Bishop of Cork interviews Graham Norton during West Cork Literary Festival
At the invitation of the organisers of the West Cork Literary Festival, on 17th July the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Rt Revd Paul Colton, hosted an evening with BBC celebrity Graham Norton in Bantry.
It took the form of a 90-minute interview, questions and answers in front of a crowd of more than 400 people and had sold out even before being advertised.
“Graham is from this part of the world,” said Bishop Colton. “He has a home here. He grew up here. His mother and sister live here. He’s a past pupil of Bandon Grammar School. This is where he comes to relax, to be, to bring friends and to be and let be.”
The literary festival event focused on Mr Norton’s new publication, The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir.
The interview and the questions from the floor were wide-ranging: why Mr Norton wrote the book, how he writes, dogs, falling back in love with Ireland, West Cork, the recent marriage equality referendum, his family, faith and belief, his optimism, his career hopes, having friends as a celebrity, all the celebrities he meets, his plans to write a novel, and much more – together with a liberal injection of hilarious stories and raucous laughter.
DEALING WITH ISLAMIST EXTREMISM
Speaking at a school in Birmingham last week, Prime Minister David Cameron set out his vision of overcoming Islamist extremism and building what he described as “a stronger, more cohesive society”. He reflected on the way in which diversity has become the norm across the country but warned that in debating issues related to the threat of extremism, it would be wrong to “demonise people of particular backgrounds”. He paid tribute to the “profound contribution Muslims from all backgrounds and denominations are making in every sphere of our society”.
The Prime Minister went on to explain what he believed had to be done to defeat extremism. He described the root of the problem as ideology, an “extreme doctrine” which he said was “subversive”. He countered the argument of some that people were attacking the West because of its involvement in the Iraq War by pointing out that 9/11 had happened before the Iraq War, adding that from Kosovo to Somalia, countries like Britain had stepped in to save Muslim people from massacres, adding: “It’s groups like ISIL, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram that are the ones murdering Muslims.”
Stating why he thought young people are drawn to extremism, he isolated four main themes:
• Its apparently energising nature;
• The process of radicalisation through the influence of others;
• The drowning out of moderate Muslim opinion; and
• Lack of integration of individuals within wider society. Later this year, the UK government will publish its
Counter-Extremism Strategy and in his Birmingham speech Mr Cameron revealed the principles that will be adopted:
• Confronting the extreme ideology underpinning Islamist extremism;
• Using people who understand the true nature of what life is like under ISIL to communicate the brutal reality of its ideology;
• Empowering the UK’s Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish communities, so that they can have platforms from which
to speak out against ISIL; and
• Developing de-radicalisation programmes.
The Prime Minister also signalled a determination to deal
with the problem of extremism both in prisons and online. One of the aspects of the government’s strategy highlighted by Mr Cameron was the drive “to embolden different voices within the Muslim community”. He spoke of the Government’s intention actively to encourage reforming and moderate Muslim voices and made the telling point that denying that Islamist extremism had anything to do with Islam was in fact to “disempower the critical reforming voices, the voices that are challenging the fusing of religion and politics, the voices that want to challenge the scriptural basis which extremists claim to be acting on, the voices that are crucial in providing an alternative world-view that could stop a teenager’s slide along the spectrum of extremism”. Mr Cameron said that time and again, the British people had stood up to aggression and tyranny, citing Hitler, communism and the IRA, and said the country would do so again in the face of Islamist extremism.
The Westminster government has obviously decided that now is the time to take a really proactive approach to dealing with the rise of Islamist extremism which is drawing young people into its cruel and misguided clutches and capturing them for a life of hatred and violence. The strategy that the Prime Minister said is going to be announced in detail in the coming months promises to be an example of a government facing reality, not in a knee-jerk way, but with considerable reflection and understanding.
Religion is a fundamental feature of human life and yet it can become warped. That happens not only in Islam but is also part of the Christian experience. It can become what it is not intended to be. For that reason, as Christians, we ask God: “Increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of your great mercy keep us in the same” (Collect, Trinity VII).
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Letters to the Editor
Dean Gordon and the future of the Church of Ireland
THE LETTER from Dean Tom Gordon (Gazette, 5th June) stimulated a lot of discussion. The Dean stated in relation to the Church of Ireland that “its soul in recent years has been held captive by a conservative agenda which we now know – conclusively – to find little reference in this State. Indeed, perhaps even less so among its own adherents”.
Certainly, from my experience of parish ministry in both city and rural settings in the Republic, the decline in support for the Church of Ireland has more to do with the considerable influence of consumer and secular values which are now embedded in so many aspects of the culture. The challenge for Christians and Christian leadership is to find a way to set forth persuasively the claims of the Gospel and encourage the building of a biblical scaffolding to support our witness and service as Christians.
The Dean states that “Church pronouncements on traditional morality – however forcefully maintained – are the ultimate turn-off in a now transformed Republic and the distinctive theological cultures in both provinces are of such divergence that each must now be allowed latitude formally to develop separate theological and pastoral identities”.
