George Pitcher, writing in today's Telegraph, wades in on the Bishop of Rochester's article in the new political magazine, Standpoint. Pitcher, acknowledges that the Bishop makes some very good points in an articulate fashion, but doesn't quite understand what solution the Bishop is offering.
So Bishop Nazir-Ali is to be applauded for pointing fingers and naming names. Where we need to be more circumspect is in examining his proposed solutions to this mess. A sweeping summary of his thesis would be that we need to rediscover our Judaeo-Christian heritage and self-confidence and, in doing that, we need to evangelise those of other faiths and none.
Well, yes - that is partly it.
There be dragons, as medieval cartographers once wrote, because there is danger in Bishop Nazir-Ali unwittingly adopting the disciplines of commercial marketing, in which Christianity is a "brand" which has to expand its "market share" in order to dominate its market. Faith systems should not so much be in competition as in co-operation. The official response from the Church to the bishop's weekend comments spoke of the many "paths to God".
Er, no - that's baloney. Using the post-modern jargon of the market to categorise faith is wrong for a very simple reason. They are not "selling" anything in the conventional sense. But where Pitcher is completely wrong is suggesting that faith systems should be "co-operating". That is exactly what the CofE has got so wrong over the past few decades and exactly why one should take the Church's official response and chuck it in the appropriate recycling container.
This may sound namby-pamby to those who long for a national return to a more muscular Christianity, but does at least acknowledge honestly that today's pluralism has replaced yesterday's Christendom.
Yes, it is namby-pamby. Pitcher seems to forget that "yesterday's Christendom" replaced the day before yesterdays pluralism - a pluralism which coincided with a time of moral collapse and the disintegration of an established civilisation. Or was it a coincidence?
The fact is, you can invoke St Paul and the early Church and Christ's injunctions to "make disciples of every nation", but to fail to recognise that we live in an entirely different world than two millennia ago, a world that is presumably as much one of God's creations as the one in which Paul lived, is to be intellectually indolent.
Pitcher is falling into the age old trap of assuming that we, today, are so much different from people two thousand years ago. We're not. Yes, we live in a very different world, but people still want the same things they wanted 2 millenia ago - peace, security and reassurance. Reassurance that their lives have meaning and are not just a pointless drift between birth and death. The world may have changed but the fundamental needs of people have not - and it is people we are talking about, not things. Not material satisfaction - spiritual satisfaction.
If the bishop is simply offering a version of John Major's matrons cycling to evensong, then we should move on. Similarly, if he is simply bent on getting people back into church, to sing 19th-century hymns or sentimental little hand-waving songs, then he is the irrelevant churchman of caricature.
So speaks someone who completely fails to understand the point of religion. The Bishop is no doubt keen to see an increase in church attendance and I personally enjoy singing those nineteenth century hymns which lift the spirit so appealingly (try it if you don't already), but the Bishop is not calling for that. Religion is about belief - partly about belief in a never seen deity - but mostly in belief in the human spirit, the soul. It is a belief that one does not have to give in to every temptation to live a rewarding life style. A belief that there is more to life than the latest BMW on the drive, a couple of foreign holidays a year and a 42" plasma TV on your wall.
Those things might give people a warm fuzzy feeling for a short while, but the feeling soon diminishes. Religion gives you a satisfaction which no amount of material possessions can and more and more people are discovering that. But when they do, they invariably turn to religions that offer certainty and strength - not namby-pamby co-operation or wishy washy pluralism. Nazir-Ali knows this and knows that Islam is very much a faith of certainty whereas Anglicanism - as it is now - isn't.
The Bishop's article was written for everyone, but it's real target was the establishment of the CofE. The liberal leaders of the Church who have failed to defend the very faith they are charged with defending. The Bishop also very cleverly hit the nail on the head when he referred to women "having a greater role in familial piety" before the sixties.
The role of women in religion can not be overstated and women are converting to Islam in significant numbers even though Islam is contrary to just about every hard fought "right" that women have acquired since the sixties. Why? Because women more than men are attracted by a strong certain faith. The Bishop knows this and knows that the battle for Britain's future as either a Judeo-Christian society or an Islamic one is dependant on winning the appeal to women.
Women, whatever the feminists might tell you, are and always have been the drivers of society because society is based on family and women make families work. They are the ones who determine how a family develops. Women have always had the real power over the future - the power to determine future society. Whoever wins that battle will determine Britain's future society. Where would you put your money right now?