Church needs greater tolerance, says Fr.Timothy Radcliffe
By Alison Rebello
Newcastle June 11: “Wherever we travel in the remotest of places, we see people are infected by some version of the American dream. There is this slight temptation to think that we all got to become American. We did that ourselves in the 19th century when we wanted everybody to become British and perhaps in the next century we want everybody to become Chinese” said renowned Dominican friar Timothy Radcliffe, in reply to a question of American exceptionalism during the Riddell Memorial lecture in Newcastle recently.
Prof Ella Ritchie, Newcastle University Deputy Vice Chancellor introduced the lecture. Although Radcliffe confessed that he wanted to decline the offer initially but came out very eloquently in his two day lecture often making the audience sit up and take note with his witty and deep-rooted analysis of the subject.
The first of the two lecture was ‘Releasing the imagination’ which centered on the film ‘Of Gods and Men’ a true story of Trappist Monks in Algeria.
Before delving into the subject he outlined: “I taught scripture in Blackfriars Oxford for about 12 years a long time ago but was largely outside academia for the last 20 years. So I don’t think I am the right person to give this lecture.
But they insisted.” The lecture, he said: “it reminds me of my brethren who was asked to give a lecture in Chicago and when he sat down the applause was not very enthusiastic so he asked the person sitting next to him, I hope it wasn’t that bad and pat came the reply, I don’t blame you, I blame whoever asked you to come and speak.”
The former Master of the Order of Preachers spoke passionately of how the central characters in the film ‘Of Gods and Men’ prepared themselves to give freely individually and as a group to make a decision of whether to suffer for Christ or to give up their monastic way of life and run away for life. They chose to suffer for the sake of Christ. He said how the Christian imagination is reflected through the prism of the individual. The message does not mean anything unless you believe in them.
The parables of Jesus are a question and you have got to make the journey. Christian doctrine provokes you and it puzzles you to go further. So effectively the preaching of the gospel happens when the hearer makes a difference. Ever since humanity we wanted intimacy with Christ and dreaded it at the same time as it will transform us. If you look at history we push Christ up to the heaven and we undo the incarnation.
Answering a question Fr Radcliffe said: “One of the things we need to entice young people is to listen to them and be with them.”
The second day lecture titled ‘Retelling the stories of our time’ was introduced by Anglican Bishop Martin Wharton of Newcastle where Radcliffe profoundly spoke of the modern version of triumph of tolerance and the American dream that structure our contemporary imagination. He felt: “these two very modern stories are actually faint echoes of Christian stories, the open hospitality of Jesus and the promise of sharing the life of love.”
He elaborated saying: “Every society needs a story of the triumph of good over evil. He went on saying that we live in a fluid society, we should actually be proud of our multi-cultural existence but we have hardly begun to realize what we are. True tolerance is very costly as it costs our life.” Secondly he spoke of how “the American dream has become the universal dream comparing his post communism visit to Albania and how he saw numerous McDonalds outlets which he said is not very encouraging.”
As a society we have lost faith in the reason, contrary to that Christians believe in reason but do not practice it. If we did we will find the true way. You can believe what you think. You think God is a rabbit which in effect is the failure to take the other person seriously.
Christianity has an unambiguous role but churches are bastions of intolerance for people of LGBT. Pointing to Bishop Wharton he challenged the audience to have parties of gays at their place.
During question time he was asked: What if you were made the Pope to which he said: “decentralization of power and the temptation to control and I will abolish silly titles like Monsignor, My Lord and would institute a new title called ‘My Servant’ and I would like myself to be called ‘Not Particularly Reverend’.”
Perhaps impressed by Radcliffe’s oratorical skills, Bishop Wharton, in his concluding remarks offered Fr Radcliffe to take up the vacant see of Canterbury.