Monday, 1 January 2007

are we listening?

This last year I've been working my way through all the teachings of Jesus [365 bite-size bits of pithy teaching]. Today's portion is words of the Spirit of Christ "If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches" - and when you think about it there's little to suggest that we (the church) take this teaching very seriously.

I say this because I've just come across notes my mother made at a lecture in 1939. The lecture was "Christianity in War" given at Balliol College Hall in Oxford by Dr J. H. Oldham, a leading thinker, activist and author on ecumenism and mission.

In her musings, my mother outlines Oldham's three core points:

first that never before had any country of Christian Europe openly turned their back on Christianity – they might have failed to live up to the Christian ideal but had never rejected it; second that organized religion was failing to hold the young people of today; and thirdly that our crying need was a social and political philosophy – and if this wasn’t built up we might easily stray into ... mere disruption and decay. ... He said that this social philosophy could not be called Christian, as it would have to command the allegiance of the majority of people many of whom were not Christian, and so, while Christians should work to mould it to their pattern, they should be realists and not confound their absolute principles of a future order with the necessities of the present system.

In answer to a question on Christianity and politics he said that while every man should take his decisions as a Christian yet he had no right to assert that his was the Christian attitude for his grasp on "realities" might be different from the next man’s, who, also as a Christian, comes to another decision.

If in essence Oldham (not uniquely) was commenting two thirds of a century ago on some of the church's failures to model Christian life appropriately, there's generally not much to show now that Christians/the church listened at the time. At least the torch is being carried today by such as Brian McLaren; and in Grace Davie's Europe: The Exceptional Case; and in the diversity of constructively disturbing practitioners and writers of the emergent church.

What is the Spirit saying today - and are we listening and responding?

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