An unholy ally?
Matthew Parris is not someone who would be traditionally described, even by himself, as a friend to the church. This hard bitten journalist has often been known for his blistering criticism of organised religion. In some ways his column in the Spectator for the start of Lent 2012 was no exception. There was the usual invective against organised religion:
One of the reasons we can be pretty sure Jesus actually existed is that if He had not, the Church would never have invented Him. He stands so passionately, resolutely and inconveniently against everything an established church stands for.
He rightly pointed out that the historical Jesus should not be confused with the adumbration of spirituality and tradition which sometimes gets an airing in public debate:
Jesus did not come to earth to offer the muzzy comforts of weekly ritual, church weddings and the rhythm of public holidays.
However, it was his defence of fundamentalism which was most surprising:
As an unbeliever my sympathies are with fundamentalists. They seem to me to represent the source, the roots, the essential energy of their faiths. They go back to basics.
For many of us, fundamentalism has become a dirty word, associated as it is with both intolerant politics and indiscriminate terrorism. However, that need not be the case. If we were truly fundamental believers then the core of our faith would matter more than its trappings, and we would be well versed in all those things which matter most to our beliefs. It is for this reason that we have devoted six weeks to attending the Disciple's Way course regardless of our age of experience in the Christian faith. We all need to understand those beliefs for which we stand.
The saddest phrase in the whole of Parris' column is the following: 'if I seriously suspected a faith might be true, I would devote the rest of my life to finding out.'
What can we do in order to give a better account of our faith, I wonder?