This morning, the following snippet of news from Ecumenical News International:
Karchi-born bishop warns, Britons must identify with Christian
Canterbury, England (ENI). A senior bishop in the (Anglican)
Church of England has warned that Britain could return to a “kind
of barbarism” if the decline that Christianity is facing
continues. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali,
in a newspaper interview described Islam as the biggest threat
facing the West since communism and called on British Prime
Minister Tony Blair to stop being embarrassed to identify with
the country’s Christian roots. [ENI-07-0125]
There’s a hankering there for a time long past when Christianity ruled the roost – both a denial that Christendom is finished, if not in intensive care, yet a recognition, an admission of that fact. So the conservative battle-cry, becoming shriller: “Fight the war, the barbarians are coming!”
There it is in the Bible – the Joshua story of domination by force, the armour metaphor of St Paul in Ephesians 6:10 ff – easy enough to link “fighting against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age” with an “axis of evil” in this world.
The reality is that most religions have texts that are either metaphorical, and were never intended for such ideological propaganda, or texts which are inapplicable within our cultural context. But we seem to love a fight!
Religious pluralism in our time need not be a threat, but an opportunity to live out the real gospel imperative to love our neighbour, to see in the Gospels, perhaps for the first time, a Jesus who embraces the one who is “other”, not to crush her into an ideological cage, but to set her free to be more truly human, open also to love the other. This is the kind of conversion God yearns.