Two Cults

Gospel gives us a prospect. Ahead lie opportunities. The future may be bigger than the present. More may be expected of us. We may look forward and be expectant, and so we are prepared to wait for one another, welcome one another’s efforts and to talk one another up. This is the fundamental assumption that has enabled and motivated the rising hopes of peoples under the cultural influence of the gospel. Through hearing the gospel they discovered the advantages of the culture and law of universal mutual-respect, and so of civil society. As a result, they became communities of growing political participation – sovereign nations – and so experienced economic take-off. The point about a nation is that it is a population that follows a single rule of law by which no one can be robbed of the product of their work. When this is so, everyone has a motive to work and to discover how, through new techniques and technology, to achieve more by their work. Curiosity and inventiveness are rewarded.

It is the closed economy of Christian discipleship that creates and sustains the open economy. We are free, because we are given freedom. Yet it is not ours until we have also taken this freedom, and the only way to take on this freedom is by taking on a particular limitation of this freedom, the particular discipline of Christian discipleship. We can take on this form of constraint in order to grow into this freedom. We will never have this freedom unless we exercise it within this discipline and restraint. It is the form of service that will bring self-mastery.  The true master is a master of self-mastery. The true master discovers and learns and unceasingly exercises his self-mastery through putting himself through an apprenticeship. He does so by serving all those with less self-mastery than himself. The powerful remains power only by serving the helpless and wildly flailing people around him. They lash out, and he gets buffeted by them. He comes to their aid and they fight back and excoriate him while he does so. He exudes calm, while they punish him for not being as frenzied, demented and angry as they are.

We can show what the effect of the gospel is by contrast with the other cult, which has the opposite effect. It produces highly polarised societies in which a tiny elite who hold all the wealth and the majority have nothing, not only no wealth or prosperity, but no working capital and no hope of gaining or of hanging on to any. As soon as anyone hears that you have made money, the strongman sends his enforcers around to take it from you.  

So two cults. One of consent. One of coercion. One of freedom, the other of force. The one will be patient and wait, expects change and looks forward to an eventual transformation and new situation. The pushes relentlessly, in this moment and every moment, and is always pushing us back towards zero. It is determined that nothing shall ever be different from the original shove that stops us and pushes us backwards, so that we all end up with less than we started with.

Sexual difference

The Powers-that-Be want to abolish sexual difference and all the mutuality that it allows, so we no longer think of ourselves as men or women. They want us to think of ourselves simply as individual units without relation, without gender and without any other specific characteristic. They do so because they want to make the entirely population directly depend on them for their identity. They want to make themselves the universal mediator between each and every individual so that no individual may be with another without their mediation. And they want to break up relationships so that we live in a perpetual flux, so that they can always bring us into new voluntary relationships and so that – and each of us lives in a catalogue from which other may choose someone to bring home and create the brief fiction of belonging and of mutual giving-and-taking.

The Transsexual phenomenon is an attack on men and women. Any attempt to create confusion about our identity, and so about our identity as men and women, is a form of aggression. It comes from those who want to demote us. Sow confusion – that’s their agenda. We say that the best thing for men is confident women, and the best thing for women is confident men. Men gain from women who are confident. Men and woman strengthen and support each other. The confidence of one helps the confidence of the other. Each enables the other to grow and reach their potential. But those who sow confusion want us to believe that a gain for men is a loss for women, that men and women can only detract from one another and are rivals and enemies and that each is better on their own. Obviously if men and women believe this and never trust each other or come together at all there will be no children at all, and so there will be no future women or men. Perhaps that is what they want. Perhaps they are motivated by fear of rising populations and want to see populations decline. Sowing doubt about the goodness of the two sexes and the complementarity and orientation of each sex to the other is the agenda that manifests their aggression.

The attack on our sex and gender is absolutism and totalitarianism. It makes a person unsure of who they are, and how they may fit in, and how they may contribute and how they may be valued and become confident this is the work of those who are prepared to concede us no dignity and no identity of our own at all. This is the robbery of our identity, of our innocence, the robbery of childhood, or the hope and aspiration to grow and become independent and mature.

