Clarkson, Eco-Vicaring And Bad Theology
Pete Lev, in his post “Going Green” has linked to a rant by the UK motoring journalist (and relentless blowhard) Jeremy Clarkson, in the Sunday Times (here). In his review, Clarkson takes a broadside at the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, for claiming that driving a 4×4 is a sin. “Few organisations know quite as […]
Pete Lev, in his post “Going Green” has linked to a rant by the UK motoring journalist (and relentless blowhard) Jeremy Clarkson, in the Sunday Times (here). In his review, Clarkson takes a broadside at the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, for claiming that driving a 4×4 is a sin.
“Few organisations know quite as much about selfishness as the Church of England. They preach to their increasingly small congregations about the iniquities of homelessness, and then lock up their churches at night to make sure tramps can‚Äôt get in and nick the communion wine.”
In response to this Pete asked the question,
“It’s an interesting rant and it makes you wonder how much his view reflects the wider opinion of those outside the church.”
Well, I’m not sure that it would take much research to confirm that Clarkson’s comments are fairly representative of a majority of non-church goers when it comes to church pronouncements. It doesn’t matter if Clarkson’s view is true or not in an emperical sense (so little point citing the churches that do care for the poor); it is a “truth” for many. Take the response from Edmund King, of the RAC (reported in The Guardian here),
“You cannot just point the finger in that way. Some people have larger cars for perfectly legitimate reasons, so I don’t think morality comes into it. Yes, climate change is a problem, but we need an overall strategy to tackle it. This is rather a knee-jerk reaction from the Church, maybe they should stick to what they know best.”
Within the ecclesiastical realm, church leaders, theologians and so on are accustomed to speaking with a tone of authority. However, when they address concerns outside the church, outside their obvious expertise, in a context where their tradition is under question, that authorative tone starts to sound like arrogance.
So what was Chartres trying (if failing) to say? Well, according the the Church of England Newspaper, it appears he was making a point that connects spurious consumption with enviromental impact. Without doubt ours is a selfish generation; the enourmous cars that many drive in urban centres are an example of that. It is a smart move to bring the weight of Christian reflection upon selfishness (and also pride) into the enviromental debate. We do need to address ecologically damaging spurious consumption.
So, Chartres had a good point, but he got it wrong by assuming the connection between selfishness and sin is obvious to (or understood by) his potential audience (that is bad theology). Of course, King got it wrong to claim that “legitimate reasons,” trump morality (that is bad logic) and Clarkson got it wrong by confusing his opinion with reality (that is Jeremy!). But, of all three, Chartes should have known better.
[tags] Richard Chartres, Enviromentlism, Clarkson [/tags]