Monday, March 10, 2014

Innocuous Christianity? by Silvia Purdie (Rev)

I got mad yesterday! I am not easily offended but this got to me ... an article in the March 'Touchstone' newspaper published by the Methodist Church entitled "Opinion swings against Bible in Schools?" (click on the March link), page 9

The article is about the debate at St Heliers school in Auckland, which has been well publicised in the media, and focuses on the people who laid the complaints against the Bible in Schools programme. I have nothing against hearing from people who disagree with us. And it is good to raise the profile of what Churches Education Commission are doing. But what really got to me was this statement: "The programmes seem rather innocuous".

Innocuous??!! If our outreach programmes are indeed simply innocuous we should issue a Cease and Desist order immediately and all give up and stay home!

To call any activity offered in the name of Jesus Christ 'innocuous' is to me an insult of the highest order. I don't mind conflict. I can handle the possibility of failing or offending, but to be bland, mild, unobtrustive - count me out!

It reminds me of the entry published in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy after Ford Prefect had spent years researching planet Earth: "Mostly harmless"!

It's not true, of course. Bible in Schools is not 'innocuous'. Certainly it does its best to not offend people who are not Christian, and it is carefully designed to fit within our secular education system, focusing on values rather than beliefs. But what it does is deeply significant, deeply subversive. To have an explicitly Christian presence in a school is to stand for Christ. To tell children stories of people of faith is to enlarge their imaginations, to create space for the intangible and untestable.

Our local school in Milson has this week also been the topic of heated debate after a parent made a complaint against the new 'Champions' programme. The school immediately crumbled under the pressure from just one person, and closed the doors to CEC during school hours, before the fired-up new team even had a chance to begin. Our church was very disappointed, as were many others in the town.

Why are people so afraid of conflict, do you think, that one vocal person's problem rapidly became everyone's problem?

Let's be more afraid of blandness. Whatever we do, lets not be innocuous!

Silvia Purdie is the minister of Milsom Combined Church in Palmerston North.  She is a wonderful Kids Friendly champion and advocate.  Silvia is married to Rev Chris Purdie and has three sons.

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