We Christians know that enmity is not the fundamental force of creation. Love is fundamental. The love of God motivates all creatures that God calls into existence. They are called into a communion of love, in which they can love, and are not ultimately inhibited by fear or aversion to their own selves or to others. They learn to love all creatures in all the various forms of love that are appropriate to each. We may love our parents, brother and sisters, friends, our work, our workmates and team mates, our town and our country, our people and their habits and attitudes, their language and history, our countryside, its wildlife, its views and products. There are all these and more loves, and with them forms of affection and trust and loyalty, a whole host of affections and assumptions too deep to name. To a degree we can say that we love ourselves, we take of our own bodies and we love the bodies of those closest to us and take care of them. We tell them how lovely their bodies are. They are distinct from us, and we encourage them to learn a proper amount of independence, and we see them as part of us. They are them and they are ours. They belong to us and we to them. So parents see children, and so men see women and women see men. So we Christians say that men and women are creatures of love. We tell people that they have no fundamental reason for becoming suspicious of one another. But we should be aware of those who want to create fear and suspicion, and we should guard ourselves, and warn one another of this agenda of that this vast distrust and ambiguity that is always being pushed at us, and in particular at the children who, being more trusting, may be more gullible and vulnerable to it. The truth of man – and of any male – is that he can and may serve a woman. And she may allow herself to be served, and to wait until she is served, and to allow him to provide for her what perhaps she could do for herself, but generously to allow him to give. She serves him by waiting for him and so giving him time to act. She does not serve either him or herself by acting instead of him. Her action is allowing him to act for her. He may protect her and he may provide for her. He may pick her out, exclusively from all others and love and serve her alone. He may present her with the gift of a new life. He may give her a child. By fathering that child for her he is the hope of continuity for that woman, so she may live through her children. By her readiness to become the mother of that child she is the hope of continuity for that man, so he may live through his children, look forward to the life they will continue when he himself is gone. He has someone to work for; this wife and children make his work purposeful and his life meaningful. She may give him a child. They may do this together, and can only do this together, and in order that they do, each must perform for the other what they cannot do for themselves. There is something, or sometimes many things, that only a man may do for a woman, and that only a woman may for a man. They are complementary because they are different. Take that difference away, make them identical and indistinguishable from one another, and they become useless to one another.

Distinguishing the True from the false Gospel

As we grasp the gospel we realise that there is also a rival to it. Whatever is good and valuable attracts emulators and copies. There is a look-alike gospel, a rival gospel. And the rival gospel attempts to make itself just as look the real gospel as it can so that it is not straightforward to distinguish the original from the copy, the real from the counterfeit. The Christian gospel holds out the most enormous and ambitious account of human being. In response all sorts of other accounts emerge that take elements of the gospel and combine them in some simple and superficial way and make them available with the claim that they are cheaper. And they are cheaper, initially. They just don’t do the same thing at all. The Christian gospel give us a man with freedom. This freedom comes from God and makes him like God. The other fake gospels create a man without freedom, who is therefore like an animal, and remains just an animal with pretensions.  To give people the fake rather than the real is, just like giving them fake medical treatment, unbearably cruel. And mankind is endlessly gullible and capable of self-deception. All Christian history has been about distinguishing the true gospel from the copy. We have to continue to make this distinction, by searching in the scriptures and teaching of the Church for the true, the highest and most ambitious account of man that the real gospel offers. This account combines the freedom of man with the fellowship of man, and so holds together our independence as individuals with the love that makes us servants of one another, and in which the truth brings the most testing self-judgement. The one ‘tell’, the give-away, is that the fake version does not usually involve any great status loss, any discipling and self-discipline. It fits in with the perspectives of all those around us, our leaders are OK with it, and it does not make you unpopular. The true Gospel shows us the long way of renunciation of much of what our neighbours and leaders value. It shows us the cross.

Limitless Power

Why are you so suspicious about the intentions of the government? What have you got to hide?  We have to reply that it is they, the government and its apologists, who are doing the hiding. They are attempting to conceal a power claim that has no limit. We believe that government does not want power just in order to carry out some set of purposes, but that government has turned into the grasp for power for its sake, and is now this and nothing more. All the good intentions oriented to public service have given way to the imperative to come up with what the government demands and to submit to whatever it imposes on us, in the belief that it can be satisfied and will then allow us some space in which to carry out our own business, whereas it will always and immediately demand more. It appears to have no sense of its own limits. In this it has become absolutist and dictatorial. This is morally corrupting for those employed by government agencies and so are complicit in this power grab, and it is corrupting for all of us in the rest of the economy who attempt to act as though the government acknowledges our authority to act for ourselves on our own account, while of course our purposes are deflected, our effort misdirected and resources misallocated by our attempts to give government what it demands, while pretending that these demands are limited and purposeful while they rather in fact unlimited and directed to taking away from us all freedom to act on our own behalf. Left to itself the government will attempt to swallow the nation. What cannot stop itself must be stopped. This is why we say what we do.

