One thing that happened over the summer was the marriage of Alan, the fictional Vicar of Ambridge, to Usha, a local lawyer, in the BBC radio drama the Archers. Actually, they had two marriages, or at least, two services. The first a Hindu ceremony, the second the Church of England version. What little opposition there had been in the village to the union melted away being exposed as bigotry and racism. Everyone, well nearly everyone, was really happy for them. As a member of my congregation said, the script shows us how the script writers would like us to see things. It conveys accurately the values, if not of a real village, then at least of influential people in the media and society.
There is undoubtedly a view, a view in the Church as well as the world, which would see any resistance to the idea that it is alright for a Vicar to marry a Hindu as the reaction of misguided fundamentalists. Alan may be fictitious, but he is alive and well in pulpits all over the globe. The view is steadily gaining ground that what matters most is to be spiritual and that how you express that spirituality is less important than that you do. Christians can be Christians, Hindus can be Hindus, and the only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance of our opinion.
We are back to a theme from yesterday: tolerance, but on certain terms and conditions. It isn't real tolerance at all, of course, but a new form of bigotry masquerading as openness. A real wolf in sheep's clothing if ever there was one.
The truth is, of course, that if Alan and the non-fiction versions of him really believe the Creeds they recite in their churches Sunday by Sunday then by definition all religions cannot be equally valid. This does not mean that we shouldn't listen to one another and try to understand one another. It does mean that we shouldn't pretend we are all saying essentially the same thing.
We are not.
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