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Left is Right and Right is Left

9 July 2008

I have long believed that theological liberalism is linked to political conservatism and vice versa. A few months ago I mentioned this in a blog post Notes from underground: Anglican introversion, and the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) held recently seems to bear it out.

Anglicans in the West who regard themselves (and are regarded by others) as “liberal” have suddenly begun embracing traditionally right-wing attitudes and causes like being patronising to blacks, and advocating neocolonialism, because the uppity blacks in the Global South, after decades of being told what to do and think by Western whites who presume they know better, have suddenly turned around and are criticising the behaviour and attitudes of the western whites. It is not just Anglican introversion, but Anglican inversion — inverting the understandings and expectations of what and who are “liberal” and “conservative”.

As one commentator puts it: TitusOneNine – Brian Turley: The Meaning of the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration:

GAFCON was a uniquely global experience. During my week in Jerusalem as I served as a delegate or “pilgrim” to the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), I often reflected on Jenkins’ analysis. Individuals whose skin is darker than mine dominated every meeting, every worship service, and every foray into the Israeli countryside. Organized and orchestrated primarily by Christian leaders representing third-world Anglican Provinces, the conference and its place in history should not be underestimated by revisionist or orthodox Christians. The nearly 300 bishops representing 25 nations who turned out for the gathering oversee more than half the Communion’s adherents and perhaps more than 2/3rds the active Communion. Much more than a demonstration of support for orthodox Anglicans in North America, GAFCON is emblematic of a Global South Christianity come of age.

Or, as another commentator puts it: Midwest Conservative Journal:

I think the reason people like Tom Wright and Rowan Williams are so critical of GAFCON, so suddenly zealous for England’s ‘context,’ is that they realize something. In the Anglican Christian world, the West no longer matters much if at all.

At first sight it may seem strange to see a “conservative” commentator adopting a liberal attitude towards neocolonialism, but it shouldn’t be, because of what I have observed — that theological conservatism often leads to political liberalism.

And perhaps this can throw some light on another discussion — about the relationship between postmodernity, postcolonialism and the “Emerging Church”. From the above it would appear that Tom Wright (the darling of many in the emerging church movement) is not on the postcolonial side.

Or perhaps it throws everything into even greater confusion.

What do we mean by all this terminology like left, right, liberal, conservative? It’s a bit like the infamous Tmatt-trio, three questions, which, it is claimed, will show whether one is on the “left” or the “right” of the theological spectrum. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell us which answers correspond to “left” and which to “right”. It’s a bit like a fuel gauge in a motor vehicle where you have no idea which side means full and which empty.

So we have a kind of Orwellian situation, where left is right and right is left, and no one seems to know which way is up.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 October 2012 11:58 am

    Having worked in BBC TV News I am horrified at the questions from Terry Mattingly (tmatt trio). Not that he asked them, but that he considers them journalistic in any way!

    Journalism answers the five Ws: Who is it about? What happened? When did it take place? Where did it take place?
    Why did it happen? Journalists should take a neutral position and elucidate answers from the interviewee to allow the audience to make up their own decisions.

    We were always taught to ask ‘open’ questions not ‘closed’ questions. Closed questions can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – they are always bad journalism. We had a training exercise once where the interviewer asked closed questions and the interviewee answered simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in each instance. It showed how you learnt almost nothing and it was very boring, though almost amusing in its naïveté. ALL five questions are closed questions.

    Secondly four of the five are related to theology and the last to sin management. Sin management is one of the big problems facing the church in the 21st century I believe. By that I mean, we have become works oriented, worse we have become observable works oriented. We measure a person not by their direction and relationships but by their works. This, I believe, is one of the problems Jesus had with the pharisees.

    Now I realise that you can know people by their works, but what about loads of other sins? How about the sin of pride? Would another ‘question 3’ phrased as ‘Is pride inside of the church a sin?’ be any different?

    • 3 October 2012 7:13 pm

      I think questions used to elicit information for news stories are rather different from questions used to classify opinions. I think the “Tmatt-trio” belong to the latter category, so I don’t mind if they are “closed”, but the problem is that Mattingly does not tell us which answers correspond to which classification.

      For journalistic questions for information, or when writing a news story, Kiplings serving men will do:

      I KEEP six honest serving-men
      (They taught me all I knew);
      Their names are What and Why and When
      And How and Where and Who.

      And in checking a news story before publication, one can ask:

      Does it tell us

      – what happened
      – why it happened
      – when it happened
      – how it happened
      – where it happened
      – who it happened to (or who was responsible for making it happen)?

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