Worship

Of course you worship. You worship something or other. You can’t help yourself.

If you do not give your acknowledgement to truth, you make concessions to falsehoods and fictions. You worship someone or something, whether or not you realise it. You worship even though you do not understand that this is what you are doing. You give your recognition to various persons and authorities. You cannot prevent yourself from acknowledging a range of powers and authorities. By giving them an acknowledgement that is misplaced or excessive you pay them tribute and so add to their power and so make them powerful, giving away to them what is yours and so alienating your own powers. You give yourself away, giving them what you should keep for yourself.

God alone can give us our true valuation. God alone can give us our proper worship. He alone can tell us apart from all other persons so he can give us the recognition and acknowledgement that is uniquely true and right for us. He knows us and gives us precisely that respect and love that is good for us. He neither overestimates nor underestimates us. His valuation of us is true, and his love does not have a limit. All worship that is not right is either an overestimation (in which we fear those who should not be feared) or an underestimation (in which we ignore or despise those who are due more than we give them).

Our value and our true valuation comes from God. He extends his recognition to us and so he values us, and as he values us, so we receive value and become valuable. We become what we receive from him. We become what he gives us. God gives us worth and considers us worth. This worthship is what worship is. He gives us his worship, which is his true estimation that we are his. We are his creatures and his people. This acknowledgement by God that this is our status is our entire existence. We live as a result of his worship of us. His valuation of our is our life.

Our worship of God is our response to his worship of us. It is his worship returning to him. We realise that he is the one who knows us, who values us and evaluates us truly. We realise therefore that our existence comes from him to us and travels back to him. This circulation of acknowledgement is the form in which we receive life. We live in gratitude. Life and truth and acknowledgement come to us but cannot stop with us or be impeded by our deficiencies or incapacity. Our existence continues because it is independent of our control.

The realisation that our worship comes from God is the beginning of our worship and of our ability to name and truthfully identify and value anyone and anything. Our gratitude is consequent on our realisation that we are valued and truly known. This is the moment of our waking up to and coming to wonder at the complexity and beauty of relationships that are independent of us but which we are dependent on within one creation. There is for the first time the possibility that we may know and evaluate anything truly because we are known and evaluated truly. God knows man as his creature. He owns him, takes responsibility for him, and despite all disaster does not give up on him or send him away but remains with him.

God’s ‘worship’ of man is not only the source of the value of man. God’s ‘worship’ gives to man the means by which he can live together with other men. God gives this worship to man in order that man can see and value anyone and anything around him and so exist in a world of creatures that he can recognise and evaluate. Men can value and identify one another because with his worship God has given them the currency with which they can do so. God gives to man the worship by which man can give and acknowledge true worth to anyone and anything.

Let the young look up

I have been dismissed from every teaching job I have ever done. I arrive wanting to give my students something of what I have received. But I find the whole college is giant conspiracy not to deliver what is promised, and to squeeze out anyone who points this out. I find greatest difficulty in raising their expectations enough that students become capable of receiving even a first instalment, or of realising what it is, or of picking up the attitude and practices of knowledge-seeking, or of coming to understand that there is more, much more, all available to them. Our ancestors in the Church have kept for us, and are anxious to supply to us, a mountain of life experience. They can set off an avalanche for anyone ready to jump into it. I don’t see why in this short time in this college dedicated to learning, we should hold one another back from this vast accumulation of experience, any part of which will make you very much happier, stronger and more resilient. You have a long life ahead of you which is very likely to go much better if you do in these short years of study, what we all say we want to do – learn, by making our forebears’experience our own.

I want these students, and expect my colleagues, to load their pockets with the wisdom of ages. By the way, if your colleagues do not read and debate papers with each other in a senior seminar it is a sure sign that they have stopped learning and the place is dead. I want to see the young ambitious and greedy. But they arrive at college bored and listless, made old and dependent by years of Powerpoint and handouts.

