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.

Public prayer

A man who stands and prays to God. God hears him and replies. And through the scripture and prayers he reads, he hears the response of God and prays again. In that act and event of conversation that man is not just an individual acting incomprehensively in isolation. He is there together with the Lord, and the Lord with God and God. The man who stands and prays speaks with God, and speaks with and through all the generations who have prayed in this way. Though we only see only one man, two are present there. The man we see draws our attention to the Lord he speaks with. He makes visible or at least draws our attention to the otherwise invisible Lord. As long as he stands there, an upright and unmoving figure in a town centre, he is communicating with God and with man.

Perhaps our concern with written words means that we do not notice the much more direct form of public communication that takes place through this simple act of standing. The Christian communicates simply by standing still there, in public. The act of the single Christian who stands in one place and prays is effective because it is visible and public. It is an address to God and an audience with God that is simultaneously an address to the neighbourhood and nation. He simply stands there where he can be seen, and is immediately noticeable because, unlike all around him, he is still. He prays, worships and intercedes so that the world around him can hear and grasp that they are witnessing a public conversation of man and God, and they may realise, rightly, that this sets a challenge before them. Will they respond? What response can they make? When Daniel heard about the publication of Darius’ decree he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed together just as he had always done (Daniel 6.10).
Continue reading “Public prayer”

Two Kingdoms

There are two kingdoms. They are rivals. There is the kingdom of NOW, and there is the kingdom of the Future, or to give it its full title, the kingdom of the Present-and-FUTURE. The rule in the kingdom of NOW is of gratification now, without delay, of welfare without limit and of the instantaneity of all communication and consumption is life. All considerations of what else life could be, are ruled out. Thinking about what good life consists of can only mean delay, which cannot be tolerated. Life at all costs, and our present standard of living at all costs, but do not bother us with questions of how difficult this is going to make the future. It is a Now which seeks to make itself permanent, and is just as rapacious as it has to be to maintain that claim.

Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of the Present-and-FUTURE, or the NOW-AND-NOT-YET. But Christians live surrounded by the people of the Kingdom of NOW. Christians are not NOWists but they live with them. Christians always hold out to the NOWists the prospects of a future not confined by this NOWism. Christians are critics and sometimes opponents of the Present Dispensation.

Those who hold power are always narked by Christian caution and refusal to join in, and they respond with ridicule. Christians, alone sometimes, represent a refusal to believe. We are the dissidents and unbelievers. We do not place our trust in the Present Dispensation or subscribe to the myths the Present Regime creates about its authority. We hold out against over-inflated accounts of the Powers-That-Be, and insist that they are not beyond challenge. We point out that when you imply that you have no need to give an account of yourself, you raise yourself above the rest of us. When you insist that you have authority but you give no account of that authority, you are claiming an entirely different and superior status from the rest of us. You are making a claim to divinity. You present the regime you identify with, and you yourself, as the centre towards which the rest of us must turn. You may be making these claims only implicitly, and when challenged you may deny them. Nonetheless, you are setting your regime up as an object for our devotion and obedience, and so as a form of god.

We call this temptation to present yourself as determinative for us, and as the image around which we should gather, ‘idolatry’. We see this as an attempt to take away from us what is real and replace it with what is fake, and so to rob us. Moreover, we consider that any time anyone attempts to rob or harm us, they are also doing an injury to themselves, and the best thing we can do for them is resist them by insistently pointing out that they are also hurting themselves. Every crime diminishes us, shrivels our habits and character, both of those who commit it and those who do not oppose it, making it more difficult for all of us to do what it right. So for their sake and for our own we vocally and publicly challenge and defy those who do not wish to be called to account. We are not defined and constrained by the Present Dispensation and Regime. We are not slaves in the kingdom of NOW. We are all members of the much larger kingdom that stretches forward into the FUTURE

Defy the cults

So we have two fundamental imperatives. We have the imperative of extreme individualism and the imperative of extreme Collectivism. Either we have Freedom but no community, or we have community but no freedom. We have modernity, crumbling and descending into insanity now, and we have the cult of the primitives. We have these two gods worshipped by these two rival cults.

