When it comes to shooting fish in a barrel - an image that Richard used in a pre-lecture chat with Rowan Williams, who subsequently deployed it himself - Richard Dawkins needn’t bother, as the Cod-squad seems to be turning the guns on itself with deadly accuracy. I refer to two reports in today’s Church Times.
The first, from Giles Fraser, is that “The Hollywood version of Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials is to have its anti-clericalism removed, so as not to offend Roman Catholics in the United States.” After a momentary oscillation between incredulity and hilarity, I first thought: Hey, what about offending the Presbyterians? After all, Calvinists are equally the object of Pullman’s animus. Let the idiocy at least be ecumenical. Then I thought, optimistically: Well, at least it will be a short rather than a feature film. Perhaps the cinemas will charge half-price. But finally I thought, sinisterly: Wait a minute, there’s got to be a Bad Guy, and if it’s not the Church, then who’s it going to be? Islam? Or the UN? No, I know: France, particularly in the wake of Sarkozy’s divorce. The mind doesn’t just boggle, it goes into melt-down. For as Fraser observes, “the apparently successful campaign to airbrush away Mr. Pullman’s attack on the Church proves his point far better than the books themselves.”
The second news item is that the Roman Catholic College of St. Thomas, Minnesota (the state next to Aquinas) has re-invited Desmond Tutu to address it next April. Yes, re-invited, for it had dis-invited him after it had first-invited him lest his views on Israel-Palestine offend the American Jewish community. But guess what? It took hundreds of letters of protest from the Jewish community itself to get the college to repent. But, hey, Tutu is also know for his outspoken support for homosexuals as well as Palestinians, so the Religious Right still has six months to lobby the College to un-repent and ban the subversive and dangerous Archbishop lest he offend the American homophobic community.
What was the title of Rowan Williams’ Swansea lecture? Oh, yeah: “How to Misunderstand Religion” - which the Church Times reported under the title “Williams Questions Dawkins’s Aim”. But who needs a sniper when you’ve got a whole army of sharpshooting Christian soldiers hitting the bullseye?