My colleagues, however, want to be like their students, and to be liked by their students, so staff and students enter a covenant of demanding nothing, of mutual holding back. That way no one is left behind, and no one, by walking on ahead, is allowed to hint that the whole crowd are being robbed and are robbing one another.

In my own school and university years I never managed to find respect for any teacher who wanted to make friends with me. I wanted to look up to them. I considered a pedestal to be the proper place for them. They were not my equals, but my superiors. Their first job was to show just by their demeanour what a lot I had to learn, by which I mean, what a huge amount there is to learn. Then I would know that I was at the foot of the mountain, in the right place to learn it.

I don’t expect you to want less than I did. In any college I am paid to raise your expectations. If I can’t, I am not earning my money. I expect you to want what I wanted or more. You think that you can keep your expectations modest, but learning is a semi-communal activity, so you can’t keep your expectations low without pulling ours down too. The Lord is calling us. You stay here if you want to, but we are off, for we want to catch up with him. Where is the Lord? He is in conversation with Irenaeus and Athanasius. If you go into the library and start with these two saints, you can listen in. You can’t stay here anyway. Satan is coming with his bulldozer and every place vacated by the Lord’s people he will raze. Satan always leaves rubble and ugliness as his monument to those who dawdled and got caught.

Similarly, ministers who want to attract the young and who want to be liked play amplified worship music played by a band. They believe that this is ‘contemporary music, ‘modern’ music. Modern – is there any concept more old-fashioned, quainter, than ‘modern’? Modern – it sounds so tired. It seems such a long time ago now. Modern – it means nostalgia for people with paunches. The young are through all that and out the other side. Play your modern music if you want them to get up and leave the room.

But if you are hoping they will stay, ignore them. That’s right. Ignore them. Get down on your knees as though they weren’t there. Say Evensong. Sing the responses. Apart from the psalms, you can do it without the book. When Evensong does its work the congregations and choirs of saints of all ages will sing to them. You won’t need to worry about the young people after that. Desire will awake and curiosity will lead them on. Stop reading the bible, and start singing it. Once they have got used to hearing Scripture and singing the service, they will want to know what they are hearing and singing. Then they will want someone to open Scripture for them. They will want to know what the teaching of the Church and is and has always been. They will be at the foot of the mountain. Maybe they’ll come to you. You ready?

The clergy and other centralisers

The clergy have created over these last decades a ‘gospel’ which is both unattractive and inaudible. The British people long since decided that the clergy are saying nothing of any consequence. And they are right.

For the clergy are saying nothing that is in any way different from the offering of the media, corporations and governments, with their long determination to remove decisions from us. The corporations know how to delight and entertain, while the government knows how to buy loyalty with jobs and incomes. Only the Church knows that humans must not sell themselves or give up responsibility for themselves and their neighbours. The clergy have not challenged any of the abandonment of responsibility through centralisation or the growth of regulation, or challenged the distractions and compensations offered for them. The have given into to the temptation to commit our all health, education and welfare to the all-centralising powers, and been part of the prejudice against actual people making decisions in their own towns and villages.

The clergy themselves are centralisers. They are here to take decisions away from us. They seem ready to amalgamate parishes into oblivion, replace the wide-spectrum gifts and ministries of congregations, parcelling up the various aspects of Christian witness into jobs and careers reserved for a few in a central office.

Lucky for them, we are here to oppose them. We insist that all life and wellbeing begins at the altar in the worship of God, and that our refreshment and restoration depends on our manning our station at the altar at every parish church in every place, small as well as large. Only the prayer of Christians can prevent man from surrendering himself to, and being swallowed up by, the overweening Leviathan.

Scripture is the source of all education

We are in the grip of a vast cultural pessimism. All diagnosis of this pessimism merely adds to it, unless it is preceded by the original and optimism that bubbles out of Christian worship. This cultural pessimism has been taught in schools from the moment that schools ceased to be witnesses of the gospel, and gave up schooling generations in hope that comes from the gospel. The bible that was once the one and only book of our studies, and then the first step for all other studies has been made the one book that may never be opened again. As long as the bible is shut, and Christian worship not sung, these are schools in name only. The literature and thought that once formed our culture, believed to be too difficult for our children has been withheld from them. Our new leaders believe that they are not worthy of it. In schools, the very place where children should be introduced to the writers and thinkers of our culture, they are given only what is easy and undemanding, and encouraged to dismiss whatever is not contemporary and immediate. They are not introduced to this literature, but they do pick the sense that it is too difficult for them or that is to be sneered at. They are introduced to ‘critical’ thought that despises this great tradition.

