One of the recurring questions about the extremes of the liberal wing is whether they are in fact Christians in any real sense at all.
Today, there is a proposal from Michael Mullins over at the Jesuit online rag Eureka Street that puts that question up in lights.
His suggestion for the future of the much debated Chaplains in Schools program put in place by the Howard Government and continued under Labor: kick out the Christians and replace them with agnostics!
Unfortunately, I don't think he means his piece to be satirical. But maybe I'm wrong...
I've commented several times that the liberal wing of the Church seem to act more as protestants most of the time.
There is certainly no 'docility' in any shape or form in ex-priest Paul Collins' comments in the context of the Morris affair, that the Pope "needs to do a remedial course in theology"!
And now some comments on a recent post by Joshua and Canberra Observer (have a read also of Joshua's post on his own blog, Psallite Sapienter) that suggest that Bishop Morris' proposal to 'explore' recognition of protestant 'holy orders' went a little further than just talk.
But is it actually just outright atheism?
One of the recurring questions I think we all ask ourselves in theses cases, though, is whether the problem is really a protestant mentality, or just outright lack of faith altogether?
Partly it is the almost total lack of any overt references to God, prayer, providential aid or grace in their public discourses that raises this question.
Now along comes a proposal - surely worthy of any hardline atheist - on how to subvert the chaplains in schools program, from Michael Mullins.
Agnostics for chaplains!
Many state school parents, Mr Mullins argues, don't want their children to be the subject of proselytization. Indeed, the guidelines for the chaplain program prohibit it.
Yet in reality, he points out, believers might feel compelled to fulfill Our Lord's instruction to convert the world:
"At least in the context of Christianity, many ministers of religion understand that their role is precisely to proselytise, in the spirit of Jesus’ command to ‘proclaim the Gospel to all nations’. It is a minority of ministers who would have the training and the disposition necessary to exercise the degree of impartiality required for a chaplain’s role in a state school. [The Church has pointed out in its most recent documents on the duty to evangelize that there is a distinction between evangelization and proselytizing. One does not need to be 'impartial' - a chaplain can surely be an advocate for Christianity and truth, a force for promoting a more spiritual environment as the programs objectives state, without forcing it on people. There is no reason to think that the media hysteria about the recent comments by Access Ministries on the opportunities the program represents are anything but a beatup over an affirmation of the obvious.]
Moreover it is unlikely that the majority [of chaplains] would be sympathetic with the principles of modern missiology, which has the immediate aim of building understanding between different faiths and cultures, rather than winning converts. [Ah yes, a failed paradigm of the 60s and 70s now utterly rejected by the Church.] Such wisdom has much to offer institutions such as state schools, which recognise and celebrate a diversity of faiths. But the program’s guidelines are very vague and do not allude to such principles at all, thereby leaving room for fundamentalist approaches to religion."
Mr Mullins' proposed solution? Appoint agnostics!
"Rather than tapping the religious fervour that exists in Access Ministries and the like, the most successful chaplains might be individuals who have a broad knowledge of religion but do not have any interest in proselytising. They may be former ministers who have become agnostic in their own beliefs but still mentor young people coming to terms with their spiritual identity.[Is this proposal really for an employment scheme for ex-priests given the Church's pesky insistence that they actually teach and be committed to the faith? Pretty sure there are lots of Gaudium et Spes generation 'missiologists' in that category...]
But it appears such agnostic candidates – with no conflict of interest – would fail to meet the religious selection criteria as detailed in the Guidelines. However those from groups such as Access Ministries – who do have a conflict of interest – clearly meet the selection criteria."
Fundamentalism as the greatest crime of our time?
Now I have to admit I do have reservations about letting extreme fundamentalists loose in our schools. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if the Church made a serious push to take a stake in the program in State schools.
Still, I'd rather Christianity was represented in some form than not at all!
Because if its done right, kids can choose for themselves whether to go with the fundamentalists or something else.
The most important thing is surely exposing them to the idea that there is a God and that truth is an absolute.
One can, I think, legitimately take a number of views on the chaplaincy program - restrict it to mainstream players, abolish it, tighten the guidelines.
But don't actually see how any actual believer could possibly think that the best way of assisting young people to 'come to terms with their own spiritual identity' was by giving them the help of jaded ex-ministers who have become agnostics!