Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Alan and Usha - The Latest

The story of Alan, the fictional Vicar of Ambridge in the BBC Radio production the Archers, and his fiancee, Usha, has seen some developments. A report about their intended marriage has appeared in the local paper much to their distress. Now it is a time for recriminations as they try to work out who has said what to the local paper. Interestingly, the script-writers have all the main characters in the drama supporting the marriage. The general line is: this is the 21st century so what's the problem?

I imagine in real life, as opposed to the fictional one of Ambridge, most people would feel the same. So why do I still feel uneasy about the idea? One possibility is that I when I first became a Christian as a teenager, I was told that Christians should not go out with non-Christians. 2 Corinthians 6:14 was often quoted:

'Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?'

Of course in the Old Testament the people of God are strictly forbidden from marrying people of different faiths and nations.

This all sits uneasily in the current cultural climate both in and out of the Church. Usha is, after all, an intelligent, genuine, caring, and likeable person. Why should the fact she is a Hindu be a problem?

Well, it's for everyone to work out for themselves, but at the bottom of why people don't think it's a problem is the belief that ultimately all religions are valid and that there is nothing unique about Christianity. On this view, what Jesus should have said is, 'I am a way ...' and not, 'I am the way ...' I would suggest that if you are one of the few who still believe that Jesus is the way, then no matter how nice and charming Usha may be, there are certainly problems with the Vicar marrying her. Hard though that might seem.

Anyway, I print below the Press Report as it is meant to have appeared in the local paper. This is taken from the Archers' web-site!

Devoted To You

Ambridge split over inter-faith marriage plan

This quiet rural community has been rocked by the news that its vicar, the Reverend Alan Franks, has become engaged to marry his lover, Asian lawyer Usha Gupta.

While neither the Church nor the Parochial Church Council would condemn the engagement, there is a substantial degree of unrest among parishioners, both in public and behind closed doors.

A member of the pastoral team revealed that, in the early stages of the controversial relationship, the diocese received written complaints, believed to be from within in the parish, including at least one anonymous letter.

While there appears to be a degree of support from non-churchgoers over the love which brought Bombay to Borsetshire, members of the congregation expressed great unease about the proposed match:

"I've nothing against them personally", said one. "If they want to have a relationship, fine. But as for them getting married, it just doesn't seem right to me. I don't think it's appropriate for him to marry someone from another faith. Alan's supposed to be our spiritual leader. It's his job to help us re-affirm our Christian beliefs"

Anonymous parishioners agree that by marrying a Hindu, the passionate parson is setting a bad example: "Even if Usha comes to church - which she hasn't done much so far - she's not a Christian and she's not confirmed, so she can't take holy communion. There's few enough regular communicants as it is. It's hardly going to help fill the church, is it?"

The Echo asked the couple for their view of embarking on a mixed-faith marriage in a small, rural community. Ms Gupta, a partner in the Felpersham firm of Jefferson Crabtree, was unavailable for comment and Rev Franks remained tight-lipped:

"Our marriage plans are a part of our private life, and we'd rather not have them made public", he said.

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