Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shambolic and Orwellian

The Most Revd Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminister should work harder at his metaphors. In an ill tempered and mis-judged Christmas address, he attacked the government's plans for legislating on 'gay marriage' as both shambolic and Orwellian. I think he should go back to '1984' - the whole point of Orwellian space is that it is so constructed and ordered that even apparent freedom is finally illusory. Nothing about it is shambolic.

Perhaps he meant that the outer shambolic nature of the government's actions was a cunning front hiding steely Orwellian machinations - in which case he grants the coalition government more competence and cunning than anyone else imagines. David Cameron as O'Brien...the Archbishop should definitely get out more...

But, more seriously, the Archbishop's message demonstrates the continuing displacement of religion in contemporary culture. This is not because according to polls the Archbishop is in the minority when it comes to opposing gay marriage but because he chooses a negative message at a time when the Church has a wide open space, increasingly rare, to say something arrestingly positive and have it heard by a wider audience than usual (when even the media can be persuaded, if briefly, to focus on something heart warming and affirmative).

Underlying this lurch towards defining oneself by what one is against is a sense of a negative identity - we are 'this' because we are not 'that' - a crippling lack of self-confidence, as if the Church was losing the sense of its own witness! That would be a sad moment indeed...

On the subject of marriage - it will not be the first time this complex human good has withstood challenging times - and re-emerged transformed (for good or ill) - it after all survived St Paul and literalist interpretations of the imminence of the world's end...

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