// turbulent priests and Times columnists

Father_Tim_Jones.jpg Say what you will about the now-infamous Tim Jones, the Anglican vicar who this week declared that his desperate parishioners should turn not to robbery or prostitution but shoplifting, but i’ve decided i actually rather like him. There’s more, too; according to The Times today, “last year Father Tim went into a stationer’s and threw Playboy -branded children’s merchandise on the floor, echoing Christ’s overturning of the money changer’s tables in the temple.” All credit to the man, he knows how to cause a stir…

It’s a shame that his advice is in this case morally incoherent (albeit well-meaning), then, born out of pragmatism rather than logic, because he’s one of the few priests who has managed to make his voice heard in recent years. There’s an impressive amount of follow-through on his actions and a willingness to speak up that is a valuable characteristic in the modern church. So whilst at the end of the day his suggestion falls apart when it hits the Ten Commandments- “do not steal” is a principle that still stands up pretty effectively, tying in with the OT’s societal guidelines on respect and community living as ways of holding the community together- the fact that he had the guts to say it at all, and so bluntly at that, counts for something.

Of course, with guys like Father Tim around, that arguably means that the rest of us have to up our game. Yes, what he said was incorrect, but unless we speak up in comparable and yet noticeably different ways, his view is going to stand up as being a viable alternative to the mainstream church. The Christian response has been largely nondescript in this case; lots of criticism but not a lot of constructive action. What it looks like is a choice: either choose the socially active, rebellious option, the one that is engaged with social issues and is obviously, visibly active in the world, or choose the church that is apparently anchored in its moral pronouncements and seems ultimately impotent.

That’s obviously a false choice, but it’s easy to see how persuasive that looks to the world, don’t you think?

So thanks, Father Tim, for giving us the incentive to change. Now’s the time for us to act in response, to be transformative and radically different; here’s hoping by next Christmas we’ll have some similarly practical, but more morally sound, advice coming from the church. I won’t write off Tim, because i think there’s more to come from him, and he’s a good wake-up call this Christmas. We need to remember that there are problems out there, and there are a whole range of other people offering other solutions.

What is our response going to be?

If it is simply uttering moral pronouncements, i would gently and respectfully suggest that this may not be enough.

Posted by Wordmobi

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  • Comments (3)
  1. Do you have a link to the Times article?

    • Tom
    • December 23rd, 2009

    It’s Julian Baggini’s column, the article is entitled “sorry, Father, thou still shalt not steal”- my phone won’t let me access it via The Times website but you may have more luck on a desktop…

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