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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Sharing With the Person Next to You's Unwelcome Recovery

Burton Dasset came back from London a little sad last night.

He went along to the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity to hear a talk on "God's Unwelcome Recovery" - about how the media have an inbuilt bias against faith because they are part of a metropolitan elite. And how there's more faith about than people think. Did you know, for instance, that the church-going population of London increased by more or less 100,000 between 2005 and 2012?

Well, Burton didn't until last night. He told me there were quite a lot of statistics - which made him happy - but maybe the evidence was more interesting than compelling. Or, to put it another way, Burton wanted more stats.

He also thought more exploration was needed of some of the loose threads in the argument. For instance, the claim that the State has been trying to sideline religion since the Reformation goes against another argument - that the State is happy to use religion as a tool for control. They can't both be true at the same time.

Likewise, the claim that, contrary to popular belief,  everybody didn't go to church in Reformation times (or why would they pass a law enforcing attendance?) Burton's suggestion is that this was, at least in part, because they were trying to stamp out Catholicism by enforcing conformity.

But still, said Burton, a useful counter to the usual media line and some good stuff on the way the majority of deaths in war and oppression in the last 102 years were caused for strictly non-religious reasons. Think the two World Wars, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Lenin and that Austrian bloke who proves the big outbreaks of death aren't all caused by atheists. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all atheists, given the chance, are homicidal persecuting monsters. All I'm saying is, just be grateful Nick Clegg has never won a parliamentary majority.

But then, the thing that caused all the trouble - and me and half the Beaker Folk to be kept awake all night by the sound of sobbing - happened at the break.

The M.C. or whatever he was, bloke in charge of LICC, suggested everyone share with the person next to them one thing they had taken away from the first session. And the chap next to Burton shared his enthusiasm that the Orthodox and Pentecostal churches that are growing in adherents in this country are bringing light and colour to our cynical little land.

And in return Burton shared how he had been considering that one of the things that marked out Christianity in majority white English churches was the number of women compared to men. And how he had thought church-going might let him meet the special person for him. And instead, every time a new, single woman joined the Beaker Folk, he forgot all the stuff we taught him about small talk and little compliments and attentiveness - and instead started about the stations on the former Varsity Line and the concept of cost versus retail price-based accounting.

Anyway, three hours later he was still bemoaning his lonely life and how he had nobody to share his collection of 1930s beer mats with. They had to turn the lights off to get rid of him. Leaders of church meetings, never ask people to share with the person next to them. Burton Dasset might be there.

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