Saturday, 29 March 2014

Cultural revolution and cultural dissonance in this week of Lent

A break from self-imposed Lenten silence to post a  few links to the news story and comment du jour:

Today sees the first same-sex civil marriage ceremonies in England and Wales. There has been a plethora of comment from all sides, including this, characteristically contra mundum, from the art critic Brian Sewell. 
One hopes that one day (though it will probably not be in my life-time) it may be possible to discuss these issues in a less politicised atmosphere where everyone who has reservations about the huge cultural shift this change in the law represents is not subject to a process of vilification and demonisation. It would be good, too, not to have to compete in the competition for victim status which all too often characterises our rights-obsessed society. 

Caroline Farrow reminds us here of the price to be paid when our society's elites and those who so slavishly follow them promote a definition of  'equality' without any respect for the freedom of speech which should accompany and, indeed, underpin any understanding of equality worthy of the name:
"...On the way back to the car, a group of young people spat at me. Marilyn then caught up with me, calling out “were you the lady at the front”, neither of us recognizing each other before the penny dropped. She is not an extrovert, doesn’t enjoy the spotlight and was shaking like a leaf. We saw each other to our respective cars safely.
I was expecting a Twitter hate-fest but have still been shocked by some of the vehemence and spite. I am not advocating penalising or punishing people on account of their sexuality and neither did I say that marriage was solely about children. The Twitterati were hearing what they wanted. What intrigues me as ever, is why no-one can see that not once have I judged individuals but instead made judgement calls on situations, which is what we are called to do as Christians. As ever ironically enough, it’s those who are accusing me of judgmentalism, who are in fact being the judgmental ones and claim to be able to gaze into my soul and confidently state that the position is based on hate.
But this is the kind of thing that faces those of us who will continue to stick to our guns and propound a traditional view of marriage. As the night has gone on, I am beginning to worry about my safety. Back in 2011 when David Cameron suddenly announced his intention to introduce gay marriage, I didn’t envisage things would get so nasty. Given my time again, I would still do the work I have done but definitely used the net under a pseudonym....."

The next episode of this staged 'battle' will be fought within the provinces of the British Isles, but, of course, we all know the Anglican theological 'war' itself (if there ever was one in reality) has already been lost....  
My prediction: in the short term, anarchy, as the rather half-hearted attempts (in conjunction with some subtle and less than subtle undermining  from within) by the Anglican bishops to exercise any form of discipline collapse in farce, followed in a few years by what will be the de facto proscription of the historic Christian tradition - an example of Neuhaus' law again, I very much fear. 

There's an interesting discussion here about what has become known as 'the Benedict option' - to put it positively, a closer following of the Rule of St Benedict by those not called to the traditional religious life in community, or described more negatively (or at least reactively) as “pioneering forms of dropping out of a barbaric mainstream culture that has grown hostile to our fundamental values.” 
For the Church, dangers and opportunities in equal measure ...

Oh, and .. presumably when the clocks strike thirteen, British Summer Time begins tonight - 
So remember, without a trace of irony, Spring forward, Fall back ....

Friday, 21 March 2014

News and comment round-up

A deliberately quiet and reflective Lent in this period of waiting and readjustment (in one way or another) to the new order of things. But outside the politicised bubble of the contemporary Church and the sloganising which now passes for theological thought, the world goes on its unheeding way ...

Russia again: what strikes this observer most forcefully is the sheer historical illiteracy of our leaders. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 (a while ago now) Russia has reverted to what she always was, both naturally defensive and potentially expansionist in equal measure. But before we rush headlong into a situation from which there is no way out (shades of the summer of 1914) we could do worse than remember Metternich's comment: "“Russia is never as strong as she appears, and never as weak as she appears.”
But Vladimir Putin, whoever he may be, is neither Hitler nor Stalin. The threat to peace comes not from Russia's reclamation of the Crimea, but from western over-reaction and our seemingly limitless propensity for cultural and political self-satisfaction. 
Peter Hitchens references this article from 1997 - well worth reading.  