Now, again, as ever, the West is faced by the society by the society that is an inverse copy of it. It is faced by the cult and society that promotes community over freedom, and indeed which has no room for freedom at all. It is opposed to freedom, and regards freedom as a mistake. Freedom is an error. The demand for freedom is the one pathology which the cult is committed to eradicating. The eradication of freedom. The collective is supreme, the individual is nothing. This cult and society has both borrowed from Christianity and Judaism, and stood Christianity and Judaism on their head. It has who have stood out against Christianity, and made themselves an evil, and who have not been able to move forwards towards a more open society, but have remained primitives, who have not been part of the this success, who took no part in the building of the modern world and are unable to find any significant place in the modern economy. They represent a long howl of envy, of impotence and fury. They have shut themselves out of the modern world. They remain – and insist on remaining – in this closed, primitive economy, in which there is no forgiveness and no opportunity to receive what is new or open – unless it breaks in from outside.

The primitive cult is the freedom-eradication cult. Freedom-eradication is very attractive to some people. Not everyone likes freedom. Freedom always brings risk and a lack of security. Things can go wrong. Freedom requires courage. Some prefer to be told what to think. Some enjoy telling others what to think. There are cowards and bullies, and many of us are both. But not you. Don’t be one of them. You have your courage. As soon as you find your courage, we’ll follow you. Or you can follow me, I don’t mind which. We are going to withhold our worship from both of these cults, modern and the primitive. We are going to defy them both and we are going to withstand everything they throw at us. Ready now?

Fatherless

Some of the rioters and looters are as young as eight or nine. I then listened to a spokesman for Manchester city council appealing to parents to ensure that their children are not on the streets tonight. Why can’t people see what is staring us all in the face? We are not up against merely feral children. We are up against feral parents. Of course the parents know their children are out on the streets. Of course they see them staggering back with what they have looted. But either they are too drunk or drugged or otherwise out of it to care, or they are helping themselves to the proceeds too.
The parents are the problem; as are, almost certainly, their parents and their parents too. Not that any of them necessarily even know who their parents, in the plural, are. For the single most crucial factor behind all this mayhem, behind the total breakdown of any control or self-control amongst the rampaging gangs of children and teenagers who are rioting, burning, robbing, stealing, attacking and murdering, is the willed removal of the most important thing that socialises children and turns them from feral savages into civilised citizens: a fully committed, hands-on, there-every-day father.
As I have been writing for more than twenty years, a society that embraces mass fatherlessness is a society that is going off the edge of a cliff. There are whole areas of Britain (white as well as black) where committed fathers are a wholly unknown phenomenon; where serial generations are being brought up only by mothers, through whose houses pass transitory males by whom these girls and women have yet more children, and whose own daughters inevitably repeat the pattern of lone and utterly dysfunctional parenting.
The result is fatherless boys who are suffused by an existential rage and desperate psychic need, who take out the damage done to them by lashing out from infancy at the world around them. And all this is effectively condoned, rewarded and encouraged by the welfare state which conceives of need solely in terms of absence of money, and which accordingly subsidises lone parenthood and the destructive behaviour that welfare fatherlessness brings in its train.
Melanie Phillips Goodbye to the Enlightenment

The Slog

The Coalition has been dealt some ghastly cards, and most of the short-term blame for the coming real austerity lies firmly with the bankers and New Labour over-spenders who put flash and news conference bollocks before real needs. But over the long-term, the lack of foresight about demographic trends (and the need to diversify our economy) have been pushed down the road by successive governments since the early 1970s. And of course, we cannot leave this subject without noting that the gold-pensioned Mandarins have given very little in the way of advice over that time. Arse-covering, vote-catching and mad greed have, together, hastened our arrival at this awful cliff-face. But the disaster will be ten times worse than it need be if the current Government doesn’t realise that this is a national emergency – one to make Dunkirk look like a gentle regatta. I could’ve delved far more deeply into the knock-on tidal wave of effects that will result from rising interest rates and growing national debt repayments; but after a while with statistics, a sort of snow-blindness kicks in.

