Saturday, September 22, 2007
Guardian's religion reporter says farewell, faith shaken.
Stephen Bates, who has covered religion for the British Guardian newspaper since 2000, files his last column — on the tense meeting in New Orleans between the bishops of the American Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury — and announces that he's leaving religion reporting altogether. He has especially sharp words for ecclesiastical conservatives:
There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians. For the good of my soul, I need to do something else.
I had no notion in 2000 that it would come to this: I had thought then that we were all pretty ecumenical these days. I was soon disabused of that. I had scarcely ever met a gay person, certainly not knowingly a gay Christian, and had not given homosexuality and the Church the most cursory thought, much less held an opinion on the matter. But watching and reporting the way gays were referred to, casually, smugly, hypocritically; the way men such as Jeffrey John (and indeed Rowan Williams when he was appointed archbishop) were treated and often lied about, offended my doubtless inadequate sense of justice and humanity. . . .
No, it's not evangelicalism, or evangelicals, I loathe, merely some of the practitioners who have made such a spectacle and scandal of the Church in recent years. They are by no means the majority, though they would like to pretend they are and presume to speak for all the rest.
They are the sort of people who claim themselves so superior to their bishops that they won't allow them to touch them for ordination, or who would not allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to preach from their pulpits (they should be so lucky) for fear that he might dangerously challenge the comfortable beliefs of their flocks, the sort of people who pick and choose the sins that are acceptable and condemn those — always committed by other, lesser people — that are not. Why is remarrying divorced people now OK — allowing them to continue fornicating — but not recognising the lifelong commitment of gay people to each other? Why does the Bishop of Carlisle happily bless nuclear submarines and, for all I know, dogs and cats, but not the unions of people who wish to demonstrate their devotion to each other for ever?
The trouble with these people, my wife always says, is that they don't read their Bibles, for they know nothing of charity. I think she's right and I am in mortal danger of losing mine. It's time to move on.
Bates will be replaced by Riazat Butt, the first Muslim to cover the religion beat for a British national newspaper.
Related: An American religion reporter left the beat in Orange County, California, earlier this year when he realized that covering the bad news of organized religion had undermined his born-again faith.
("Williams escapes bishops' poison to see church at work in New Orleans," Stephen Bates, The Guardian 9.22.07; "Sketch: preparing for the Anglican summit," Stephen Bates, Religious Intelligence 9.21.07; "Religion beat became a test of faith," William Lobdell, Los Angeles Times 7.21.07)
Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 22 September 2007 at 3:08 PM