Turn on, boot on, jack in: time for a reboot

Posted by Edward Green  ·  Be the first to comment

So said Timothy Leary re-working his LSD influenced "Turn on, tune in, drop out" for the 90's onwards. Edward Green explores the complex relationship between Church and culture in the light of Holy Week.

When it comes to Bishop's there are few as 'Jacked In' as Alan Wilson, who blogs, tweets and speaks on social media. If the Church of England had a cyberdelic subculture then Bishop Alan could be its figurehead. Which is why his article for the Guardian Comment is Free Belief pages is so interesting – "The Church of England needs a reboot, not a rebrand."

copyright 'lurdz' (Creative Commons)

There is much to agree with here. Continuity with history, be it the parish system, the Anglican Communion, or establishment has much to commend it, but just like an old computer there comes a point when a full hard drive format and clean installation is needed. The question then is do we start rifling through draws looking for the master install disk? Could we agree on what the master install disk is? I suspect that is what Charismatics, Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals and Liberals are all already trying to do.

Bishop Alan explains, "A new social and moral consensus has emerged. It is broadly Christian in the sense of "inspired by the teaching of Jesus" but disconnected from the institutional church. This moral shift makes irrelevant the conventional language of high, low and broad; conservatives and liberals; traditionalists and revisionists; mods and rockers. The real fault line now in the church is between those of all stripes who are at home with social change, and whose Jesus inspires them to find ways of living authentic lives in this culture; and those who fear it, and whose religion is a way to prevent it, or even reverse it."

History makes me suspicious of moral shifts, I have had a few my-self in several directions in the last 36 years, society moves at a slower pace, but it is highly possible that society will move in a more conservative direction over the next 20 years. Even more liberal Christians are not always aware of the recreational morality of contemporary culture that rests alongside moral social awareness. I hope that Christianity can offer a radical path through the culture-wars, pro-creational marriage that means more than biology, a respect of human life that precedes any particular point of development but recognises the difficult pastoral issues at stake, seeing sex as uniquely precious and valuable with a divine aim that we all fall short from.

A new social and moral consensus has emerged. It is broadly Christian in the sense of "inspired by the teaching of Jesus" but disconnected from the institutional church. Bishop Alan Wilson

Yet to read a bishop on culture is brilliant, especially one engaged in the real pastoral challenges of parish and diocesan ministry. For those of us attracted to counter-cultures in various forms I am unsure how his thoughts relate. Is it lowest common denominator culture? Does the broadly Anglo-Catholic, BCP based, Goth Eucharist at Greenbelt represent authentic lives within culture, or is it in opposition to it? Part of the tension within fresh expressions is the mosaic of culture in which we live and to what extent we engage with individual tiles of that picture to the exclusion of other parts of the image. In contrast the idealised parish model offers shared faith in local community, which may be part of an on-going cultural shift but still struggles in our commuter culture.

Whereas Church-going used to be culturally normative, today I am unsure if it is any less counter-cultural than being mod, rocker, rivet-head, crustie, vintage, greebo or goth. Even those parts of the church laced with middle class aspirations, be they country parish or urban Alpha course are not normal. If there are two types of people in the world then it is divided into to those who desire to be normal and those who don't, and Christians get a free pass into the latter category. Authentic Christianity may not be counter cultural as some have understood it but it is certainly sub-cultural. Christianity does not reboot to OSX, Windows, even Linux, but probably something far more obscure like AmigaOS.

The Passion we remember this week emphasises this difference. Christ engaged in the culture by offering a radical reinterpretation of it – The Crucified Messiah who offers his own Body and Blood.

First published on Future Shape of Church

2nd April

April 2nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Edward Green

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