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Have I missed something?

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet." John 13. 13f

Last night I indulged in a DVD which came as a Christmas gift from my daughter: Tunes of Glory, film of the novel by James Kennaway, starring Alec Guinness and John Mllls. On the face of it, film and book address contrasting styles of leadership, with a controversy of other themes swirling around below the surface: loyalty, suffering, nature, nurture, prejudice, chauvinism... there is even some romance thrown in - and not just "for good measure"! Jock Sinclair is the maverick soldier in temporary command of the regiment he has served through the ranks since he was a boy. Basil Barrow is the consummate officer, traumatised by his wartime experience in a Japanese prison camp, who has come to take charge of the same regiment which generations of his family have commanded. You can see the clash coming...

The plot thickens when, in the heat of the moment, Sinclair swings a punch for which he must be court-marshalled. Rather than benefitting Barrow, this puts him in the unenviable position of becoming his rival's judge. Needless to say it does not end well, despite the hint of redemption - or perhaps just contrition - at the end. But, unlike my first encounter with this gripping yarn, this time I came away with the conviction that what was really at stake was not simply conflicting styles leadership but irreconcilable character types, which set me thinking...

All week I have been contemplating the contemporary issue of sexual/ gender identity and, in particular, attitudes towards the dilemma in the Church. As I have tried to penetrate the heat in order to discern some light, I have acquired a nagging feeling that our determination to be guided by scripture may have been subverted by the subtle incursions of culture. For example, one view of western culture might trace a trajectory of emancipation, in which previously held assumptions are challenged and overcome, think: slavery, racism, ageism, issues of national sovereignty, the right to vote, science and the theory of evolution. The Church has not always been at the forefront but usually comes around, albeit reluctantly. And, despite all the progress, seemingly immovable stereotypes fuelling clashes at every level and in every sphere be it over the causes of climate change, persecution of religious minorities, beginning and end of life dilemmas.

Underlying all these vexed issues is the conviction that their resolution lies in amassing the resources to overwhelm all opposition and impose a better way. Though it makes sense in our conflict-driven world, and the Church buys into it by enjoying institutional status wherever it can, it is not the "Jesus way". As fast as he fulfilled ancient prophesies, Jesus confounded contemporary assumptions and prejudices and eschewed their blandishments - concerning morality, power, wealth, relationships, salvation - as did his immediate successors. Is it not time we stepped outside of our cultural complacency and reacquainted ourselves with how the early - original - Church really did "turn the world upside down"?



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