Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Of doves and serpents

More seasoned bloggers than I may be familiar with the sense of having a suitable subject for a post kicking round the consciousness for a while without anything resembling the outline of one of these neat blocks of print being crafted, or indeed a single actual sentence being typed.  Something needs to be said or done to tease it into being: to co-ordinate the thoughts and, with luck, to link or “theme” them together into a half-coherent narrative.  Like a sermon, you’re supposed to know “where you’re going” with it, before committing it to… whatever you’re committing it to.

I’ve been perplexed for a long time now about the Church’s public image.  This image, it is widely acknowledged, and without wanting to put too fine a point on it, is not as good as it might be.  There are probably all sorts of reasons for this, and I do not pretend I can adequately identify them.  But I was prompted to draw my thoughts together by a report in the Telegraph following the recent public conversation at Canterbury between Rowan Williams and comedian Frank Skinner: “Atheism is cool, says Archbishop Rowan Williams” runs the headline. 
Now as headlines go, it’s quite a clever one: ++Rowan did actually use the words “atheism is cool” - but as a description of what others think, rather than what he thinks.  Yet the headline’s clear intention is to invite those who do not go on to read the article to believe that atheism is something the ABC admires – just as, as a result of a radio interview in 2008, some now believe that he unequivocally favours the introduction of sharia law in the UK.  Politicians and others for whom dealing with the media is a part of daily life, are wise to these little tricks and traps, and try to avoid saying anything that can be taken out of context and exploited to create a row (which is what the press thrives on).  You could argue that the ABC should similarly wise up.  Or you might think he shouldn’t have to.

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