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.
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
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.