Most people in our culture appear to have decided that being a Christian means inhabiting a kind of consciousness that is no longer possible for them, so they have abandoned it and rarely ever think about it. They are fortified in their rejection by the Christians they hear most about today, because they agree with their estimation of Christianity, though they draw diametrically opposite conclusions from it. Both groups believe that Christianity is emphatically committed to a specific way or ordering human relationships that was decreed by God and cannot therefore ever be changed.
Is that it, then? Christianity has already been pushed to the edges in our society as an eccentric type of consciousness that is profoundly antipathetic to contemporary values. Are we to witness its slow but inevitable death, apart from a few refugee encampments here and there?
There is another group in the game – though whether it will be sent off the field is still an open question, since it tends to be despised by both the other groups as traitorous.
This group believes that it is possible to be a Christian and post-modern, to be a member of a church and a supporter of feminism and the rights of sexual minorities in spite of Christian tradition.
It is a radical position, which has uncoupled Christianity from absolute claims about the status of the Bible and tradition.
And what broke the chain, as the traditionalists rightly foresaw, was the emancipation of women. Having embraced the ethical imperative of feminism, those of us who are members of this group came to realise that we were now reading the Bible as a human not as a divine creation.
The issue for those of us who find ourselves in this position is whether we can discover new ways of using the Christian tradition that will deepen our humanity, our care for the earth and for one another. That was the agenda I set myself in this series of lectures.