Dissent

Alasdair North - 

(I typed this on my phone while bored on a train, so apologies for the lack of links and formatting)

A while back, when the church was in the middle of one of its many recent controversies, Ben Goldacre tweeted that the church needed a sensible and sane spokesperson to speak against the tide of crazy stuff we’re seen to believe and do.

At the time I couldn’t help but agree. I find it incredibly frustrating being associated with a group of people that molests children, helps spread AIDS, oppresses minorities, kills Norwegian students, invades countries and suppresses scientific enquiry. Obviously not all Christians do these things, just like not all British people are members of the BNP, but enough do to ruin a lot of people’s perception of us.

Of course, most of these things aren’t part of Christianity, they’re the actions of a minority of crazy people who’d be dangerous whether they followed Jesus or not. I’m sure most people can see that, but they also see that the rest of the church isn’t particularly quick or keen to distance itself from these loons.

Is Goldacre right? Does the church need to be better at condemning this type of behaviour?

Maybe, but perhaps it’s also a little bit more complicated than that.

When Goldacre was tweeting his frustration and suggestions I gave some thought to the idea of starting blogging about these sorts of issues. Not with the pretention of being a spokesperson for the church, but with the aim of adding a small dissenting voice against the crazies. I considered the idea for a few days and decided against it. Here’s a few reasons why.

— The real problem isn’t the views of minority crazies, it’s the views of majority crazies —

Those outside of the church don’t think we’re all Anders Behring Breivik, but they may well believe we all have badly thought through ideas on evolution, that we think women can’t lead, or that we equate homosexuality with bestiality. And for a vocal majority of the church they may well be right.

Many people’s idea of Christianity depends on how we tackle these issues, but their opinion won’t be swayed by one blogger when the most powerful nation in the world is in the grip of a mad Christian majority.

— I’m not going to make a difference —

I may have a bit of an inferiority complex here, but it’s a fact that only a handful of people read what I write here. If no one’s reading it it’s never going to change anyone’s mind. I could rant all I want on here, but it would have to be purely for my own satisfaction.

— Devoting all your time to negativity is no way to lead your life —

In order to produce well researched post on here regularly I’d probably end up spending a few hours a week on it. I have no doubt that I’d enjoy it. Demolishing people with an eloquent and comprehensive put down is always satisfying. However, I don’t want my life’s work to be finding fault with people, it doesn’t feel like a healthy thing to focus on.

I’d much rather spend my time helping local charities and making nice websites. I find being creative so much more satisfying than tearing things down. I believe that’s something I’ve got from my maker.

— The church is divided enough already —

It’s not just hating gays that we’re famous for, we’re also well known for hating each other. In my student days I saw the pain this caused first hand as splits appeared in the Christian Union. It was nasty, confusing and it hurt. I do not want to encourage anything like that.

Of course, there’s also a tension here. My faith is not the same as Anders Behring Breivik’s, and I have no problem with saying that publicly. Is my faith the same as Michele Bachmann’s or Lord Carey’s? Would I be happy to worship with them? I think I might be, but there’s a line somewhere and I’m not sure where to draw it, or whether it’s even a good idea to draw it.

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I'm the CTO of viaLibri, a director and web developer at Runway, and an active member of St. Barnabas Church.

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