Monday, 27 February 2012

A Dear John Letter.

Dear John (Or Archbishop John Sentamu, as you're more commonly known),

Hello, it's me, Emily. You may remember me from the time you baptised me on Easter Sunday:

How are you doing? I hope things are well at your end. Anyway, since I got baptised in 2006, a lot of things have happened. I worked for the church, I did a lot of missions, I set up a children's charity, I lost my faith (but that's another extremely long story for another time). Guessing things have been pretty busy your end too.

I'm writing to you because I can't fail to notice that you've decided to write a column in the Sun on Sunday. I have to say, even though I'm no longer a Christian, I'm massively disappointed in this choice. You were always a member of clergy who I respected. You had strong ethical standpoints and you weren't afraid to show them. You chopped up your dog collar in an act of political protest. you've always been outspoken. I really did respect you.

And yet, you choose to write for the Sun on Sunday, a "newspaper" founded on the priciples of corruption and lies. I struggle enough with the fact that the Church of England, an organisation I used to be associated with, an organisation I worked for, has £9 million of shares in News International and BSkyB. Not just because it means that the Church are invested in the press, which obviously impacts whether or not that press is able to speak freely, but also because of the hypocritical nature of the Church being invested into the soft porn industry. I wonder if you could explain to me how it's ok for the church to invest into soft porn whilst simultaneously telling Christians that they shouldn't have sex before marriage?

But the worst thing is, you're now a contributor to the Sun on Sunday, to something associated with hacking and scandal and lies and poor journalism. I'm assuming that you'll say you're attempting to communicate with the people, that you're reaching them where they're at, that this is an opportunity to speak to people on their own level, but I can't help but feel dismay and confusion about why you'd make this decision. I no longer choose to associate with the church, I no longer maintain anything close to a Christian faith, but I don't understand your decision on this.

I'd very much appreciate it if you'd take the time to respond.


Emily Birkinshaw
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  1. Well done hun. I am not of any faith but I understand the need to challenge belief. It all seems extremely hypocritical to me.

    I am glad you have not been afraid to speak out about such things!


  2. Well said Emily! Let's hope he gets back to you x

  3. Why has she abandoned her own baptismal promises? Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!

  4. John Sentamu is already an occasional columnist in the sun - he wrote a Christmas message to sun readers in the 24 December edition.

    Why are you so shocked that someone who is already a Sun columnist should write for the Sun on Sunday? It's the non event of the year.

  5. I think your closing words say it all, "I no longer maintain anything close to a Christian faith, but I don't understand your decision on this". If you did fully understand the Christian message you would understand his dicision and reflect on yours. It about all the crap of the world hanging on the cross, porn and all, its the place to be if you want new life.

  6. Well done on the post hun. The fact that you have moved away from the Christian faith has no baring on a prominent clergy man writing for a porn filled rag like the sun, I think your point is very valid and id love an answer too

  7. Dear Jesus,

    Remember me? I used to be a disciple of yours (but that's another extremely long story for another time). Guessing things have been pretty busy your end too.

    Anyhow, I'm massively disappointed about the company you have chosen to keep. I'm dismayed & confused by your decision to hang around with someone involved in the ... ahem ... "adult" industry. Another is a known tax-fraudster and not to mention that member of the far-right group, The Zealots. What are you thinking of? I used to think very highly of you but have you considered your reputation? I no longer choose to associate with you. I have found the pharisees keep much better company and would never associate with such scum & sinners.

    Yours non-judgementally


  8. There's a bit of a difference between repentant sinners and the rag know as the sun mind.

  9. Jesus was known as "the friend of sinners" not the friend of "reformed, repentant ex-sinners".

  10. Only repentant sinners. The bible quite clearly states that unrepentant sinners will be cast off. Don't believe me then
    Go read it for yourself.

  11. Hey Emily

    I think you are a great writer - I really appreciate your stance on issues like this. While it should not matter I should probably say I am a Christian..

    My main issue with this debate is one in which I find it difficult to position myself on such issues. I am torn between your stance and the stance which of Rebel Saint seems to point towards. I have not resolved this in my mind. But my problem with criticising someone for such an association is that we are all in much much more evil relationships. We just choose to focus on the most visible. For example, in order to respond to this blog I have used a laptop, built with Cobalt. I have no idea where that Cobalt came from but I am well aware of the killings and rape that have taken place in, for example, the DRC for me to be able to write on this page in a way that is affordable. I also have no idea who built my computer, what hours they worked etc...

    Thus to flip your quotes onto me "I choose to write on this internet which is founded on an affordability enabled by death and alienation of millions of other humans"

    I am aware my logic is not perfect in this response - but I'm tired so am a little unbothered about tidying and making clearer.

    On another note - it is a disgrace that the Church has such shares.

  12. Oh - I should probably clarify - I am not suggesting that Sentamu should be writing for the Sun and I think your criticism is reasonable - it is more a case of my own conflict in my mind about such issues.

