WHY DOESN’T THE CHURCH TAKE A LEAD, THEY SAY …

… well, I’m now in a position to know at first-hand that church leaders do take the lead … it just doesn’t get reported! It’s airbrushed out of the media, which really doesn’t like dealing with religious issues, because by and large it doesn’t understand them, unless they fit into pre-conceived boxes (like bad vicars or sexuality).

Like it or not, however suspicious we are of the way the media slant things, we are all influenced by what is reported, and by the way it is reported. If we only ever hear the negative, and are ignorant of the positive, then that is going to affect our attitudes.

Religion is constantly being blamed as the cause of all sorts of troubles, and there is no doubt that religion does play a part sometimes. But if the media only report religious riots etc, and never say anything about all the positive things done by most of the world’s religions, then that is going to stoke religious misunderstanding. In a world where we must learn to get on better with each other, to show some respect for each other and to build community together, this attitude of the media is hugely irresponsible.

I am, for example, interested to note that there has been almost nothing in the media about the response of churches and faith groups to the riots. People of any faith and none are entitled to say ‘how come there’s no leadership? why are there no statements?’

The answer is, of course, that leadership was there – but it is quite deliberately not reported. The fact that our Bishop attended a meeting with the Muslim leaders here and the police, and visited the bereaved families, does not seem to have made it into any of the media reports despite all the journalists present. Yet, when the murders affected the very large Muslim population in our city, and their sense of community is as much religious as it is ethnic, surely it is newsworthy that the leaders of the Christian faith were there, in support.

church-leader-job[1]

In the interests of redressing the balance, I note that Rowan Williams made a statement about the riots in the House of Lords (hotly followed by journalists saying ‘why isn’t he saying anything?’ !!) The Archbish said that seeking explanations is not the same as seeking excuses:

‘Recognising the many positive acts of citizenship that have been seen among young people, local communities, churches and other faith groups, Dr Williams called for a renewal of civic identity and civic solidarity:
“My Lords, I believe that this is a moment which we must seize, a moment where there is sufficient anger at the breakdown of civic solidarity, sufficient awareness of the resources people have in helping and supporting one another, sufficient hope (in spite of everything) of what can be achieved by the governing institutions of this country, including in Your Lordship’s House, to engage creatively with the possibilities that this moment gives us. And I trust, My Lords, that we shall respond with energy to that moment which could be crucial for the long-term future of our country and our society.”‘
http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2011/8/11/ACNS4921

Speakers for Church Action on Poverty, the Children’s Society, Christian urban youth charities, Christian Concern and various assorted bishops and church leaders have all spoken out, saying very similar things: the need to move beyond the ‘blame game’; that removing benefits simply places more pressure on families already struggling to cope; that although there is no excuse for unlawful behaviour, politicians need to look at how to create hope for people; the need to work out more effective ways of combating alienation and destruction. Everyone agrees that there has been a long slow breakdown in the beliefs and values that used to constitute a moral and ethical context for our society, and there are all sorts of ideas on how to address this. Highly individualistic spiritualities and belief systems don’t work at a social level.

All over the country churches and faith groups are fully engaged at grass-roots level with our communities and their needs (yes, I know it’s not only religious groups, it’s secular ones as well, but they have others to speak for them). If this government’s Big
Society idea is ever going to have any reality, then it needs to get behind all those working in these areas, in an effort to bring healing and hope for the future.

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20 thoughts on “WHY DOESN’T THE CHURCH TAKE A LEAD, THEY SAY …

  1. I accept you won’t always be preaching to the converted on the religious/political lead issue. I for one know it is going on. As you say, it doesn’t interest the media unless there’s a polemic to be made out of it, like Cameron publicly disagreeing with statements made by the Archbishop of Canterbury that Cameron is uncomfortable with, and telling him not to interfere in social politics -ha! It is not just the C of E in this arena, though, being representative of English (UK) Christianity, it is of course, the lead voice.

    There are times when quiet diplomacy is relevant, there are other occasions when a noise ought to be made.

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      1. People cry out for good news stories but, it is clear they want them occasionally, mostly interspersed with plenty of the polemic, the prurient and the crises of global and local life.

        Too much honey can induce sweet sickness.

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  2. Excellent post! The media reaches into all our homes, what they choose to report or not to report reflects a picture of our society back to us. If it is partial or misinformed then we build up a very strange picture of the society we live in. I think because there is so much ‘news’, several times every day and a rolling news channel no-one can really assimilate what is happening. Certain prejudices are accepted without thinking, that no-one wants to hear about the church. So we’re not going to mention it.
    I think News Corporations hold over our politicians and policemen is a threat to democracy. I think on this occasion you were referring to the Media more widely.

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    1. A lot of people don’t want to hear about the church, you’re right, Liz. On the other hand, people are fearful of interreligious bad feeling, and it’s important that the media take responsibility for what they print and don’t print. It can make all the difference to the way a mixed community like ours feels about each other!

      Thanks for you comment. I agree, too much news washes over us in the end … we can’t take it all on board.

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  3. I wholeheartedly agree with you and Janet!

    I too am sick to the back teeth with the media in this country. So much so I m beginning to stop watching the news. All they want is blood and guts and hype everything up. Its like christmas an birthdays to them when they can just let the cameras roll with no consideration for the actual people these situations affect….The coverage of Libya at the moment is a good example….A sky reporter keeps saying…can you tell me anything, anything…about what is happening….what she wants is…..yes men are shot and bleeding in the road….here are the pictures…

    I could rant for months !!!xxx

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  4. I think that people just ‘expect’ it of religious leaders..they are ‘expected’ to come round in a time of joy or grief. And, as Bushka says….that don’t sell papers.

    P xx

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    1. You could reasonably say, what are the religious leaders there for, if they’ve got nothing to say ???!!

      The media are wrong – people want to hear good news. We’re all sick to death of only ever getting stuff which either depresses us or is designed to scare us. Grrrr :>

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  5. I dont think religion is to blame as many think it is some people use religion as an exscuse to make trouble just as they use other things. You are right if the only slant on things is a bad one that is how people believe it is. But we should keep open minds on every thing, try one lot of cheese and we hate it try another cheese we like it,just as an example, it is closed minds that cause hate.xx

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  6. I agree with Bushka..Frankly when I heard Blaire’s rubbish, I wanted to throw up!!

    When I saw the coverage of the muslim funeral, I thought to myself, why is it nothing to do with Christian values are ever reported.

    When I was a child, my father never left the house without a paper bag to put any litter in that he might found. I am doing the same now….which is the sort small thing that if everyone did….we could make one heck of a difference.

    It’s time to come together….and also to stop asking who to blame. The mess we are in is because of myriad of things that have gone on for many years. We can’t fix this over night, but we do have to begin somewhere.

    Thank you for an excellent post Gilly.x

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    1. Well now you know … there is a very determined attitude in the press to brief against Christianity and the church as much as possible, when they can’t ignore us … no good moaning about it, but sometimes it is important to stand up and ask why. Meanwhile I am totally with you, Janet: we all need to do what we can.

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  7. An excellent post…:yes: The sort of subject that does NOT get reported…ostensibly because it DOES NOT SELL PAPERS! Blair’s rubbish in the Observer DOES! xxx

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