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Saturday 11 June 2011

Get out of the play-pits.

Frank Field MP speaking at Chester Diocesan Synod
Get out the play-pits and engage with a society that's becoming more pagan by the day. That was the gist of Frank Field's hope for the Church of England offered as a concluding remark in his address to Chester Diocesan Synod today. The Birkehead MP was speaking on his report on Poverty and Life Chances (Report available here) to the synod gathered in Northwich Memorial Hall. At the Q&A session concluding his remarks he was asked for a parting comment on the Church of England. Forthright and concise as ever, he challenged the church to be less concerned with itself and more concerned with wider society. He suggested that the debate about ordination of women as bishops was to most people immaterial, and that like many other things that occupied a great deal of church thinking and effort diverted attention from crucial social issues. I think that thought has been expressed often enough but what struck me as especially challenging was that Field went on to link it to what he termed an increasingly pagan society. 

If I understood aright what he was saying I think he meant that behaviour and values are becoming increasingly separated from any inherited faith. What is being created by that separation isn't a secular society where values and the behaviour that stems from them are guided by non-religious but philanthropic ideals rooted in the common good, but an altogether more chaotic and brutish disregard for civility. The old pagan gods of tribalism, boorishness, and ignorance are re-establishing themselves. I took his words to be a call to mission.  Interesting that it should be put so starkly by a politician.

I'm sure many would want to argue with the expression 'a society becoming pagan,' but nevertheless the fact that a serious and much respected social thinker puts it in such stark terms should prod every Christian into some sharp self-criticism. Is it too much to suggest the demise of the Christian collective memory of faith may destroy our very way of life?

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