in the modern world particularly but not unknown in the Gospels (cf St Mark 9.24) , as a matter of sometimes almost unbearable tension between faith and doubt. It's debatable, though, whether someone who has come down, shall we say, rather definitively and enthusiastically on the side of doubt is the best person to present a  programme of this kind. [Here is a more nuanced treatment of the perennial yet contemporary problem by a theologian who takes an opposite view...]
But for all the publicity, Richard Holloway's personal survey - so far at least - has added nothing to the conventional critique of religious belief which has been such a corrosive part of the world-view of the British cultural elite for many generations. 
The other pertinent question is, of course, whether we can imagine this degree of indulgent latitude given by the BBC to, say, a prominent convert to Christianity, or to a former Muslim commenting critically on the tenets of Islam?

*Of course, traditionalists in Wales have no reason to think kindly of the former Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, who once denounced those opposed to women's ordination as 'miserable buggers' from the pulpit of a Welsh cathedral. That his radical honesty has led his philosophy to take a decidedly agnostic turn is perhaps both entirely fitting and very predictable.

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