You’ve probably been following the story of Bishop Stephen Venner, Bishop to the Armed Forces. He got himself quoted in The Telegraph as saying that the Taliban ‘can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and sense of loyalty to each other.
I contributed this piece to The Scotsman. It gave me the opportunity of discussing the dangers of dehumanising and demonising enemies. If I disagreed with his comment as quoted, it was in my feeling that faith of this kind is not necessarily admirable. Rather it shows what I believe to be a weakness in religion – its willingness to be used by political movements for short term gain but at long term cost. That’s what sectarian violence is about.
Then there is the question of what actually happened – for that you need to read Paul Vallely’s comments in this week’s Church Times. The story is of an interview given 12 weeks ago .. of subordinate clause turned into main clause. Yes I know a bit about that – though nothing as dramatic or damaging has happened to me. What happens is that the journalist does a general interview for a profile. The profile is never published. He then either begins to use bits of it in relation to specific news stories as they arise or – as happened to Bishop Venner – he brings it out in a different context and climate of public opinion.
Which is why – for the media-savvy bishop – live radio is ‘the thing’ because it is the most controllable.