Monday, 22 December 2014

Actually, I use this to think about how I approach things.

If you are feeling too dizzy to do any proper research into semiotics, there is always a laugh to be had on The Guardian website. Today, I shall pompously lecture everyone on why their article on female bishops is yet another example of how fuzzy the liberal brain is getting. 

I say this with a literal fuzzy liberal brain, because I was late picking up a repeat prescription and am experiencing withdrawal from my meds.

1. The Headline
Why female bishops could be the Church of England's saviour
Never mind the bizarre theological implications (I reckon Jesus is still top o' the saviour charts in any Christian organisation): there is a grandiose tone here that rivals any click-bait headline. There is a certainty that the consecration of a female bishop is going to be important - not that it is a long overdue decision. 

2. Reliance on Authority
I am keen on rational argument, and do respect authorities who demonstrate a long term awareness of a particular issue. It is possible that Professor Linda Woodhead is indeed the leading sociologist of religion - a quick look at her biography does back this up - but the article fails to give enough information to back up her position.

“Women will humanise the Church again,” she says, based on the Danish move to allow women bishops in 1995. “People in Denmark say they made all the difference in the world. The men were interested in their clerical politics but the women went back to basics: caring for people, pastoral stuff, healing, things that matter on an everyday basis. That completely transformed the Church and saved it. People saw it still had a crucial role in society, doing things that were needed.”

Okay. I want evidence. Not 'people saw', not 'people say'. I'd take a quotation from one of these people, but how about some numbers? The statistics of people in Denmark attending church in 1994, and then a year later? That might suggest the relevance of the church. Even a few examples of how the church has done something new in the past decade that reflects the 'back to basics' approach. 

3. The Lack of Dialectic
As the comments beneath the article reveal, there are plenty of people who don't think that women bishops will matter - either it's against God, or a last ditch attempt to drag an institution that is fundamentally wrong into the modern age. Some of them even have the same level of anecdotage that Professor Woodhead displays.

(Footnote: I am not dissing the professor here, just the use of her comments by the journalist. She probably did give proper evidence and balanced her argument. It's the writer who turned it into a soundbite.)

Anyway, instead of presenting an optimistic rhetorical routine, the writer could have considered both sides and drawn a conclusion. Like they get taught in English GCSE, eh?

4. The Lack of Knowledge
My theology is a bit haphazard, but I know that the issue of women bishops isn't one of the fundamentals of Christian faith. In a period in which both rationality and scientific method are dominant, theism is a hard sell. So is the concept of a divine being incarnating as human... arguing about whether women can be bishops is like rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic. 

Equally, the church tends not to develop ideas according to social mores - although they are an influence. Women bishops are a theological statement about the role of women in spirituality. This is an argument that has been going for a while.

the church's uniform was controversial
(Footnote: The Bible is full of evidence that a more female sympathetic theology did exist, even in the Torah, but it was challenged by a patriarchal movement of priests: the masculine character of the Abrahamic religions is the result of the latter's victory. Possibly. Can someone check this?)

5. Me
I apologise to The Church of England, Cole Morton and Professor Woodhead. My theory that the audience co-creates meaning ensures that I am more guilty in interpreting the text than they are in building the context for my interpretation. As a fuzzy brained liberal, I want to hear that women bishops are a good thing. 

This little list is really a way for me to consider how I write about stuff. And now I have articulated my weaknesses, I impose them on other people. My mother must be so proud of her mud-slinging, dogmatic son. 

My doctor says I ought to stop letting my tablets run out.

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