This, again from my experience, is over-simplistic. Following the recent referendum on same-sex marriage, a considerable number of members of the Church of Ireland in the Republic told me they voted ‘No’, but were very reluctant to make this public for fear of people thinking they were homophobic and intolerant. Alastair Graham ( The Revd)
The Rectory Mullingar Co. Westmeath
I REFER to the proposition put forward by the Very Revd Tom Gordon (Gazette, 5th June), who argues for a future model of separate theological and pastoral identities in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.
The Dean fails to comprehend the entire nature and psychological complexities involved in the concept of identity and its implications for Church and State, or perhaps he does.
At best, his model is over- simplistic and in reality one that could never be implemented.
I note that the Dean uses plural phrases when he refers to “theological and pastoral identities”. It would appear that his perception of the Church of Ireland for the next generation is one based on fragmentation and pluralistic attitudes conforming to social and political man-made systems, compromising the teaching of Holy Scripture, where we find true and complete unity of identity in Christ and him alone.
Dean Gordon does not provide clarity as to his rationale for such a proposition, nor does he make explicit the motives for wishing our beloved Church of Ireland to forgo its scriptural basis concerning identity and seek to conform to the status quo rather than the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ entrenched in Scripture.
Canon Michael Kennedy (Gazette, 12th June) has proffered some words of wisdom in this respect, when he foresees such a dichotomy as representing schism within not only the Church of Ireland in two separate Churches, but also divisions between and within dioceses and more so between jurisdictions.
Any ideological shift in the theological and pastoral paradigm would present unforeseen difficulties in that members of the Church of Ireland would experience threats to their personal and group identities, with members confused as to what pastoral standards are acceptable and which are not, and what to expect from clergy.
This would be contrary to the role and function of the Church in its overall aim of bringing people to a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the development of a new and personal identity in Jesus Christ as Saviour, Master and Lord.
It is mandatory that our Church remains consistent and uncompromising when its faith and doctrine are under threat from external political and adverse theological influences, which lead to instability within the Church.
How long will we have The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord? It is time to stop theorizing and know what we are really talking about.
Arthur Cassidy (Dr)
I HAVE noticed over the past years the sale of former 18th and 19th century Church of Ireland rectories. They have appeared in the Property sections in daily papers.
These rectories are to be found in every county in Ireland.
Without exception, they appear to be fine and spacious houses set in beautiful estates, and are sold for hundreds of thousands of Euros.
I wonder if there is any official record made of these former rectories, including photographs. They are an interesting and important part of the Church of Ireland heritage.
I would welcome any information/photographs regarding previous occupancy of these historic houses, with the purpose of publishing a referencebook.
Patricia H. Smyth – Cootehill, Co. Cavan
REGARDING THE ‘Marriage Referendum’, Caroline Forde believes that same-sex marriage is correct, based on personal feelings (Letter, 12th June).
She states: “My position has been formed by what I believe to be true in my heart.”
Perhaps Ms Forde’s predecessor in the Garden of Eden was motivated by the same feelings. The forbidden was good to look at and was desirable (Genesis 3: 6).
God said: ‘No’ to Eve. Satan said: ‘It’s all right, go ahead’.
Because God wants us to love him in return for his love for us, we had to have a choice – namely, freewill. God could have created robots; then we would always have obeyed.
This is not a new problem. In Romans 1: 24-30, it was rife. Both men and women gave their bodies over to same-sex immorality with the result, “God gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done”.
God allows us to do what we desire but that doesn’t make it right, but the good news is that he always forgives when we repent or turn away from what God condemns.
To think that Jesus is limited to tolerance and love is to portray a limited view of Jesus. He overturned the tables of the money-changers because they were corrupt.
Jesus loved Judas, but didn’t love his action. It is the same with us.
Jesus loved the two thieves on the cross, but only one was forgiven. “Jesus, have mercy on me,” was the attitude of the forgiven thief.
Joseph Jacob (The Revd) Bunclody Co.Wexford
CANON CHARLES KENNY (Gazette, 10th July) says that he can’t think of “anyone at all in the Bible” who understood Genesis 2: 24 (the famous ‘leaving and cleaving’ text) as requiring monogamous marriage.
What about Jesus? He quoted that passage and interpreted it to mean, “so they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19: 4-6). If they are no longer two but one, there is no room for a third party in the relationship.
Canon Kenny is “not aware of anyone at all in the Bible who required of all godly people monogamy or who even thought about it”.
Again, what about Jesus?
Of course, Canon Kenny has in mind people in the Old Testament who were not monogamous, but he should be aware of Jesus’ argument that “from the beginning it was not so” – that was not God’s intention (Matthew 19: 8).
Canon Kenny says that “God alone knows where” the “switch from normative polygamy to monogamy … despite the Bible’s silence on this issue” came from.
Surely it came from Jesus himself.
Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough Co. Down BT26
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