Sunday, 23 June 2013

Dumbing down the neighbourhood

Quoted by A Conservative Blog for Peace from the United States:
"....My mother grew up in a working class steel town neighborhood. She wore a hat and white gloves to church except between Memorial and Labor Days. Her house and yard were clean. Her father wore slacks and a button up collared shirt to his factory job. Families were centered around marriages, and the overwhelming majority of children lived in households wherein all the siblings had the same two biological parents. Today, two generations later, if you go to that same neighborhood you will find among the whites there (Hispanics have moved in but they are more family oriented than the whites who currently live there), that it is relatively rare for a woman to have the same biological father for all of her children, and rarer still for her to be living with the father of all of her children, let alone married to him. The yards are far more unkempt (and it's not like they were manicured 40 years ago), the houses far less clean, and the language used in front of children, and the media children exposed to, of a radically different sort than when my mother was a child. Criminal and anti-social activities, use of hard drugs, unstable sexual relationships, infatuations with more debased and degrading art and media forms, and so forth are far, far more common today in those neighborhoods...."
What is said here (with obvious differences due to geography)  certainly bears out my own parish experience from twenty years or so ago. I don't include it in order to be pharisaically judgemental.  After all, who is really to blame? If we have no experience other than chaos and inadequacy and poverty and the constant crisis caused by family breakdown, our moral sense itself is distorted. The 'moral compass', a concept so beloved of our contemporary politicians, is itself untrue; right and wrong become relative concepts or even a completely foreign language for those who have no experience of anything other.
So, who is to blame?  As a society we have been unfortunate in our role models since at least the late 1960s, probably a few years earlier. A celebrity, 'rock and roll'  culture, encouraged by the media and the intellectual elite to be dismissive of authority and sceptical of all truth-claims (except, interestingly, those of relativism itself) is a paradise for the affluent and the well-connected, insulated by money or education from the worst effects of societal breakdown - and also retaining a sense of which boundaries not to cross.

Not so for those at the bottom of the heap; they follow the example of their celebrity idols and their social 'betters' and have no resources to protect them from the winds that then blow. Not only that, they become the scapegoats of the politicians and the commentariat, casting around for suitable cultural fall-guys. 'It's the same the whole world over.  It's the poor what gets the blame.  It's the rich what gets the pleasure.  Ain't it all a bloomin' shame?  - always and without exception, and they have paid the highest price imaginable for the middle-class liberal- left's  obsession with egalitarian social experimentation and the politics of sex. As we have said before, it's so much easier than trying to get to grips with the real causes of poverty, material, or for that matter, spiritual, educational and cultural.

One of the experiences which helped wean me away from the comfortable liberalism of my youth was walking through the streets of a post-industrial valleys town in South Wales, not far from where I grew up. Passing the proud edifice of the Workingmen's Hall,  I had to step off the pavement into the road to avoid a huge pile of mouldering books left out in the rain. The hall's library - politics, economics, literature - by which generations of coal miners and industrial workers were self-educated to an astonishingly high standard - was being thrown out by its elected committee in order to make way for the installation of slot machines.
A situation easier, of course, to diagnose than to try to restore......


And for another, related,  example of cultural disintegration and loss of balance, again from the USA, Fr George Rutler writing [here at the NLM site] on the dangers of liturgical narcissism:
"...Any young man called to the priesthood must be like St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This is true of all Christians. Cupio dissolvi — “I wish to disappear.” Dioceses that understand this, especially in their liturgical life, excel in vocations, and those that do not, fail. ....................... Pope Benedict XVI said: “Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.”               There is even a danger of that same narcissism when attempts at a “reform of the reform” become self-conscious spectacle. Evelyn Waugh said that Anthony Eden was not a gentleman because he dressed too well. We try to offer the best to God, but we must not be fussy about it like the nouveau riche. It once was said that dowagers in Boston did not buy hats, they had hats. C. S. Lewis’ view was that true worship should be like a good old shoe, so comfortable that you don't have to break it in: “The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.” That is a sensibility I have long admired in the Byzantine liturgies. While some speak of the High Mass of the Western Church as the “most beautiful thing this side of Heaven,” I know of nothing so formally transcendent and still so informally natural as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
The constant fidgeting for “theme liturgies” and experimentation is a sign of failure. Worse yet is the priest who solicits laughter like a ham actor in a dying vaudeville show. Such clerics should limit their repertoire to the jokes that St. John told the Blessed Mother as her Son bled on the Cross. One is struck by the way Pope Francis, in his personal simplicity and affability, is so enrapt in the solemnity of the Mass that he would not think of smiling through the Sacrifice of Calvary.
It may seem that reform of abuses is as futile as King Canute ordering the tide to roll back. Actually, that great king was showing his court that human pride has no authority over what does not belong to him. That is why he placed his own crown on a figure of Christ Crucified, and that is what true worship is all about...."
A comment was made to me, by someone who has been fairly recently involved in the training of the newly-ordained, that one of the major problems in trying to inculcate even a rudimentary liturgical sense is that it is now perceived by many as an attempt to stifle their right to individual self-expression. Well, that's precisely what is is meant to be; but how does one get that essential message of the tradition across to the 'X-Factor'  generation - and, by that, I don't only mean the young? Undoubtedly now is the very worst time to sweep away residential theological training and what little is now left in modern Anglicanism of priestly formation, the surrounding culture being so inimical to anything other than the  self-dramatising search of the perpetual adolescent for 'the true me.'
Coincidentally, in the Revised Common Lectionary, today's Gospel was St Luke's account of the healing of the Gerasene demoniac, otherwise known as the story of the Gadarene swine...


From Peter Hitchens, some interesting comments and historical analogies about the newly-acquired godlessness of the Girl Guides. As we know well, metropolitan, metrosexual,  social marxism,  a new/old form of intellectual servitude very successfully disguised as freedom - until, as every so often, the mask slips - dares not leave even one potential bastion of traditional values in place...
We could add that if the Church had any credibility left in terms of a wholehearted commitment to its historic mission to the nation, one might expect the bishops to be protesting at the top of their voices (and giving good reasons for their opposition, if they can think of any) - and encouraging their flocks, especially parents, to do likewise - at the removal of the promise to serve God, particularly in view of the large numbers of parish-affiliated Guide and Scout  packs.


Lastly, in a move which gives the definitive meaning to the word 'desperation,' the CofE reaches out to Stonehenge pagans...  We're all in favour of evangelisation, the only worry concerns who will be evangelising whom in a ecclesial culture where 'apologetics' seems to be about saying sorry for our faith. 
No, come on, someone's pulling our leg here - particularly given the comment that it's "almost to create a pagan church where Christianity was very much in the centre” although some may have thought ..... no, let's not go there.
Does anyone care to explain ... or will we see black cockerels at 'all age family worship'  from now on? It's possibly the only way an unambiguous language of sacrifice will ever get past the various provincial liturgical censors commissions.


  1. Here's the original of the first subject of this posting:

  2. With regards to the druids, I'm afraid dear old Rowan set the template for that!

  3. This rather puts liturgical dance (etc) in its place:

    Simon Cotton


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