Katherine Jefferts Schori of TEC faces charges of misconduct relating to her use of litigation during her period of office as Presiding Bishop  [here]  
It would be a mistake, I think, to believe that this is particularly significant.  Modern "liberals" after all are, if nothing else, masters of redefinition - the opportunities to practice the art of escapology which flow from that are boundless....
Given the internal politics of TEC, I would doubt if this will even impact on her chances of re-election. 

The predicted chaos in the Church of England over same-sex marriage is becoming more apparent by the day. Thinking Anglicans has this latest example. 
Although, if there is 'liberal disobedience' over that issue, there would seem to be little sanction which could be directed against possible orthodox Anglo-Catholic 'disobedience'  in other episcopally related matters,  should the need arise ... if there is still the stomach for it, that is  ....

The traditional (Roman) Catholic blogosphere is under increased scrutiny from its own Bishops [here], occasioning much comment ... some of it balanced and appropriate 
It's not my battle, but there must be in the life of the Church - of any ecclesial body - a way of steering a course between the Scylla of over-prescriptive centralisation and the Charybdis of contemporary 'anglicanised ' anarchy. It is, of course, another tactic of 'liberals' to use the weapons of authority far more ruthlessly than 'conservatives' would ever dare .... or wish to do ...

Baroness Hale, the deputy President of the Supreme Court (formerly - in more civilised times -  the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords) has urged Christians in Britain to make more use of human rights law. Christina Odone at The Telegraph has these comments. 
Very few are aware of the profound cultural revolution (like most revolutions unwelcome and unasked for) which has taken place in Britain over the space of a few short years. The commanding heights of politics and broadcasting - and even the judiciary- are now occupied by those who are in one sense or another embarrassed by their county's history and philosophical and religious heritage. Ironically,  the main beneficiaries of this cultural suicide have been those whose values make even the Inquisition (a favourite example used by the secularist lobby with which to beat Christians over the head)  seem a model of tolerance, fair-mindedness and due process.

Addled adolescence:
Many of us have thought for a very long time that the emerging liberal consensus of the 1960s and '70s was really a reversion to cultural adolescence. There is no better example than this  -  the commentator Sarah Dunant's contribution to BBC Radio 4's 'A Point of View' [here]  The (intended?) contrast with Roger Scruton's broadcast the previous week could not be more glaring .... O tempora, o mores ! .....
"... We are back to the impact of the '70s. Because it was that decade which saw the emergence of historians, academics and cultural thinkers who - having turned their back on the accepted canon of dead white male history - chose instead issues of gender and sexuality, going back into the archives and records to uncover a new past.
So where does this leave the '70s for those of us who lived through them? How far should we be applauding the achievements or doing penance for the faults? How about both at the same time? Agreeing that terrible sexual behaviour (hardly new to the 70s) took place, some possibly encouraged by a sense of freedom, but exactly that same freedom and openness changed society's attitudes, making us more tolerant of some things and less tolerant in others. Surely, something to be celebrated.
Wherever the line gets drawn, let's not forget the exuberance and mischief of the decade. Back to the Rocky Horror Show and that magnificently silly anthem. If sex is a live electric current running under the surface of history, maybe each time we plug in, it'll feel like the time warp again...." [here]
So very BBC - as someone who was at school in the '70s, I just feel the waves of tedium from that drab and depressing decade of tangible national decline coming straight at me ..... 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Catching up - two connected issues ...

The former Episcopal  diocese of South Carolina - driven out, we should remember, by the - let's be direct - heretics (they certainly have a phobia for doctrinal orthodoxy and display a perverse delight in persecuting it wherever it may be found - what else can one call them?) who now control TEC - is looking to the Global South for Primatial Oversight. [here

Being an Anglican is looking ever more complicated and qualified; when the hierarchy here (in Wales) speaks of 'being one family' they forget that some members of the family have already been forced to sleep rough outside the garden gate and that unless their actions catch up with their (I'm sure, well-intentioned) rhetoric, others will be made to follow ...

