Simon Barrow on Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Blinkered Bishop

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To those who live outside the bubble of Daily Mail "why oh why" anxiety about a nation going to the dogs, the latest remarks from the Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, will probably seem little more than the fulminations of an irate cleric who didn't succeed in his candidature for Canterbury. But there's rather more to it than that.

Nazir-Ali is not, as some of his critics will want to claim, a stupid or bigoted man. He is, rather, a representative of a whole swath of opinion (some of it militantly Christian and some of it agnostic but conservative) that finds itself up a cultural cul-de-sac and cannot think of anywhere to go but backwards - towards an imagined society of stability and order based on allegedly Judeo-Christian values.

Much like the idea that churches used to be full to the brim in the Victorian era, a popular misconception punctured by the research of Professor Robin Gill and others, this notion holds little water. The era of Christendom in Europe, one where institutional religion found a secure and privileged place in the social order in exchange for pronouncing its blessing on governing authority, is coming to an end. For many of us, Christians included, that is a sign of hope not despair.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

Posted May 30, 2008 at 8:21 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Br. Michael wrote:

It is thinking like Barrows that will make Britain an Islamic state.

May 30, 9:05 am | [comment link]
2. azusa wrote:

#1: Agreed, the young man doesn’t get it, at the most basic level. Less than 10% of any UK children have any connection with the church. 200k abortions a year, human-animal embryos, next stop euthanasia on demand (wildly popular among the de-christianized young), pervasive fear of offending Muslims ruling public policy - and his own liberal church withering each year. So little does he understand or see.

May 30, 9:30 am | [comment link]
3. Lumen Christie wrote:

Don’t get too exercised.  the Daily Mail is nearly the equivalent of the Enquirer here.

Typical bombast

Read the aticles that Mark Studdock was forced to write for the “N.I.C.E.” in C. S. Lewis’  That Hideous Strength

The people who listen to this sort of stuff will believe anything anyway

May 30, 10:01 am | [comment link]
4. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

Nad the Guardian is far left and liberal leaning..

Article summed up thus:

I went to University dont you know? In my cosy iworld full of nice middle classed lefties - the Bishop sounds like a real rotter!! Boo hiss Rochester!  Does he not understand that we are not affected by the drop in morality! Why at my reading club we use fair trade coffee!!

Look Bish- we lefty graduates feel liberated by the bourguois socialism we endorse. Its a shame that the under class exist with no meaning- fuelled by drugs and booze- but if they would only listen to my arguments on abortion - we could be rid of them. Oh it IS a shme people getting stabbed, drunk etc- but as I never go into sink estates I can ignore that. You see I have a strong social conscience….where are you skiing this year Quentin phnaar ha ha

Sorry that was unfair - oh and when will you realise that these Muslims are just Christians with brown skin. Be nice to them and they will be nice to us.

More champers anyone….

May 30, 10:15 am | [comment link]
5. Terry Tee wrote:

A word to people in the US:  the typical Guardian reader is a member of the Labour Party, now at an all-time low in the opinion polls.  The Conservative leader, David Cameron, is a faithful Anglican who attends a church in Kensington.  Methinks the latter represents more of the future than the tired post-modern bilge of people like Barrows.  Which raises an interesting point:  despite The Gordian’s despair for the UK (see above) is there a divergence in paths between Europe and the US occurring?  In the US you seem about to swing left with Obama.  In France the conservative Sarkozy has been elected, and the UK is currently leaning strongly towards Cameron and the Conservatives.

May 30, 10:30 am | [comment link]
6. BMR+ wrote:

#5, I wouldn’t count Senator Obama’s eggs before they’ve hatched—but in any case, what I would see more in the trends of the U.K., France, and the U.S. (whether by way of Obama or McCain) is a general sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a kind of knee-jerk reactivity that turns toward something “new.” 

Bruce Robison

May 30, 10:38 am | [comment link]
7. Ed the Roman wrote:

At some point, non-political junkies in the US will be apprised that Barack Obama’s first-ever political fund-raiser was held at the home of the man who led the Weather Underground, a group of communist revolutionaries which bombed the Pentagon, the US Capitol, and a military recruiting station, attempted to bomb a dance at an officers’ club, and carried out bank robberies in which several guards and policemen were killed.  This is aside from his taste in churchmen.

I wouldn’t be shocked if he does rather less well in the general election than in Democratic primaries and newspaper editorial board meetings.

May 30, 10:53 am | [comment link]
8. azusa wrote:

Terry Tee, I hope Labor is turfed out of power in the UK, but I don’t hold in many hopes about faithful Anglican David Cameron, any more than I did about erstwhile Anglican now zealous a la carte Catholic Tony Blair, friend of abortion, homosexual marriage, and closing Catholic adoption agencies. The problem is more pervasive - to do with what British Jewish writer Melanie Phillips calls the ‘Gramscian long march through the institutions’, affecting police, broadcasting, education etc with a cultural Marxism, whatever rhetoric the politicians come up.
I agree it’s a restless time throughout the western political world, exacerbated by the growing economic nervousness on many fronts. And I haven’t even mentioned Iran ....

