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Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘conservatism’

The churchgoer in the street

In which major international issues do not disturb the local parish

Given that today, in the news, there’s rather a lot about the slowly-growing and now likely forthcoming schism in the Anglican church, I thought I’d ask the average churchgoer in the street about it. Well, the average churchgoer who is also my mother, at any rate. She’s a fairly average “active” Anglican, though. She’s white, lower-middle-class, female, edging towards elderly, lives in a commuter village, and goes to church every week. She’s a Sunday School teacher, has organised the parish’s Christian Aid collections, sings in an ecumenical Christian parish singing group,* and generally is far more active and puts more effort into religion than most churchgoers, never mind the huge percentage of Anglicans who tick the relevant box on the census but never cross the threshold of a church for anything other than weddings and funerals.

So, I said: “what are you going to do if the church splits in two? Is anyone going to leave St. Nick’s over it?”

Her answer: “What split?”

“You know, the one that has been rumbling for the last few years.” I tried to explain how the rather homophobic Peter Akinola is a figurehead for a group of largely-American homophobic conservatives, who do not like the Archbishop of Canterbury and have been threatening for some time to lead a schism, sometimes in the hope of bending him to their will, sometimes apparently meaning it.

“I’ve not heard about any of that,” she said. “We don’t talk about that sort of thing at church. That’s nothing to do with us.”

So, there you have it. I don’t think The Mother is particularly ignorant. As I said above, I think she’s probably less ignorant than your average churchgoer is likely to be, because she takes a very active interest. But to her, the politicking of a motley band of Americans and Africans isn’t important. An earthquake in Lambeth Palace isn’t important. The Second Coming occurring in the Lady Chapel of our parish church probably wouldn’t disturb most of the congregation, so long as it didn’t disrupt the Mothers Union or the bellringers, and everyone still got a cup of tea (or coffee) after the Sunday communion service. For your average English Anglican, dogma is something you recite during the service without really listening or understanding. It certainly isn’t something to get all argumentative about.

* where “ecumenical” means “Anglican and Methodist”, because they’re the only churches in the village. I’m not sure what they’ll do if those often-suggested plans to subsume British Methodists back into Anglicanism ever make much progress.

Family Values

In which we are irked by a political myth

Heard on the radio this morning: a member of the Lords claiming that gay marriage Civil Partnerships are a bad thing because they’re unpatriotic.* This country was built, apparently, on the values of two parents, their children, and the sacrament of marriage.**

As I’ve said before, my mother is becoming part of the Genealogy Boom, one of the thousands of people who are using the internet to research the names of their ancestors. And, one of the good things about this is that the thousands of people doing this are finding out that the typical Family Values chorus – in the past, everyone lived in a happy, stable two-parent family and the world was a Better Place – really is a load of rubbish. In the past, people didn’t divorce. That’s because they couldn’t afford to. They still had affairs, though, and multiple relationships, and children out of wedlock. Every family has tangled knots in its family tree, because the people in the past really did behave just as badly, or well, as people do today. Family Values is a political myth, and nothing more.

* I tried to look up which specific homophobic peer I was listening to, but her name isn’t listed on the Today website running order, and I don’t want to have to listen to it all again just to catch her name.

** although she claimed that even though she was describing marriage as a sacrament she didn’t mean it in a religious way.