3 thoughts on “Staggeringly Revd Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds, West Yorkshire, the Dales and any other bits that can’t afford their own bishop any more

  1. Seemed to me like a (crude) grab for the importance of ‘thoughts and prayers.’ So often, in grave situations, Baines’ church and its people trot out streams of meaningless platitudes; scriptural quotes, ‘comforting’ sayings of Jesus, promises the IMF has made to ‘be there,’ to ‘share the pain’ and similar meaningless waffle. If Baines doesn’t agree that ‘actions speak louder than words’ the other popular quote – about hands that do things being more use than hands clasped in prayer (can’t recall quite how it goes) is undeniably true.

    Why would Baines argue that it is the words of the marriage vows that make a marriage? That’s a legal contract being made; I’d argue that it is the daily, ongoing actions of care, protection, and demonstrations of love through thick and thin that really make a marriage.

    Words are important, of course, and Baines was correct in saying that choosing, say, the language of battle in relation to illness needs careful review – there was a time when HIV AIDS claimed ‘victims,’ whereas now people ‘live with HIV AIDS’ as they ‘live with disability’ or are ‘differently abled.’ It is important that language be positive.

    But whereas religions usually jump in with ‘virtue signalling’ thoughts and prayers in times of crisis, they usually consider actions far more significant when opposing same-sex marriage, racial equality, condemning LGBT+ relationships, women’s rights, etc etc. Then out come the placards, urges to vote against, and so on – and these actions backed up with words, usually in language of the most appalling kind; I’ve not forgotten (even if the BBC has) Ann Atkins condemning the ‘scourge of homosexuality’ in a radio interview some years ago.

    The adage ‘Actions speak louder than words’ doesn’t deny the importance or power of words – as Baines oddly suggested; but it does imply, correctly, that real change, real caring, real progress and achievement comes largely through doing stuff rather than just talking about it.

    So, Mr Baines, climate change… any actions proposed by your church? Or can we look forward to, well… just more words?

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  2. As Liverpudlian aptly says, words are important but real change comes about when people actually do things. And if Bishop Baines were to follow up his statement of the importance of words with an assertion of everyone’s right to freedom of thought and speech, we might be inclined to take him more seriously. But I don’t think that’s what he has in mind.

    The importance of words to religious people, including (perhaps especially) Bishops, is that they are used to convey authority. If you can quote passages from Leviticus, or Jeremiah, or sayings attributed to Jesus, well, that’s the Word of the IMF, and no argument. It wasn’t that long ago that anyone who questioned anything written in the BBoMS, or spouted by bishops or priests, could be done for blasphemy, sometimes with nasty consequences.

    Things have changed today, to an extent. We can now get away with questioning, denying or ridiculing the bits of the BBoMS quoted by Christians in support of their faith. Try that with the Quran, however, or (for all I know) the Vedas or the Granth Sahib, and the response might be very different. And we see all too often that even making factual, scientific statements (such as that biological women have two X chromosomes) can get you into all sorts of trouble. Blasphemy, and the penalties for it, are alive and well and living in social media.

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