THIS month's column is in notebook form. This is a euphemistic way of saying that it is a series of random and unconnected thoughts, whose only link is that they appear in the same article.
We are commanded in the gospels to be "in the world but not of it." I have long wondered how we can live the tension inherent in this dictum and, indeed, what it means. Perhaps it can be related to the following question: are people likely to be evangelised or even made to think, by Christians being different from the people around them or being the same?
The answer I would say, without wishing to sound like, the SDP, must be "both"—the same and different.
If we are so different as to seem a different species from the rest of humanity, we can (perhaps should be) written off as such, and regarded simply as curiosities. If we are exactly the same as the people around us, living by the same values as everybody else, the question can (perhaps should be) asked: what is the point of Christianity at all?
For young people especially, but certainly not exclusively, being the same is the easy bit. Being different, in such important matters as dealing with money, is much harder. Without wishing to sound like the Militant Tendency, I would say that the vilification, in most of the press, of anybody who seriously challenges the values of the status quo, is just one symptom of an increasing conformism. People believe there is no alternative.
Marx said, "the prevailing ideas of the age are ever those of the ruling class." If we can oppose these with the values of the gospel while remaining stubbornly and undeniably normal, perhaps we will be "in the world but not of it." It's not easy though.
Yesterday, I received a letter from The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. It informed me (as I write, the election is still two days away) that my local MP has an excellent pro-life voting record.
This worries me. I know, because I've talked and corresponded with her, that this MP believes in our selling arms to Chile (that regime's appalling torture record is documented by Amnesty International) and to Indonesia, which has killed over a sixth of the native population of East Timor since invading it in 1975.
She has supported the government's support of the United States support of the Contras in Nicaragua. They have killed 14,000 people since 1981. She has not agreed with sanctions against South Africa, ignoring the pleas of Desmond Tutu and others that these are the only way of avoiding massive bloodshed.
This is not an excellent prolife voting record.
I should also point out that such contradictions are not only found in those on the right. I went to hear a "socialist analysis" of abortion lately. The speaker pointed out, with scorn, the contradiction inherent in being anti-abortion and pronuclear weapons, as many of her opponents are. She did not seem to see any problem with her own position—being pro-abortion and anti-nuclear weapons.