Hallo again to all.
Every week, preparing the Anglicans Online News Centre, we sift through a large number of newspapers, radio and television transcripts, magazines, major blogs, and press releases. It takes significant time and focus to unearth information that is Anglican, factual, and of worldwide interest.
This week we noticed that the Americans were playing one of their American Football matches in London, putting a noticeable amount of money and energy into publicising it and drumming up enough interest to fill Wembley Stadium. (Hold on, we know it doesn't seem remotely Anglican. But we'll make the connection in a moment.)
There was quite a bit of advance coverage of this event in American media, and there was publicity about the publicity in British media (for example, this article in London's Daily Mail about the mayor meeting with American cheerleaders in a publicity event). But the actual American football match went almost entirely unmentioned and unreported. The Guardian had a 'US sport' button on its page, and clicking on that had a tiny mention of the match until it was over, at which point it showed up (with a photograph) in the 'Most recent' section.
Prior to the event we weren't able to find any reference at all in papers from the Financial Times to The Mirror. There was a minor mention at the BBC. US national media and major news sources outside the teams' cities gave it no more mention than they would any other sporting event, only noting in passing its being in London.
So an event that cost somewhere round £1Million to stage and which was publicised as an 'epic conflict', had a target audience which itself seemed apathetic. If we stopped people on a street in London to ask them what they thought of the match, we'd get blank stares. But the moral of this story isn't about Britain or America or American Football. It's rather that every conflict, every competition, and every contest won or lost has a certain audience of people who care and a much larger audience of people who don't.
Much of what passes for Anglican news in the Era of the Blog has to do with conflict. Two or more factions compete to best one another in some sort of contest. (The rhetoric of the church has always used the vocabulary of war, probably because martyrdom at the hands of a warlike enemy is such an effective form of publicity.) All parties in an Anglican conflict issue press releases and update blogs and give interviews in an attempt to sway public opinion to their side, so that they can say in the media that they have 'won'.
The problem with all of this is the meaning of 'public opinion'.
An American politician once famously said that 'All politics is local.' He was spot-on, of course. All faith and belief is local, too. Worship is local. Church is local. Our parish is right here, and we hardly ever go to that other parish over there. But once you get beyond the politics of a particular parish, church politics is non-local. To participate in church politics in-the-large, in diocesan councils and general synods and provincial conventions, you have to care. Entirely too many people care because of the power involved.
Most people don't actually care, for example, about who becomes the next bishop in a diocese far from their own. Most of the audience for evangelism, the potential new members of a church, don't even care who their own bishop is, and often don't know or care what diocese they're in. And very few of them understand clearly what a diocese is.
So if you've 'won' amongst your slice of the blogosphere, but 90 percent of the remainder of the Anglican world isn't reading or caring about the contest, what exactly have you 'won'? Rock, scissors, paper.
See you next week.
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