Not being at the General Synod in York and having work to do (which stops me from sitting at a computer all day long following developments on Twitter), I am not sure of the details of yesterday’s voting on Women Bishops. I am suspicious enough of the reporting (having heard on the radio that the Archbishops’ amendment fell in the House of Laity – it was actually in the House of Clergy), but am not yet clear about what is going on.
What I don’t understand, however, is why the ‘system’ or process of synodical government is OK when it works in your favour, but not when it doesn’t. Clearly, people have to decide what to do in the light of particular decisions, but there is something odd about accepting votes in your favour as legitimising your stance whilst claiming votes against as demonstrating that the system/process itself is wrong.
I understand that the Archbishops subjected their amendment to the process and did not see it as a test of loyalty. How mature is that? Misguidedly – when it is then discussed in such childish (win-lose) ways?
I was in the BBC Radio 4 studio yesterday for the Today programme. We (Ben Summerskill and I) were in the studio with Professor David Wilson, the criminologist. He was talking about the Raoul Moat saga and rejected the sympathy that some people were expressing because of Moat’s cry that he didn’t have a dad. Professor Wilson said that Moat’s behaviour was typical of a ‘paranoid narcissist’ (I wrote it down) who saw everything in terms of power and control. Violent to his girlfriend and child, he was now trying to push the police to kill him in order to compound his own denial of responsibility and push the guilt onto other people. Sounded clear enough to me.
Then he used a phrase which I thought might get picked up in the ensuing conversation about the Church of England: ‘future foreshortening’. I assume this is a term used in forensic psychology or criminology. It describes someone like Moat blaming other people for taking away the future, making death inevitable, ending the possibility of a new/different future.
Important note: I am NOT equating church responses with paranoid narcissistic criminological psychology – just using the language as a jumping off point!
I wonder if this language might be useful in standing back and looking at how different parties are now looking at the Church in the light of the Synod’s decisions thus far? (The process still has a long way to go, so I am not assuming that yesterday was an end-game.)
It is easy to blame others for ‘foreshortening my/our future’. But that is to play victim – exactly what Wilson was describing as part of the power-control narrative of Moat. This puts responsibility anywhere other than on ourselves and this – at least in Wilson’s world – looks suspiciously like rather suspect behaviour. Are we all narcissists really?
I am not making a case for this. I was just intrigued by the language Wilson used in the studio and wondered whether it shone any light on the phenomena (and the conscious or unconscious motivations behind them) we are witnessing in the Church. I obviously recognise that this raises unwelcome questions, but, on the other hand, they might just help us to see what we are doing differently. I am trying to think it through from the position of one who disagrees with decisions made – I am NOT making accusations or imputations.
I would be interested to think this through further (even have it debunked) and would welcome comments and observations. I suspect that whichever way certain decisions go, the reactive behaviour that follows might be worth questioning in order to understand it.