Forgive me if I write about myself this morning, but an event to which I wish to refer occurred in the distant past, and you, dear reader, are probably much too young to be acquainted with it.
In the early 1960’s a tremendous amount of controversy arose in New Zealand when a theological scholar expressed doubts about some issues pertaining to the Christian faith.
When I wrote a book disagreeing with the learned professor, a producer on the New Zealand television channel—only one channel existed in those days—thought it would be a good idea if the professor and I were brought face to face in an Auckland studio, where we could argue publicly.
And so it happened. The programme received good reviews.
In fact, the TV station found it so popular that they wanted more.
They asked for another similar debate between the professor and myself, during which we could discuss more of our beliefs and disbeliefs.
The second programme also attracted a high number of viewers.
For a while afterwards it meant that when I travelled throughout the country, people would occasionally come up to me to say they recognised me from watching TV.
Now the point about which I want to talk is this. The two half-hour programmes were screened in the middle of Thursday afternoons. Because they went out “live”, it meant I was unable to see them.
However, both were repeated on Sunday evenings at 7 pm, and for me that posed another problem. No recording machines were available in those days—certainly no dvd players—and 7 pm was always the time when our parish church had the service of Evensong.
Do you see my dilemma? On the one hand I realised it would be wrong for me to change the time of the evening service so that I could watch TV.
On the other hand, supposing the service was at its usual time, how could I watch it when I always encouraged parishioners to attend church?
If you think I must have been vain, wanting to see myself in the two television programmes, ask yourself how you would have reacted.
Understandably, some people who saw the programmes were writing to me to discuss some aspect of the discussion. How could I reply when I had not seen the debates? The matter was difficult.
In a nutshell: was it right for me to put something else before church attendance? Note, I am not judging other people who do so, only myself.
As for the others (in some words later used by Pope Francis): “Who am I to judge?”