Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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Persecution or privilege: the Church Defensive

Not PersecutedDuring Holy Week, I had a couple of episcopal moments. On Palm Sunday, six bishops signed a letter in the Sunday Torygraph that didn’t use the word ‘persecution’, but the resulting headlines did, and one sermon I’ve heard since has. Archbishop Rowan felt it necessary to say publically that they should get things in perspective in his Easter Letter: hear, hear!

The next day, on Maundy Thursday, the Bishop of London felt it necessary refute ‘persecution’ claims in his chrism sermon, but then he went on to talk about how Christians have to fight against the discrimination aimed at us and battle the tide of secularism (this clunkily segued into the twice-repeated materialist motto ‘love is not an emotion’).

On Easter Sunday evening, Nicky Campbell brought out a TV documentary asking whether Christians are persecuted. The show gave fairly free reign to those who wanted to ramp up the persecution fears, but also got the sane voices of the Bishop of Oxford and Theos think-tank in there. I quite liked the clear outline of why the persecution fear exists: that it is based on

  1. the complex secularising of hegemony,
  2. increased non-Christian immigration
  3. and human-rights legislation.

Whereas the fearmongers, like Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, would point to the secularisation of society as the cause, and crusade for the re-Christianisation of our public spaces, the documentary’s outline gives us more substantial handles for what is happening.

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My kingdom is not of this world

Christus Rex

Christus Rex

This coming Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. I’m going to give a 3-minute wonder at the BCP communion (on Jeremiah 23.5–8 & John 6.5–14). In an emergency, I may have to preach at the parish eucharist also (on Daniel 7.9–10, 13–14; Revelation 1.4b–8 & John 18.33b–37), which is most definitely Christ the King.

I expect many sermons will fail to get across what ‘Christ is king’ means. In Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary, which draws to a close this coming week, we have John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate (or is Jesus putting Pilate on trial?). The key phrase in understanding Jesus as king here is his words, “My kingdom is not of this world” (ἡ βασίλεια ἡ ἐμὴ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, hē basileia hē emē ouk estin ek tou kosmou toutou). Again there is the danger of misunderstanding the line to think he is talking about heaven. That interpretation completely disarms and voids the words of any meaning. It is basically putting on Jesus’ lips the idea that he doesn’t care about earthly life and all that matters is ‘pie in the sky when you die’. Continue reading