03 March 2012

Matthew Parris on religion

I don’t normally read Matthew Parris because I find his right-wing politics uncongenial, and I never imagined that I’d find myself recommending something that he had written (particularly on religion, given his well-known atheism). But I have just been pointed in his direction by a piece in Antony Billington’s blog.

There has been a lot of discussion of the place of Christianity in British society recently, particularly in the wake of the court decision that Bideford Town Council may not make prayer part of the formal business of their meetings. As you can imagine, that case has generated a lot of heat from those who see Christianity (primarily in the form of the Church of England) as part of the social glue that holds together British (or perhaps English) society. Parris quite rightly highlights the oddity of such a position with the following:
One of the reasons we can be pretty sure Jesus actually existed is that if He had not, the Church would never have invented Him. He stands so passionately, resolutely and inconveniently against everything an established church stands for. Continuity? Tradition? Christ had nothing to do with stability. He came to break up families, to smash routines, to cast aside the human superstructures, to teach abandonment of earthly concerns and a throwing of ourselves upon God’s mercy.
Jesus came to challenge precisely what today’s unbelieving believers in belief so prize in what they presume to be faith: its supposed ability to ‘cement’ the established order of things, and bind one generation to the next. But the problem with using Christ as a kind of social Evo-Stik, . . . is that it saps the life force with which their faiths were at first suffused. By trying to span and bind, Anglicanism has become bland. . . .
. . . If a faith is true it must have the most profound consequences for a man and for mankind. If I seriously suspected a faith might be true, I would devote the rest of my life to finding out.
You can find the rest of the article here.

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