Rocks and hard places

A dear friend wrote to me this morning observing that my blog had been quiet of late. I have to admit that I was quite stirred by the growing uncertainties of our world. We suffer from a saturation of information and having no way to assess the veracity or moral rectitude of anything. We don’t know what is going on in the world. All we know is what people with their ideas want to tell us. I don’t know what to believe any more. Isn’t that always the case with mass media and propaganda?

The ultimate of human perversity came home as I watched a series of documentaries over the last couple of days about the “philosophical” background of the Holocaust, not only concerning about half the Jewish population of the world but also all the other categories of mankind the Nazis wanted dead. We have all seen the grainy black and white films showing the piles of emaciated bodies they showed at the Nuremberg Trial. The subject becomes banal for many, as the same horse has been whipped for seventy years. What was new this time was the way the documentary showed the development of the Nazi ideas and the precisely calculated methods designed to carry out the “ethnic cleansing” pogroms of Europe. It is the coldness and Teutonic efficiency of it all that causes the most pain to us, even those of us who were born long after these events.

The seeds are still there, and the old saying is that much more relevant “Those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat it“. The same lines are being repeated now as in the 1930’s from the crisis of capitalism to the rise of state totalitarianism and religious fanaticism. As a Christian, I believe that only Christianity can do some good in this morass of evil, but it will not do so in military or political terms. It can only transform each of us from within.

I am brought back to the ideas I have often expressed about going beyond the Christianity of the Constantinian Church and connecting with something much higher. Oscar Wilde said that being sent to prison did not make him a better man, but a deeper man. It gave him insight through suffering, and not what the conventional Victorian mind considered as someone who was to be morally reformed through punishment. Few understand that subtlety. I do. To be a disciple of Christ, we have to let go of our materialism, the shallowness of our religious bigotry or the religious consumer’s supermarket. We need to go from the daylight of secular reason to the midnight sun that gives a different kind of light.

All these thoughts about man’s inhumanity to man can bring us to a new level of consciousness or consign us to hopelessness and nihilism. There is a beginning of a way that is not of this world. We may be at the doorway of a new world war. Millions will die. The cultural heritage of centuries will be destroyed and faith will be laid waste as in 1918 and 1945. May we be delivered from such a scourge, whether it is the ambitions of American politicians and businessmen, the faceless bureaucracy of the European Union, Russia, the worsening situation in the Ukraine and the Middle East. Perhaps, in the way of Providence, the love of Christ awaits.

Perhaps I see things too pessimistically. One thing the French documentary about the Holocaust brought home was that the pessimistic European Jews got out whilst the going was good. The optimistic ones thought it would all blow away, until they were put out of business, made to leave their countries without money or property – and finally sent to the death camps. We have to try to get the right kind of information – and that’s the rub.

I still feel quite burned out, but I struggle to my feet yet again. The idea is still the same, that of finding a higher and more noble way of living as a Christian and telling others that this is possible. I don’t always get to put a fine expression on things. It is a life-long struggle.

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2 Responses to Rocks and hard places

  1. J.D. says:

    I get what you’re saying Father. Might I suggest a bit of a retreat, as in a turning away from the media for awhile? There’s a wealth of information out there but if it wears you down its ok to retreat for awhile. Maybe try to enjoy your sailing, pray more fervently, enjoy some hikes in the countryside and maybe read a few good books, including the New Testament.

    Sometimes I need to take my own advice! I’ll keep you in my prayers.

    • Many thanks for this. I can’t think of better advice. I’ll have to wait a little longer before being able to go sailing, because even when we get a nice day, the sea is heavy with swell and it’s still rather cold. Perhaps in the second half of February if the weather improves… I’m going to make a boom tent for my boat for the big gathering in Brittany next May, and I need to see about arranging things in the boat for a week’s sailing. There is the captain’s cabin and navigation box, the oars and gaff, a compartment at the bow that can be filled with lightweight things and the ship’s workshop (small toolbox). There will also be the “galley” – watertight box with a gas burner, a pan and some tins of food, plus a bottle or two of drinking water. It’s going to be quite a challenge in a 12-foot dinghy. Next May, I’ll be far from Arabian scimitars and Confederate blunderbusses!

      There is the dog to walk and I will be likely to be cycling before sailing. I am very fond of reading and going deeper into philosophy and theology. I am very interested in studying Gnosticism and what may be a more objective history of the early Church, which was much less “undivided” that we like to think.

      We are approaching Septuagesima and it will be Lent in the blink of an eye! Just a few days and we “bury” the Alleluya.

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