Live the Word is a leaflet sent out to many (maybe all?) Anglican churches each week. On the rear cover are printed the bible readings for the week, taken from the lectionary. The two inside facing pages are left open for each church to print their own notices. On the front cover is a topical article related to the readings, or the calendar of the Church Year. These are often written by Jane Williams, wife of the famous Archbishop Rowan, but sometimes by others, though Jane Williams is usually named as editor of the publication, which is produced by Redemptorist Publications (a Roman Catholic organisation I believe).
The front page articles are often strange, containing typical ‘Anglican/Roman Catholic-speak’, and when reading them, I’m often driven to the odd ‘tut-tut’. For instance, in the issue for 5th December 2009, there was a piece by Marguerite Hutchinson about work. In it she wrote; ‘Some jobs might seem more obviously about serving God – joining the clergy perhaps. But those of us who are not called to such a vocation need not feel that our working lives are just wage slavery. There are few jobs which offer no scope for serving God.’ And later; ‘Working in itself is not as important as giving glory to God.’ Readers of this blog will know that I really dislike this compartmentalising of Christians into castes of ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ (thank God that Jesus was ‘lay’!), and the dividing of the Christian life into ‘religious’ and ‘secular’; both notions which, to me at any rate, do not sit well with the teachings of the New Testament.
After reading an article on June 30th 2010, I felt concerned enough to post a topic for discussion in the KEDS eCampus forum, just to see what our students thought. The writer of the piece in question seemed to me to be both theologically mistaken and also in danger of misleading people in the pews. Consider these statements for example; ‘As we eat and drink, we become the body of Christ’ (with reference to Holy Communion). And ‘In this new life, we are not in control, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we offer ourselves for God’s work.’ Several students joined in the discussion and, like me, felt that we do not become the body of Christ by taking part in Holy Communion services. Indeed, we could take part in endless communion services and be no part of the body of Christ. Rather, ipso facto, we become part of the body of Christ when we are ‘born again’ (John 3:3). And we (hopefully) do not lose control because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We are still rational beings, responsible for our own actions and still able not to follow the leading of the Spirit if we so wish.
However, the current edition (issued Sunday 8th August 2010) is particularly worrying and I felt I should comment on it here where more folk might see it. The article this time is by one Richard Dormandy, who likens St. Paul’s penchant for writing things which may have shocked first century Jews with what he sees as modern parallels. For instance, he says ‘it’s tempting to cast Paul as one of the punks of his era’. He then moves on and suggests Paul was perhaps more of a ‘post-punk’ because his writings were more sophisticated than that which had gone before (as post-punk culture was supposed to be more advanced than the first wave). He then compares St. Paul’s use of (likely) pre-existing hymn sections (e.g., in Philippians 2) with modern music’s practice of ‘sampling’. For this reason, he concludes that maybe Paul was more of a precursor of dub, or hip-hop. He concludes his piece; ‘Either way, he (Paul) was a cutting edge creative artist.
I guess what’s happening is that the writers of these things, having to find something ‘spiritual’ to write about each week, at times invent this kind of spiritual mumbo-jumbo without feeling the need to refer to the apostolic doctrines, once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). In the latter example (of St. Paul as a hip-hop artist), the mumbo-jumbo seems to be augmented by a desire to appeal to ‘the younger generation’. Older people in the church often make this mistake and are more likely to cause young people to run a mile. There have been other Anglicans in the news recently trying similar things. A vicar has admitted to swearing in sermons and telling his congregation that they should go out into the world and do the same (including the use of the strongest swear words) in an effort to relate to today’s culture. And dear old Rowan Williams has this week pronounced that the dreadful new BBC sitcom, Rev, (about an inner city vicar) is ‘really quite good.’
But of all the things I’ve ‘tut-tutted’ over in Live the Word, Dormandy’s view of St. Paul as a kind of early practitioner of dub and hip-hop is especially distasteful, if not downright silly. It is typical of the kind of twaddle which constantly proceeds from the Anglican/RC church. But judging by attendance figures in the larger denominations, such silliness doesn’t seem to be helping to get ‘bums on seats’. (1)
1). In the C of E, this phrase seems to be synonymous with ‘evangelism’.