22 Dec

Be nice to a Welby near you

Each Archbishop of Canterbury finds his own way to cause annoyance. For example, in his final sermon, Rowan Williams told us: “The Church has a lot of catching up to do with secular mores.”

Thus he neatly inverted the biblical commandment, “Be ye not conformed to this world.”

Williams grew into the habit of making irritating utterances gradually over the years of his incumbency at Canterbury, but Justin Welby arrived on the scene fully accomplished in the art of getting up our noses.

In his special irritating remark for Christmas, Welby says, we should “take the risk” of being kind to “those wrongly seen as different.” And, in case we don’t immediately get the gist of what he means here, he adds a helpful hint, saying that this past year has been “an extremely tough one” particularly, “for our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

So really we ought to go out of our way to be nice to Muslims for whom things are so tough.

I don’t suppose you need any reminding, but I will remind you anyhow: the Archbishop of Canterbury is the chief priest of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

So it would be reasonable for you to conclude that he is a Christian.

Now, in Syria and Iraq this past year has been “an extremely tough one” for Christians. For you see their “Muslim brothers and sisters” have been burning down their churches, torturing, raping and beheading them. In fact Christians are suffering persecution explicitly in the name of Islam in countries from Nigeria in the west to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the east.

Also, in the name of Islam,many innocent people have been shot dead or blown to bits in Paris, the USA, Nigeria. Mali, Lebanon and a dozen more places.

All these people were despatched by our “Muslim brothers and sisters.”

You might think that the Archbishop has very slightly got the emphasis wrong. You may be tempted to become impatient with him.

But look, it’s Christmas and we should all exercise that most excellent gift of charity.

So, if you happen to bump into Justin Welby, swallow your annoyance and “take the risk” of being nice to him.

He’s probably had “an extremely tough year.” 

16 Dec

Black theology: Serena and the Gee-gee

If you were invited to vote for sports personality of the year, would you cast your ballot for Serena Williams or a champion racehorse? This was the issue discussed in this morning’s Thought for the Day by Robert Beckford, professor of theology at Canterbury.

Like Serena Williams, Professor Beckford is black. I don’t know the colour of the champion racehorse.

He was brought up in in the Pentecostal church and says that his “white, middle-class” religious education teacher “turned me on in a big way to RE and sowed the seeds to think about religion and culture”, while his Communist maths tutor introduced him to politics and the work of Malcolm X, who is still a hero.

After a “year in the community”, Beckford became Britain’s first tutor in black theology.

I find this a bit fishy. How can there be such a subject as black theology when the Bible says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor free? Like Professor Beckford, I am qualified to teach theology. Unlike Professor Beckford, I am white. Imagine the reaction if I were to set up a department of white theology. The message of his TFTD – insofar as I could discern it – was that everyone ought to vote for Serena rather than the horse – because a vote for her would show that you were the sort of person who believed in the coming of Christ in the flesh, while a vote for the horse would get you classed as a Gnostic.

This was quite the barmiest TFTD I’ve heard in forty years

I’m only surprised that The Today Programme’s racing tipsters did not predict that, after his eccentric performance on TFTD, Professor Beckford would go on to win the 2.30 at Plumpton – and so prove that he isn’t a Gnostic.