Justin Welby has received well-deserved plaudits for the gracious way he had handled the news of his father’s identity. He has demonstrated how the Christian spirit is interpreted in the Church of England, indeed how the Holy Spirit is felt by Anglicans. But I have a problem. In the excellent interview he gave to Bryan Appleyard for the Sunday Times, his most theological comment was: “I know that I find who I am in Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.” As a cradle Anglican who still attends Church, I do not nor never have felt that. I can’t rule out the genetics. I feel my father in me in many of the movements I make, and see them in my children. I hear my mother’s voice above the babble of today’s orthodoxy. I hear my ancestors in what I read. To this, I add the story of my life that I tell to myself, including time and place, the people I’ve known, the influences I’ve encountered, the good and bad events, and I try to miss nothing out. I don’t see Christianity as a reductive religion. I’m a Lancastrian, physicist, baby boomer Anglican, who’s had a rich life and who’s travelled through life with many people I have nothing but affection for. If there’s a eternity, I don’t see how I’ll recognise them if they’ve changed too much. In my novel, Bob Swarbrick wants to meet Jesus in a heavenly pub, have a game of dominoes with him, everybody get merry and JC himself join in with ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, Mary Magdalene on the harmonium in a low-cut dress.
I think the theologians call that a low Christology, Jesus as wholly man who became God as the first fruits of the harvest that could include everyone.