I came across this interesting article at Foxnews.com: Church of England: Government Favors Islam. I followed an external link to the Timesonline where the headline in my post title is derived from: Church Attacks Labour for Betraying Christians.
I’ll disregard the foxnews story since it is little more than a summary and skip directly ahead to the Timesonline story which is more detailed. The story centers around a 180 page report commissioned for the Church of England. In the report the Church of England has, evidently, “accuses the Government of discriminating against the Christian Churches in favour of other faiths, including Islam.”
There’s a lot more to this report than that, and while I’d love to comment on it all I will limit myself to a couple of remarks.
First, should anyone be surprised? I mean seriously. We go through this all the time. Kathy Griffen makes vulgar comments about Jesus and the church gets upset. Dana Jacobson from ESPN makes vulgar comments about Jesus and the church gets upset. When are Christians going to figure out: The world does not care about the church! Why do Christians not understand that we are expendable? We are beside the point. Irrelevant. The story reports:
The authors find evidence of deep-seated hostility to the Church in particular, excluding it from important areas of policy and research – despite Mr Blair being one of the most devout prime ministers of the past century. They portray a Government committed to research into Muslim communities but barely interested in Christian involvement in Britain’s civic and charitable life.
Duh! Why should the church be surprised? Why should they be upset? Why do they think this is a terribly bad thing? Here’s what Jesus said. First, Matthew 24:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
Second, John 15:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
I’m not saying the church should go around courting the hatred of people in order to feel better about themselves. I am saying that it should come as not surprise when the world does hate us.
Secondly, I would say this: Why is the Church of England so eager to work with the government? This is a serious, serious misjudgment on the part of the church. Says the story:
They set out recommendations designed to put the Church back at the heart of social and welfare provision, for funds to research the role of “theology” and “spirituality” as motivations in charity organisations and for the archbishops of Canterbury and York to set up a “Anglican Philanthropy Fund” to cash in on a new generation of potential donors.
A related story has this headline: Ignored and Spurned, the Church has lost its Faith–in Government. The question is, why did they have their faith in government to begin with? I’m not being naive about this, but rather making the clear point that NT Wright has made over and over again: If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not. The government does not serve the interests of the church, but the people. (On a side note, this is why I believe that so-called ‘faith based initiatives’ in the USA are profoundly egregious in nature and should be done away with or at least spurned entirely by the Church.)
I wonder if that last sentence means anything: “…for the archbishops of Canterbury and York to set up a ‘Anglican Philanthropy Fund” to cash in on a new generation of potential donors.” Here I see what may be the heart of the problem: Cashing in. Please tell me when the church became about cashing in? I know these are the words of the reporter, but please. If there’s even the slightest hint of the church wanting to ‘cash in’ then of course there is something seriously wrong–with the church.
It sounds to me, and I could be wrong, like the church is not so much interested in investing the government with Christianity, that is Christians being salt and light in a hostile environment, as much as it is interested in the government investing the church with a menu of social-services type activities. It sounds to me like the Church of England is just a wee bit jealous that they are being neglected.
It’s easy to sit back an criticise from afar. I don’t happen to be British and I don’t happen to be a member of the Church of England. Nevertheless, I see difficulties here in this line of thinking by the church. And please do not misunderstand me: I am not saying the church should have nothing to do with the operation of government. Nevertheless, I think this happens individually and vocationally not institutionally and cooperatively. The Church must maintain its distinction as a culture of itself, a counter-culture if you will. I see danger when there are two lords in the church and it makes no difference if it is Jesus and a megalomaniac preacher, or Jesus and Caesar. Wright is right: There is only room for one in the church.
ps–Isn’t it rather obvious why the government would be so eager to court Islam and disregard the Church? When the church feels neglected, it commissions reports. When Muslims get upset…well. Frankly, the governments of this world fear the wrong religion. Usually, we acquiesce to that which we fear the most.