‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
When I was young, I was always enthralled by Lewis Carroll’s wonderful imagination and the amazing twists and turns it allowed him to build into every page of his writing. Like the one he spoke of in his work as an Anglican clergyman, Carroll (his real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was simply great with words. The quote above from Mr Dumpty is one of my favourites.
So what is it that I mean when I say we have lost sight of the Gospel? Clearly, there is much in our tradition to be entirely proud of. Clearly we have not lost any of the great fundamentals of our faith? Or have we?
Strangers in Our House.
The Good Shepherd starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie, is a OSS/CIA based movie directed by Robert DeNiro that was first released in 2006. The film traces out the early, troubled years of the Central Intelligence Agency and walks us through the background, experiences and ultimate tragedy of the life of Edward Wilson, the long time iconic head of the service. One of the central motifs of the movie is infiltration and the continual quest to uncover and remove those within the US government who were actually acting for the enemy. Throughout it, these enemy presences are referred to as ‘Strangers in Our House.’
Another way of putting what I hope this conversation will be about over the next while is that there are strangers in our theological houses and we need to identify and get rid of them if we want our churches to be healthy again.
The church is still the church and we have not lost our way entirely. But we have been the victims of some powerful infiltrations to our thinking and practice and, if our houses are ever to be in order again, we must do something about that. In the pieces that follow I’d like to spell out some of these corruptions that seem to me to be the most serious.