Following on from my piece yesterday, I want to suggest that what is happening is that historic Christianity is being swiftly replaced in many churches by something which is more socially acceptable. Western secular society is very keen on the faith of equality, and the only arguments it understands for not agreeing with it are ones which impute bigotry to the dissentients: don’t agree with women ministers/priests? You’re a misogynist. Don’t agree with same-sex marriage? You’re a homophobe. Now I daresay there are those in these categories for whom the label would be tailor-made, but that is not why I, and many others, take a dissentient view. What is now a dissenting view was, until a few years back, a majority view, and it was soundly based on Biblical tradition. We’re being told not that tradition was wrong, but that it no longer applies. Thin end of wedge arguments are usually met with the objection that they are alarmists; I submit that anyone looking dispassionately at the history of these two issues would have to admit that they were not alarmist. Those of us arguing only a few years back that civil partnerships would not be the end of the issue but would lead to demands for gay marriage were told we were alarmists; now we’re told we’re bigots – which skilfully misses the point that we were right and our opponents were either liars or accidentally wrong. We’re being told that the reason Christianity is in decline is it is seen as homophobic. I’ve yet to see this argued through, and would be interested if anyone has any statistics. I can see why such allegations would make the Churches unpopular among those who took the view that same-sex marriage was fine, but how many of those go to church anyway? Is someone seriously suggesting that if we had gay marriages in church all would be well? Looking at the attendances at the American Episcopal Church. I see no evidence for what seems to me an entirely spurious argument.
But it appeals to the weak chink in the armour of the bigger churches – your attendances are falling – do something, be ‘relevant’. Ah, for those of us of a certain age, that brings it all back home: guitars would do it; getting rid of ‘archaic language’ would do it; stopping talking about sin would do it; lady vicars would do it; the Mass in English would do it; shorter sermons would so it; clown masses would do it. In the 1970s no one could mount the counter-argument that can now be mounted, as those things had not been tried for half a century and failed – well they have now, and they have failed. It is the mark of the ideologue that mere facts will not get in their way. Rather, they argue have all these things failed, well we have not gone far enough, let us do even more in this vein – and this time it will be different. Evidence? Who cares, these things are not really being demanded because they will bring people into the church, they are being demanded because bishops and archbishops and other senior clerics will feel much happier when meeting with secular leaders. It will bring the churches ‘into line’ with society – as though that were mandated in anything Jesus ever said. That’s the real agenda, and it should be resisted.