I have had some careful defusing to do over the past day, regarding the article Europeans are frightened in The Anti-Gnostic blog. The person running this blog is spiritually of Episcopalian origins. He is now an Orthodox Christian and tells me that he is interested in western rites including Sarum. Some extremely offensive comments crept onto this article, and Anti-Gnostic had the kindness to remove them. I corresponded with him, explaining certain things that are not appropriately written in public, and we seem to have arrived at an understanding. It goes to show that nearly all conflicts are solved by dialogue and communication. It suffices to explain things and be aware of each other as human beings.
I also wrote to the commenter who wrote so offensively, someone who has been writing on this blog, but I have received no reply, and I withhold the expression in question. There are still many comments from this person in this blog, using the same e-mail address but under two different pseudonyms. According to information he himself gives in his comments, he converted to Orthodoxy from his Roman Catholic origins and became very disappointed. He was ordained a priest, but it is unclear whether he was ordained in a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction or by an independent bishop. The change of pseudonym seems to suggest that he no longer exercises the priesthood. We all live with our ghosts and we all have work to do on ourselves. In closing my e-mail to him, I wrote “I truly pray for God’s peace to descend on you that your heart may be changed“.
My statistics page tells me that those who read my blog are very diverse and numerous, living in many different countries and continents. Most of my commenters are concerned, as I am, to understand things rationally or at least in a spiritual way faced with reality that is beyond human reason. It is too easy to become aggressive and to want to put on a hyper-masculine shell – Go get ’em, boys – as if this world were some kind of wooded land in the south or west of the United States in the nineteenth century. The forces of the modern world cannot be confronted with a blunderbuss and a pistol!
I was quite shaken by the aggressive comments on the postings I deleted and then resumed in my posting of yesterday. We are living in a world of confusion and fear. We are all afraid as my grandparents were back in the summer of 1939. Our lives are about to be changed by one threat or another. It is obvious that nothing can continue as it is. The present financial and political establishment may collapse in a very short time, as did Chamberlain in 1939. Appeasement was over. Darkness was poised to come over the world, and it was stopped. I often marvel at the way we were threatened by annihilation during the Cold War, but the worst never happened. I had nightmares as a child about the nuclear holocaust. Again we are threatened by technological totalitarianism like Orwell predicted in his novel of 1948, and now by radicalised Islam and terror. Nationalist politics may seem to be the solution, but we can ask whether they are equipped in terms of statecraft, diplomacy and an understanding of the big picture. I see no solution, except that we were spared the darkness of the Gestapo and the SS, and we were spared from being vaporised in a mushroom cloud or a lingering death from radiation poisoning. I see God’s hand in all that.
The Gospel exhorts us not to worry about the future, but to live day by day. Perhaps Islam will prevail, and stimulate us Christians to be more authentic in our faith, more so than in the present soul-destroying consumer-capitalist-democratic world. We should be careful about what we think we want, because we might just get it and in a way we least expected. This is the root of my apparently glass-licking attitude. I have been in France since the Mitterrand days, and have observed the political climate here, with the rise of the Front National. I would cringe each time Jean-Marie Le Pen would express things the political establishment and media would interpret as apologiae for crimes against humanity or holocaust denying. This kind of thing has put a lot of people off the nationalist path. We are just little people. We may have our opinions and convictions, but we just can’t express ourselves just in any way. We have to weigh things up, organise our minds and priorities, and assume the consequences.
As Christians, we do well to see things sub specie aeternitatis, in the same way as we look at history. We are called upon as Christians to another level of life through prayer and doing to others as we would have done to ourselves. Many political polemicists have forgotten this. We have the message of The Mission: one priest faces the enemy with the Blessed Sacrament, the other with weapons of war. They both get killed. To the resigned attitude saying “We must work in the world; the world is thus”, Cardinal Altamirando gives his epitaph – “No, thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it”.
Is this a call to do nothing and give up? No, because there are many things that can be done, notably missionary work among Muslims as some priests are doing now in the cities right here. Many of those people, who already fled their countries, may well convert to Christianity as the pressure of violence increases. Are we ready to welcome such people, or are we going to continue to call them “rag-heads” or whatever? We can also increase our knowledge of Islam. We must know the enemy and understand why the fundamentalist and violent elements emerged at different points of history. These are things we can do, and no law or authority forbids them. There is no limit to the imagination, or even of human and Christian kindness.
“We are living in a world of confusion and fear.”
This is so true. There is so much fear these days. Some people are so frightened of the Muslims.
As juvenile as those Star Wars films were, they had a point about fear leading to the Dark Side, through anger and hate. I see nothing good in the terror that seems to afflict those on the reactionary right.
This belief that we are all doomed to enslavement by the Jihadists is a terrible kind of defeatism, Do we not have the confidence that our faith, our nations, our political systems and our cultures have the integrity to deal with the problems and dilemmas of Islam? We need confidence and we need hope to resist this destructive fear.
Amen! There’s no passage more fitted to our times than, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…” We indeed are there, and this is the attitude we are called upon to cultivate. No matter what it may look like at any given moment, no matter what may seem about to happen, that gates of hell will not prevail against the church of God. We have that promise.
Fr Anthony, you stated: “Darkness was poised to come over the world, and it was stopped. I often marvel at the way we were threatened by annihilation during the Cold War, but the worst never happened.”
I will, hopefully respectfully, take exception to this statement. I truly believe that those who had lived in free democracies before 1939 and were later delivered, mostly by the American President F.D. Roosevelt, into the hands of Stalin did indeed live, for over two generations, with a reality in which the worst did indeed happen. We often calmly forget that mass murder and forced movement of peoples continued in Soviet Russia long after the War was over.
Of course, I was a little boy in the north of England, oblivious to the cries of those still in the gulags and the so-called “psychiatric hospitals”. I am aware that the numbers of those killed in the Soviet bloc far outnumber the numbers of dead under the Nazis. Yes I have heard of Operation Keelhaul, not exactly our finest hour. I couldn’t think of everything in my posting, only the way I lived the era as one born only fourteen years after the end of World War II – a late boomer and child of the Cold War. I had a very sheltered childhood.
I was lately enjoying Trollope’s Barchester Towers again, and was struck by this passage in chapter 26: “Mr Slope saw at once the full amount of his gain, and turned on the vanquished lady a look of triumph which she never forgot and never forgave. Here he was wrong. He should have looked humbly at her, and with meek entreating eye had deprecated her anger. He should have said by his glance that he asked pardon for his success, and that he hoped forgiveness for the stand which he had been forced to make in the cause of duty. So might he perchance have somewhat mollified that imperious bosom, and prepared the way for future terms. But Mr Slope meant to rule without terms. Ah, forgetful, inexperienced man!” We may wish it were otherwise, but not only what we do, but how we do it and what we say, can have immense weight for good or ill, distiinct from the matter at hand (and beyond considerations of politic calculation, which seem to resonate strongly, here)..
Now, I am embarked on Boethius’s Consolation of Philsophy for discussion in a study group (never having read it right through before) and finding it very appropriate to the present, sobering and encouraging…