Friday, 15 June 2012

On the Danger of Feeling Quite Strongly

"Marmite: you either love it or hate it."  Oh dear!  You see, I don't mind Marmite - which is to say, I don't buy it and it would not be the first thing I would think of to put on a slice of toast, but I can eat it.  You could say that, re Marmite, I'm pretty neutral.  A silly example, not least because the now famous strapline is a mere (if very clever) marketing ploy; but one which neatly encapsulates the - I think, increasing - tendency to push us to one end or other of a spectrum of opinion.

In my own context, the vexed question of women's ordination (to the episcopate, currently) comes to mind.  I know a lot of people who are passionately in favour of it, and some who are firmly opposed.  But there must be people - potentially quite a lot of people - who don't feel strongly about it one way or the other.  Perhaps there are even some who (I know this is outrageous) really don't care.  People like this will be categorised by default as "pro" women bishops since, if you don't specifically object to them, you must be in favour of them.  But, in the eyes of their more committed brethren, their neutrality or indifference is reprehensible, and shows a want of proper awareness of the issues.  I have a lot of sympathy with them, however; and hitherto much inclined to defend the integrity of Not Feeling Strongly.

That was before the issue of same-sex marriage came to the fore, and I learned the danger of Feeling Quite Strongly.  This can manifest itself in various ways, but becoming a Twitter Bore is one of the most obvious.  I happen to feel quite strongly about the issue, for exactly the reason set out here by Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans:
"I was very struck by David Cameron's statement that he is in favour of same-sex marriage, not in spite of being a conservative but because of being a conservative.  I am not a political animal, but I want to say something very similar as a priest.  I am in favour of same-sex marriage not because I am a wild liberal but because I am instinctively a traditional Anglo-Catholic.  I believe in the sacrament of marriage; I believe we all need a disciplined framework for faith and love; and I believe we all need God's grace and blessing to live by it."
All those who are interested in knowing what I think about this now know.  I realise I have tweeted about it more than any other single issue since I started tweeting. This was brought to a head by the publication earlier this week of what the Church Times calls the Church of England's "tendentious and poorly argued" response to the Government's consultation on the issue.  I was surprisingly upset by both the tone and the content of the response, and expressed my dismay in a tweet which was - slightly alarmingly - retweeted more times than any other I have tweeted.  (This incidentally provoked some interesting replies - not all of them about the theological aspects, if you understand me.)

I've since pretty much stopped, mainly out of respect to those who are kind enough to follow and read me (and who may not agree with me), but also because I suspected I was heading towards Twitter Bore territory.  When the next stage in the saga breaks, I'm sure I will not be able to resist; but for the time being...

But it's been salutary.  It's taught me that I'm probably a poor candidate to stand for the Not Feeling Strongly party. And that, perhaps, on reflection, I do actually hate Marmite.

PS  Please note that I have not included at the head of this post a photographic cliche showing two clasped male hands bearing wedding rings.  You see how I think of you?


  1. I've become slightly sensitive as well about boring others on a single subject, on which I Feel Quite Strongly but they only Feel Quite Mildly. The benefit however has been that immersion in the issue has made me well informed and very confident when debating it with opponents, as well as makimg me aware of how much ground there is left to cover - and how many other subjects deserve inquiry.

    One poroblem is that it takes enormous will to turn from one subject to another, not least because of the trouble that comes with starting from scratch; yet this can always be overcome with the joy in learning new things. The big problem is that you can't force yourself to care!

  2. Yes - it's very tempting to "go into print" on a subject without having read oneself into it thoroughly. As far as debate is concerned, I've always liked - though have not always followed - the advice included in that famous poem Desiderata - "Speak your truth quietly and clearly". Yet it's hard to remain calm when what seem like issues of natural justice are at stake, especially if they affect one personally. I believe we sometimes have to speak out. Thanks for your comment.