May 30, 11:07 am | [comment link]
9. Creedal Episcopalian wrote:

Barack Obama’s current popularity is due to the fact that he is not Hillary Clinton.

May 30, 11:21 am | [comment link]
10. IchabodKunkleberry wrote:

” ...cannot think of anywhere to go but backwards ...”
If the bishop were truly going “backwards”, he would re-convert to Islam, right ? He would then be going “backwards” in more than one sense of the word.

May 30, 11:38 am | [comment link]
11. A Floridian wrote:

Here’s a little wake up call and a caution for the promotors of interreligious tolerance and inclusivity, esp. about the ficitional ‘Islam - religion of peace’:
The Catholic Cardinal had some firm words for Moslems recently:

May 30, 11:44 am | [comment link]
12. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

One of Barrow’s themes that is accurate is the demise of establishmentarianism, most notably in the UK but in the US as well:

The era of Christendom in Europe, one where institutional religion found a secure and privileged place in the social order in exchange for pronouncing its blessing on governing authority, is coming to an end. For many of us, Christians included, that is a sign of hope not despair. In a bygone era, organised Christianity did indeed play an important role in encouraging education, instilling civic virtue, promoting social reforms and populating great campaigns like the one to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. But it also blessed wars, maintained a hierarchical social order, used its place in public life to serve its own interests, and justified many of the evils that its sons and daughters subsequently struggled against. 

Mr. Barrow’s definition of the “evils that its sons and daughters subsequently struggled against” probably wouldn’t be mine, but a writer like Antony Trollope was already aware of the disconnect in the mid-19th century. Think of the shock caused by the revelation of the the extent of the unchurched population in the Religious Census of 1851, or of Trollope’s portrayal of the loveable yet flawed Archdeacon Grantley of Barchester who so embodies the best and the worst of establishment prejudices.

Church establishment is one of the greatest curses of the secular era and, it has actually been as prevalent within the Episcopal Church as the Church of England, albeit under the guise of being the church of the classes not the masses. So I would say Barrow’s diagnosis of the complaint is fine; it’s his remedy that’s the problem.

He also erroneously sees Bishop Nazir-Ali as a proponent of establishmentarianism, but that’s another matter.

Catholic and Reformed

May 30, 11:53 am | [comment link]
13. RS Bunker wrote:

What we need instead are more churches that can be actively seen as places where hospitality, forgiveness, peacemaking, economic sharing, love of enemies, care for the outsider and restorative justice is going on. These are the gospel’s building blocks for a better society. They come from free participation and cooperation, not the top-down attempt to impose a single ideology.

Gee, I thought the first building block was: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Dt 6:4.

How goes he think churches can be Cristian if they do not preach that Jesus Christ is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIGHT?


May 30, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
14. GSP98 wrote:

#7 Ed, I do hope you’re right. But the ultra-leftist US media always covers for its own. Obama’s sudden criticism of and break with Rev. Wright seems [to any objective person] rather convenient in light of the fact that he was sitting in a pew saying his “amens” to the good Reverends sermons for the last 20 years. Why the sudden change? Did it have something to do with public scrutiny? Naaaaahhh…...
Barack Obama’s associations with questionable characters may well come back to haunt him come election day; but it wont be for lack of effort on the part of the Senators ideological fellow travelers in the US media as they attempt to sweep it all under the rug.

May 30, 3:26 pm | [comment link]
15. Ed the Roman wrote:

Well, GFSP98, matched up against McCain right now, he is losing some of the states that he won the primary in, so I am not panicking.

May 30, 5:59 pm | [comment link]
16. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Jeremy Bonner (#12),

I’m glad you called attention to the part of Barrow’s awful article that deals with the demise of establishment, Christendom religion in the western world.  Diligent readers of T19 (and SF) will know that I frequently harp on how our new pluralistic, secularized, post-Christendom culture necessitates a radical re-thinking of the whole way we do Church.

And Bp. Michael Nazir-Ali is a tremendous sign of hope in that regard.  For as a convert to Christianity from Pakistan, he embodies the fact that an orthodox, mission-minded form of Christianity can flourish, despite a hostile social environment.  It’s happening in the Global South today.  It happened in the pre-Constantinian era long ago.

It can happen in the western world too, by the grace of God.  But it will take truly radical, sweeping, revolutionary changes in the whole way we think and act.  It’s hard to break habits that are 1500 years old.  But break them we must.

David Handy+
Passionate advocate of high commitment, post-Christendom style Anglicanism of a radically sectarian, Christ-against-culture sort.

May 30, 11:36 pm | [comment link]
17. azusa wrote:

Nazir-Ali is not a convert from Islam, but his father was. Bishop Alpha Mohamed of Tanzania is a convert.

May 31, 4:52 am | [comment link]
18. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

The Gordian (#17),

Thanks for setting the record straight.  I stand corrected.  But my real point was that he represents the survival and growth of the Church in a hostile environment.  Moreover, Bp. Nazir-Ali was the head of the CMS for a number of years, directing the outreach of that major evangelical mission agency.  Once a missionary, always a missionary.

David Handy+

May 31, 8:00 am | [comment link]
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