John Ward What lies ahead

In recent weeks The Slog has been revealing the extent to which the many minions of Rupert Murdoch keep cropping up in the Hackgate saga, part of the long and complex corruption of the British political and media establishment. Strangely The Slog has also had difficulties with internet service providers, so goes offline for periods without good reason being given.

Lynching

Israel is being hanged on a public gallows erected on the grounds of the United Nations with yards of rope gleefully supplied by the Muslim world. But the hangmen are mostly Westerners who still think that the Muslim lynch mob at their doorstep can be pacified with the death of a single victim.
Daniel Greenfield Sultan Knish

Israel, the stone that the builders rejected, yet the cornerstone

Suicide, or as the participants doubtless dubbed it, a “martyrdom operation,â€? was the evident goal of the Hamas supporters on the Mavi Marmara… the incident was an exercise in the theater of horror, one suicide attack in long and sickening series of suicide attacks.
It is hard to see what sequence of events might prevent a horror beyond the worst imagings of the Western public. That is the Islamist trump card. Even if the West wins, the Islamists believe, it loses, as America did in Vietnam and France did in Algeria. The cost of victory will be a wave of horror and revulsion that destroys Western morale. And they well may have judged us aright. If we are incapable of distinguishing our culture from the failing culture of death that has empowered itself in so much of the Muslim world, we will not survive.

David Goldman ‘The Horror, the Horror’ on the High Seas

Every independent civil society organisation has a right to maintain its identity and mission

A coherent idea of discrimination requires a substantive account of justice, and that includes defining what legitimate rights individuals and organisations actually possess. All British citizens properly possess the prima facie individual right not to be discriminated against – in matters like employment, housing and social services – on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation. This is because these involuntary markers of identity are completely irrelevant to such matters. I said “prima facie” because even here there exist widely recognised and uncontroversial exceptions, often arising from the rights of organisations. A rape crisis centre surely has the right to discriminate against men when hiring its counselling staff (perhaps any staff). An African-Caribbean community centre obviously can’t be compelled by law to hire a white guy like me as its director. The Labour party is evidently entitled to discriminate on ideological grounds in hiring its research staff. These are all examples of what the law calls a “genuine occupational requirement” (GOR). The idea is simple and compelling: every independent civil society organisation has a prima facie right to maintain its identity and mission by hiring staff who will support the distinctive purposes of the organisation and uphold its raison d’être. This isn’t a “privilege”, as is often tendentiously suggested, but merely a condition of meaningful self-government. Why then cry foul when religious organisations exercise their right to invoke the GOR provision? Why single them out and deny them the same rights enjoyed by others?

Jonathan Chaplin The Equality Bill must not be used to undermine the right of religious organisations to govern themselves

Jonathan Chaplin is director of the Kirby Laing Institute of Christian Ethics, which is related to Tyndale House, in Cambridge. We need an Institute of Christian Ethics, or even of Christian Theology and Ethics, in London. I think it should look something like this and hold conferences like this one.

Never hope to be employed in the state educational system

Thus the social market, as practiced in Europe, requires the state to step in and provide for those without work and to provide for the mothers of children who have no resident father. These are inevitable results of transferring the responsibility for charity from the community to the state, which is itself an inevitable result of the attempt to make a humane economy, rather than a humane society… The facts have been effectively documented by Charles Murray and others. And the result is clear: that Charles Murray and those like him could never hope to be employed in the state educational system in Europe and would be subject to official condemnation by any politician called upon to consider the matter. The state has externalized the costs of its “social marketâ€? policies onto society, and the greater the costs, the more the state expands with fictitious plans to reduce them. Never has a better machine for expanding the rentier class of bureaucrats been devised than this one, which constantly amplifies the problem that it is established to solve. Hence, as educational achievement declines in Europe, state expenditure on education increases—to the point where, in Britain, there are nearly two bureaucrats for every teacher, appointed to deal with the social problems that they themselves make a living by producing.
Roger Scruton The Journey Home Intercollegiate Review Spring 2009