Monday, November 25, 2013

Church Of England Faces Extinction, Says Former Archbishop Of Canterbury Lord George Carey

We are one generation away from extinction and if we do not invest in young people there is going to be no one in the future, Lord Carey said one week ago today.

"Extinction" is an imprecise and overly melodramatic term when used in this context. Extinction refers to the literal, physical death of organisms. One of the things I dislike most intensely about Christian theologians is this tendency toward imprecision and wild exaggeration in their language -- when, that is, they're not outright lying or talking gibberish. If 12 pimply-faced young boys who used to comprise a model-airplane-building club have ceased to attend the meetings of that club, so that the club has ceased to be, no extinction has therewith occurred. It may well be that all 12 of the boys are, in fact, still alive. There may, in fact, be still more good news: perhaps some of the boys' faces have cleared up, perhaps some of them have gotten girlfriends, perhaps all of them now are socializing in wider circles, so that the fact that there is now no longer a model-airplane-building club might actually have to be considered, by all 12 boys and almost any outside observer, to be a very good thing, all in all. Not that there's anything wrong with model airplanes per se, of course. A man such as myself, with my passionate interest in pocket watches, would of course be on rather thin ice were he to suggest that there were anything wrong with model airplanes per se.

But my hypothetical example involves only 12 people. According to the linked article, the Anglican church has 85 million members worldwide. There are perhaps 100,000 sea otters living in the world today, perhaps 4000 black rhinos, most of them in captivity, only a few hundred Siberian tigers, perhaps 4000 or 5000 snow leopards. Throwing around terms like "extinction" in reference to a group of 85 million people would be insulting to all of those animals even if it actually were the people themselves which were meant, even if living, breathing organisms were meant.

I can already hear the theologians responding: "Oh, but a denomination IS a living, breathing organism!" Oh, but it's not! And no matter how many times you repeat yourselves, a denomination will still not be a living thing, and no matter how many other people you eventually wear down, so that finally they say, "Okay, okay, the Church of England (or the Methodist Church or Sikhism or what have you) is a living, breathing organism!" just so that they can politely be done talking to you and stagger away, desperately searching for some sensible person somewhere to talk to about something sans gibberish -- no matter how many others you wear down, you smug infuriating pustules, you will not ever get me to say that a denomination is a living thing or that 2 and 2 are 5 or that we are one in the Grace of the Body of Christ, fuck you and your tiresome boring voodoo, you evil impediments to the progress and well-being of this Earth!

Dixit Carey: "To sit in a cold church, looking at the back of people’s heads, is perhaps not considered the most exciting place to meet new people and hear prophetic words." Do you really think that the problem has more to do with the heating in churches and with the backs of people's heads than with things such as your concept of prophecy? When the Church of England began, it was, in Ricky Gervais' words, a matter of "cake or death" : English men and women were offered the choice of swallowing a piece of cake and a slurp of wine and sitting quietly while men like you blathered on and on about things like "prophetic words" -- or being imprisoned, tortured and then burned alive. And so, not really surprisingly, most said, "Uh... I believe I'll have the cake, please. Thank you very much. And yes, I'll just sit here quietly until you're done speaking, Lord Reverend" or whatever the title happened to be at the specific place and time.

But you can't get away with torturing and killing people over religious differences any more, not in England at least, and so, horribly to your traditional soul, people are free to stand up and say things like, "'Prophetic words'?! Pull the other one, Guv!" and walk out on you, and even to point out that your use of terms like "extinction" is imprecise, overly-melodramatic, self-serving, self-pitying and all-round ridiculous. People who are REALLY concerned about actual extinction are working on things like AIDS research and combating poaching and volunteering in disaster areas and boy o boy do you look petty and small and yet still like an enormous waste of time and resources compared to them.

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