Saturday, 28 November 2009

A force for bad

Christianity is a force for bad in the world, and this week’s report about abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin is simply the most recent piece of evidence. I had half bought the line that less rigorous children protection policy in the past was in part due to naivity and inexperience, but the report indicates that there was full awareness and cumulative experience about what was happening to children vitiated only by a desire to protect the institution of the church.

I do believe and continue to promote the line that Christianity is a force for good in the world. I’ll be in a School during the week responding to a request to bring material about how Christians respond to natural disasters. At the end of the week we’ll be marking St Nicolas’ Day by highlighting our parish’s support for child headed families in Zimbabwe and many parish’s support through Christingle Services for the work of the Church of England’s Children’s Society whose most recent press releases are about engaging with children who are victims in divorce and the hidden nature of trafficked children.

But the second position doesn’t cancel the first, nor does either win an argument between the two, and it is strange to me that Christian people so familiar with the necessity to confess personal sin do not see and say this more often.

The place where I tried to be clearest about this was in the review of The God Delusion I wrote for the diocesan newspaper:

In 2 Samuel 16 there is the wonderful story of Shimei, a member of Saul’s family, running along cursing David and throwing dust and stones at him. David’s supporters wanted to cut off Shimei’s head, but David rather thought that God might have intended Shimei to curse him, so he simply kept on walking as the missiles fell...

My first, perhaps rather flippant, reaction to Prof Dawkins’ book was that I agreed with about 85% of it. There are some very bad arguments for believing in God, and he sets these out and disposes of them. There are some very bad examples of how some believers in God have behaved, and he sets these out and exposes them. This is not that surprising since the toughest things Jesus said were to religious people who had got things very badly wrong both in what they taught and in what they practised....

It may make the most sense for us to admit that we are deeply flawed and failing people, part of a deeply flawed and sometimes abusive institution, and share deeply flawed and partial understanding of what God means. It may make most sense for us to admit that these failures have sometimes been most pronounced when we have been most sure that we are right. When a Dawkins curses us for these flaws we should probably carry on walking and assume that anyone who does so has a perfectly valid point.

Meanwhile, outside St Michael’s during the week the Local Authority has planted some new trees on the green and supported our new disabled access provision by painting some new markings on the road.

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