Bishop Tom Wright: Homelessness is an apt metaphor for our troubled world

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The regular suggestion that baling out countries will lead them to misbehave again won’t work, either. That might be true of some banks and businesses. It isn’t true of countries like Tanzania, who, after debt remission, have experienced the joy of developing education, medicine and other essentials – in fact, of building a new home.

We don’t just need, in other words, to ‘turn the economy round’, and get it back to where it was before. We need to turn it inside out. The Christmas message suggests that it’s time for a major, global rethink about the multiple, interlocking problems we can no longer ignore. And about the many-sided, but essentially coherent, proposals that flow directly from the Baby at Bethlehem, demanding to be worked out at street level.

The God who became homeless at Christmas longs to transform this muddled old world into a place where all can be at home at last. That’s what Jesus taught us to pray for.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomy

Posted December 29, 2008 at 6:34 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Rick in Louisiana wrote:

Homeless? One word - Nazareth.

December 29, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
2. Terry Tee wrote:

I am troubled that Tom Wright has bought into the whole concept of postmodernity.  True, this is not quite the same as postmodernism.  Postmodernity is a description of the world, which says that the great unifying ideas - metanarratives, or master narratives - no longer convince, not even the Enlightenment idea of progress through objective knowledge, science and equality.  Postmodernism is the above commended as an ideal, saying that there is no longer any objective knowledge, no such thing as human nature, simply varying degrees of power relationships reflected in language and ideas.  Postmodernism goes further and says that any master narrative, any claim to overarching knowledge, is oppressive. 

But what are we to make of the bishop when he writes:  The grand narratives that have sustained us and given us hope have broken down. ‘Truth-claims’ disappear into a puff of smoke and a hall of mirrors.  Is he saying this is the way the world sees itself at present?  Or is he saying that this is now a permanent situation, and that we should get used to it and live with it?  It is highly unlikely that he, a stalwart of contemporary evangelism, would be commending this kind of situation.  Yet it sounds dangerously close to it.  I think that this is to give in too easily.  Surely precisely because the world is so fragmented it needs to be given hope through what God does for us, and through what God calls us to be?  Christianity preaches a decisive and sure intervention from God in Jesus Christ, and salvation through that revelation.  This is our faith but it is also our knowledge, our master narrative.  I am quite sure that no Christian in the conventional sense can be a postmodernist.  As regards his controlling metaphor of homelessness, the accompanying comments on the Daily Telegraph website also make interesting reading.  It makes me wonder whether in their scepticism, the people of the West have made themselves spiritually homeless.

Still, he highlights brilliantly the broader question:  How do we preach Jesus Christ in a world which is so fragmented, so dubious of any sure and certain knowledge, so unsure of itself?

December 29, 4:21 pm | [comment link]
3. Sherri2 wrote:

I recently watched a lecture given by Bishop Wright on Christian hope in a postmodern world. He’s very good at explaining postmodernism and the need for Christianity to engage with it - but I found his ‘answer’ as to how Christianity can engage with it to be very weak. And I say that as an admirer of the bishop’s work and as one who has profited greatly from reading his books.

December 29, 4:58 pm | [comment link]
4. teatime wrote:

I see “homelessness” as something much broader and understand what the bishop means. Some days, I feel rather “homeless” myself, even though I have a cozy home, adequate accommodation, and I really do love my adopted city. But “home” will always be western Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised and where what remains of my family continues to live and where the rest are buried.

I had to leave for economic reasons and advancement. I dont regret that and I really do love Texas. But once one makes the decision to uproot, I think there remains a restlessness of spirit, no matter where one chooses to reside. It’s more than a “place” or “circumstance” thing—it is a spiritual thing.

And the bishop is right. There is this restlessness that pervades our world. “Home” evokes feelings of security, welcome, contentment and stability. We’ve lost these feelings that ground us, inspire confidence and give us courage. Shared belief, corporate worship, and common purpose found in Church help to replenish that deficit—no matter where one physically roams, the Church is there, Jesus is there, the same Yesterday, Today and Forever. But even the Church seems to be in search of the “new thing” now. It’s very troubling.

“Homelessness” lends itself to confusion, insecurity, fear. And that’s where the world seems to be now.

December 29, 8:33 pm | [comment link]
5. Billy wrote:

#4, good comment.  And you are correct - the church not only “seems” but admits that it is not just “in search of” but is doing a “new thing.”  That is, our Episcopal Church here in the USA admits that.  We all feel homeless in our time.  But we have not done what we needed to do over the last 40 years to protect our home.  And now it has been invaded and taken over by those who are “doing a new thing.”  If it were just high church vs. low church, I would call it redocoration.  But in changing the substance of our belief, it appears to me that these invaders have knocked down the foundational structures of our home.  And those of who have stayed may not be able to resurrect those structures within this home, without the support of those who have left us.  But perhaps all the Lord is calling us to do within this misshapen and unsupported home we now occupy is to stand by those fallen foundation structures, point to them, and ensure that they are never disposed of out of sight, until we have the strength to reinstall them or the Lord calls us to a new mission.  Either way, at present, many of us feel like the night watchman in our demolished home, ready to sound the alarm if and when more invaders come.

December 30, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
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