  13. I think some of the the people critical of your excellent blog post miss the point. Using ++York to write that article is a cynical attempt by news internation to gain some sort of legitimacy to its tarnished brand.

    When was embracing God the same as embracing the sun seven days a week?

    Another Christian leadership own goal.

    By the way Emily I'd really like to hear about your journey from faith to no faith. Im on a similar path but remain just inside the faith thing.


  14. The Sun is read by many ordinary people, many of whom will have some kind of spirituality that needs nurturing. Not everyone who reads the paper is obsessed with pornography (and although I dislike Page 3, I believe it's quite tame compared to what most people have access to these days). And I think Rev. Sentamu will be giving his fee to charity.

    The British working classes are rarely to be found in church, so isn't it reasonable for a Christian minister to go where they are?Jesus didn't come to earth for right-on, pure and holy types with moderately left-leaning inclinations and a broadsheet-level vocabulary: he came for the sinners, for the ones who know they're not quite right, for the very people who are looked down on by everyone else. Jesus sat down with prostitutes: the bread he ate with them might occasionally have been bought with the money they had earned! John Wesley permitted himself to become 'more vile', as he called it, in order to reach the common people. As for Murdoch's wrongdoings - well, Jesus spent time with rich sinners too!

    By the way, I'm new to this blog, but I find your departure from Christianity far more interesting than Rev. Sentamu's decision to write for a popular newspaper! Your response to this issue suggests that you didn't get much nurturing by the church. Very few churches are any good at helping new believers develop their faith, to get over the hurdles after the euphoria has died down. As a Christian I find that very sad indeed. But maybe that's not your problem any more....

  15. Oh boy. Dear Emily, I'm so sorry about all the negative comments this post provoked. Christians feeling offended and not really getting the point. Please don't let them make you feel bad, you're a lovely and critical person and I'm sure many people appreciate that!
    Much love and I'm glad you found your way out of Christianity!

    1. Anon. no. 4 again.

      My post certainly wasn't intended to make Emily or anyone feel bad, so I hope it didn't have that effect! It was just a different point of view, that's all.

      As it happens, I'm not an Anglican, and one of the things that puts me off is that the CofE (probably like established churches in other countries) has to try so hard to be all things to all pepole. As we've seen, this rarely pleases anyone. The ones who want you to be liberal don't find you liberal enough, and the ones who want you to be evangelical don't find you evangelical enough. You want to be friends with both bankers and anti-capitalist protesters, but both sides end up critcising you....

      Being an established Church makes the CofE, by definition, an ally of the agents of power, even while it claims to be 'on the side of the poor'. Although I think Rev. Sentamu is right to want to go to where the people are, I'm sure he realises that there's a trade-off; in order to reach the masses, he has to enter into a relationship with media companies that lots of other people disapprove of. Yet the alternative is for the CofE clergy to pontificate in empty churches, which they also do - and then get critcised for not 'reaching out'!!!

  16. Emily. I remember when that photo was EVERYWHERE.

    I was reading the Guardian while eating bread and soup, and came to the centrefold picture. My train of thought was something like:

    "Hey, there's a girl getting baptised. Oh yeah, yesterday was Easter Sunday (duh). Emily got baptised yesterday."

    "That looks like York!"

    "That looks like Emily!"

    *reads caption*

    "It IS Emily!"

    I miss you.

  17. This annoys me a little bit in that I think you should give the guy a bit more respect (and I am in no way religious apart from when it comes to Tennis). I am not saying your argument is incorrect but I do think it is a little patronising. This is a guy who does not just talk the talk (i.e. writing blogs and newspaper articles) but really has walked the walk when it comes to social justice and standing up for what is right. It is so easy to write a self-righteous blog attacking one individual (who is only worth attacking because he has fallen by his own high standards, i.e. why not attack anyone else working for the Sun) - maybe think more about actually the wider picture (placing yourself and him in that picture). This guy deserves a bit more respect and I think you need a little bit more humility.

    Still, as someone said above you are a great writer. And I do like your purpose.

  18. Dear Emily,

    If you are no longer a Christian, is it because you have become a gnostic? These folk said/say that Jesus could not have dirtied his hands by becoming incarnate in such as miserable world as this. Your objection sounds suspiciously familiar.

    You complain about how disreputable the Sunday Sun is, while holding forth on the Internet, which on the whole must be the most disreputable medium of all. The irony is delicious. No one needs any skill, credentials, or reputation here. It is largely unmonitored. I bet you'd jump at the chance to write a column in any printed publication with one tenth the circulation of the Sun. Do I smell sour grapes, too?

    Fortunately, the disreputable Internet is leavened by many good writers with fine ideas-- yourself and others. We just have to pay attention to what people say, not where they say it.


Your comments and thoughts are really appreciated :) Thank you for taking the time to chat xx