‘Do you ever read The Sun?’
“Of course not”.
“Why should I?
“To know what ordinary people are thinking”.
My colleague was unimpressed as to the merits of reading the British tabloid press; he was very much an Irish Times man, wherein lies the problem.
The church talks mostly to itself and, when it is not talking to itself, it talks to people who share similar educations, social backgrounds and attitudes. Church reports are written by church people who have talked to other church people and who think that because they all think the way they do, then everyone else must think in a similar way. For sometime we have convinced ourselves that the world must be as we have imagined it and have been baffled as the ecclesiastical planet has drifted further and further away from the rest of the universe.
The disconnection has lasted varying lengths of time in different countries, but is all but complete in most of the developed world, even in Ireland, once the most religious of places.
An inkling of how much we had lost touched came back in the 1980s, an eminent lay person had written a report on some European ecumenical gathering saying that two of the leading people at the conference had become household names in Northern Ireland. This seemed odd as I, a professional cleric and a member of the same church as the writer, had not heard of either of them. There was a temptation to take the report around asking others if, by chance, they might have heard of the gentlemen named.
Twenty odd years later, re-reading a church report on broadcasting, the unknown household names came to mind. The report was completely circular it talked about religious programmes and the makers of the religious programmes thanked the church for its support. There was not a single question of what anyone outside might think; not a single thought that the entire enterprise might be completely unknown to the overwhelming majority of the population.
We have stopped even attempting to talk to most working class people and our efforts to talk to blokes of any class are increasingly feeble. To connect with most of the people Jesus knew is now beyond us.
Were I to be offered two hundred words in The Sun or five hundred words in the Irish Times, which would I choose?
The Irish Times would be read by all my friends and there would be the pleasure of being told they had read my piece in the paper. The Sun piece would be read by millions of people for whom the church would be an entirely alien experience.
Which paper would Jesus choose to write in? To me, it seems obvious.