So get that bible open. It is your only way out of the cult that is driving this pessimism

The Shock of Truth

What is wrong with this Church of ours, that it makes no impact, that it is silent, has nothing to say or contribute to the world around us? What is wrong is that this church has muffled the gospel, and concealed from itself that this is what it has done. This suppression has been going on for so long that we are now only very tenuously connected to the true Church, the true Church that is created and sustained by the gospel. But we have to hear and return to that one, holy catholic and apostolic Church, the Church of all places and all ages, if the ‘Church of England’ is to be what its name claims.

But we have taken out the cross. We have a gospel without truth and judgement, a message of mere empathy and affirmation, an inoffensive and irrelevant gospel, no longer able to cut through any of the contrary claims it meets.

Our church does not see how much trouble our neighbours are in and does not go to their aid. Its ‘gospel’ offers them no diagnosis, no warning, no corrective, no medicine and no surgery. Our neighbours are in the hands of forces that have no sympathy for them. It is for us to go to their aid. It is for us to challenge the thugs who hold them captive. We have to identify what it is that holds people back and ties them down. We have to point out what troubles them and who is inflicting those troubles on them. We need to find some compassion for our neighbours and for the society around us. We have to find enough compassion for them to tell them the truth, although the truth is just what they do not want to hear. For their sake we have to give them what they don’t want. We have to tell them that they have been preyed on, and they have identified themselves with those who prey on them, and they have been preying on one another. They have been suffering a delusion, and they have been inflicting it on each other. They are both victims and perpetrators, and all have been complicit in a long concealment of the truth. The gospel comes with the shock and hurt of a plaster being ripped off, of the light being suddenly and blindingly switched on, of being dragged forcibly out of bed, of being thrown out of the vehicle and left on the side of road. The gospel shocks, hurts and exposes us.

The Resurrection opens the world 2

There is a divine character to West society which comes from its aspiration to freedom. Freedom is a characteristic of God and is the gift of God to man. Where that gift is given, there the Church appears. The Church is the community of those who meet in freedom, in which every person is willing to associate themselves with all these others and to be counted as one of them, and is available to called upon by them and put themselves at the disposal of these others. In the Christian conception freedom is unthinkable without love. And love is unthinkable without freedom. You may love, but whoever you love is not bound to return that love, or to return in the way you give it. Your love cannot bind them, and certainly cannot confine them. It can only wait for them. The Lord waits at the door. He does not come and pull us out. He waits, for days, years, lifetimes and periods of time beyond definition. The Lord waits, for us. We make him wait, and yet he waits only because he wants to. This waiting is the passion of God. Christians are enabled to share in the divine patience.

God lives where men live because men live where God has set us. He is the space in which we live. Creation exists before him, where he has placed it. Creation exists in the space given to into within heaven. Heaven gives creation a place. We live where God places us. We live here in this material creation. We live in one another’s proximity, able to see and hear and touch one another through the materiality of our bodies. We are not ethereal. And if we were, how would any disembodied being be able to meet any other disembodied being? You perceive me because you see my body. Even when you write to me, you send your message to any of the various addresses from which I, through my body, will eventually hear or read it. Our body is our ultimate address. Wherever my body is, there you will find me. This will continue to be true until the day I die, after which it will no longer be possible to say anything about me with certainty.

The created and material world does not hold God in or hold God out. God may be distant or he may be close – we cannot say. We can say only what scripture says: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ The Lord may be right here where we are. The space we live in is our place; it confines us and it enables us to find one another. The space we live in does not confine God, either to keep him away or to fix him here where we are so that we may draw him into the field of our perception. He may come and go without our ever being aware of it. We live in the place he has made available to us. Perhaps he is present here first, and we are only present here because of his hospitality.

We may be at once mortal-and-immortal. We do not jettison our biology with its limits, but by the grace of God its Creator, our biology may become the idiom of our ongoing, unlimited life in communion with God and with all creatures.