Monday, December 05, 2016

Simple Gospel?

"So few parsons are really trained in the use of words ... The result is that when the trained writer restates an old dogma in a new form of words, the reader mistakes it for a bright new idea of the writer’s own. I spend half my time and a lot of stamps telling people that I have not been giving them a fancy doctrine of my own ... Typical of this is a woman who writes to say: ‘I can’t agree with you that Christ is the same person as God the Creator’. One can only say: ‘It isn’t a question of agreeing with me. I have expressed no opinion. That is the opinion of the official Church, which you will find plainly stated in the Nicene Creed, whether or not you and I agree with it.’"

She considered the teaching and preaching of the Church inadequate. The result was that people were bewildered and ‘in a nightmare of muddle out of which [they] have to be hauled by passing detective novelists in a hurry and with no proper tackle’. Preachers will not define terms or say what the doctrine is. 

In September she was invited to attend a meeting of clerics and laity at the B.B.C., ‘who were trying to work out plans for some sort of "call to religion" with musical and dramatic accompaniments’. She was not enamoured of what she called ‘propaganda art-forms’ and considered that it would be better to begin by making a work of art for its own sake and let the moral emerge from it, not the other way round. She came away from the meeting very depressed. To Canon Cockin, a member of the committee, she wrote, ‘It sent me out in a mood for a stiff gin-and-tonic and the robust company of my heathen friends.’ She wrote at length about it to Father Kelly: 

"The wretched pacifist question boiled up at once, and these people always contrive to put one into an awkward position, as though one was completely corrupted by Caesar, while they sit loftily on the Mount with Christ and Mr Gandhi. And the clergy, who were not pacifist, but showed a great reluctance to fight the issue, all seemed disposed to believe that it was the chief business of the Church to advocate socialism and economic reform. It’s so easy to say ‘Let’s have the simple Gospel and consider what Christ would have done.’ But what is the ‘simple Gospel? And whatever Christ ‘would have done’, there’s one thing He would have resolutely refused to do, viz. to sit on committees and argue about politics ... Perhaps the people who sit on B.B.C. committees are the wrong kind of clergymen. They don’t seem to be able to keep the Law and the Gospel distinct in their minds. 

"They all made me feel very gloomy, including the Socialist parsons, who all seem to think that the difficulties of labour will be smoothed away by getting wages right, never mind what happens to the work. I tried to suggest to them (along the lines of the little section on Work in ‘Creed or Chaos?’) that it was necessary, along with the wages question, to get a right attitude to the work. They thought this very novel and constructive ... which shows how hopelessly we have all got wound up into the ‘economic theory’ of society." 

They babbled, she went on, about European Federation, which in her opinion is no more likely to work than the League of Nations or the temporal sovereignty of Rome. The one Federation that does work — i.e. the British Commonwealth — they have no use for.’ [Interesting in the light of the recent Brexit vote...!]

From Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul,  by Barbara Reynolds
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