Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Thank God I'm just eccentric

A Barry Stevens letter questioning the local Interfaith Group’s open mindedness in this week’s Examiner (see http://www.iomtoday.co.im/your-letters/Isle-of-Man-Examiner-June.5410522.jp) raises an interesting point. Barry’s wrong about the Interfaith Group (I’ve stood in when the humanist rep was away so I know there’s a Spiritualist Church rep) but on the right track.
It was Churches Together in Mann which refused to accept Spiritualists. In fact, it was in finding that out in 1998 that I established they didn’t want to talk to other faiths locally either, because as far as the main churches were concerned they didn’t exist!
The Spiritualists made a formal application to join the interchurch body, which my sources suggest was greeted with panic. The official line was that the Spiritualists might want to somehow tap into CTIM ‘respectability’ and government influence, as well as resources such as contact lists for possible financial gain.
But there was another reason, which was that mainstream Manx churches were about to jointly remarket themselves to new age interests, for example by offering what were vaguely labelled ‘services of healing’. Rather like spiritualism or clairvoyance doesn’t ‘promise’ results in return for hard cash, advertising for the ‘laying on of hands’ was padded with small print or legalese about continuing to take the usual medicine.
The next step was that local journalists ( me included) were offered ‘background material’ and off–record briefings for stories which our sources were sure needed telling to avoid simple souls dabbling in the occult or losing their bingo money. In my case, the material dried up when I asked if the churches would provide an on-record spokesman to explain how their ‘responsible’ laying on of hands differed from (presumably irresponsible) table-spinners who bring messages via Big Chief Hokum from your dearly departed granny.
They wouldn’t, and when I then asked couldn’t all this be avoided if CTIM would just ‘upgrade’, as in the UK, to some sort of interfaith outfit to deal with each other and the government I was told that wasn’t necessary because “there are no other faiths on the island”.
Funnily enough, it was during the instantly forgettable high profile millennium madness a year or so later that the other faiths who didn't exist got tired of waiting and set the body up themselves. Something like 100 invitations to join in were also sent and continue to be extended to various Christian groups, all unanswered. Maybe they don't exist either.
Meanwhile, the Interfaith group has never turned down prospective members. However baffling the beliefs, the explanation has been met with a collective “Oh, OK then… next item”. The only dubious organisation I know of left of their own accord when it saw the group was just an amicable gathering of folk trying to find middle ground, not a source of government grants, influence and/or secretive dealings.
Us minority types leave that kind of thing to real people of faith. Like the unelected Christian politicians who can always square things with sympathisers in the Dept of Home Affairs or Social Services when possible fraud or child abuse enquiries arise.

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