And a strangely related issue - also connected with the removal and destruction of one of the foundation stones of Christian civilisation: 

A journey of discovery: Lord Tebbit says what no senior (elected) British politician would now dare to say - as the Catholic tradition upholds, there is a connection between holding human life sacred before birth and after it; in practice it seems that human life is either regarded as inherently valuable and therefore worthy of protection - despite 'hard cases' - or it is held to be disposably cheap. 
A good article [in full here] - although I would hesitate before using the phrase 'slippery slope', however true the metaphor may be - it's all too easily dismissed with contempt by those who themselves fight with an emotional arsenal of slogans and sound bites: 
"... Those warnings have proved prescient. Not only has the Steel legislation been greatly widened in scope, but in practice abortion is now available on demand, well past the time when the child would be capable of survival and in practice up to full term. Nor is there any need of evidence of any congenital defects or disorders. All that is necessary is that the mother so wants to be rid of her child that she can find two doctors (who it appears do not actually have to see her) to say that her health might be adversley affected if the child was born. Indeed some doctors regard the mother's reluctance to bear a female child for social reasons as sufficient evidence to allow an abortion.
Now the former Labour Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer plans to bring in his Assisted Suicide Bill to allow doctors to provide lethal medication and asstance if needs be to patients they believe to have less than six months to live. 
At present it is a criminal offence to asist in a suicide, but a prosecution requires the consent of the Attorney General and that is rarely forthcoming as he would have to believe that improper pressure had been put on a person to take their own life.
I am sure that it is not the intention of Lord Falconer to set us on that slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia or even to the full legalisation of [assisted] suicide, but I have no doubt that if passed the Falconer Bill would prove to be the stalking horse for those who do...."
And an important empirical contribution to the debate -  the other side of the emotional argument - from Baroness Campbell [a report also from The Telegraph: here
"Baroness Campbell, who suffers spinal muscular atrophy, argued strongly against any steps allowing doctors or nurses to help people take their own lives.
She said she and others had successfully resisted a proposal to make the fact that someone suffers a progressive condition or disability a factor weighing against prosecution for assisted suicide.
But she added: “Terminally ill and disabled people are in a worse position today than was the case five years ago.
“National economic instability means that public support services are under more pressure than ever.
“That has hardened public attitudes towards progressive illnesses, old age and disability.
"Words such as ‘burden’, ‘scrounger’ and ‘demographic time bomb’ come to mind, and hate crime figures in relation to vulnerable people have increased dramatically.
“This is a dangerous time to consider facilitating assistance with suicide for those who most need our help and support.
“It is not only dangerous for those who may see suicide as their only option, but can be tempting for those who would benefit from their absence.”
The British Social Attitudes Survey, the biggest barometer of public opinion in the UK, recently showed how, in marked contrast to previous recessions, attitudes towards welfare have hardened noticeably during the past few years.
The peer added: “Belgium has recently extended its law on euthanasia to include terminally ill and disabled children.
“That is not a future I want for our children or the most vulnerable"
However, 'liberal' (in this case 'pro-death') campaigners have a tried and trusted  technique when dealing with legislators (and Anglican Synods, for that matter) - the war of attrition - bring the issue back to decision-making assemblies again and again and again until those bodies come up with the 'right' answer. The price of liberty (and orthodoxy, too) is eternal vigilance; the Enemy of mankind never sleeps ....

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A comment on warmongering - Putin, the Crimea and Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin is not by western standards any kind of  democrat. The heavy-handed authoritarianism and, indeed, oligarchic corruption, of his government are well documented.
However, I can't be alone in being both worried and appalled at some of the aggressive and militaristic rhetoric coming, not from the Kremlin, but from western sources at present. The irony that 2014 sees the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War seems lost on many politicians and commentators (on the 'liberal' left and 'neo-conservative' right alike)  in our historically insular culture. The prospect of a Europe once again sleepwalking into war is too horrific to contemplate.

Moreover, since the implosion of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc (something which was a true victory for western, democratic and Christian values, thanks to the leadership of such people as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II) the NATO allies and the EU seem to have adopted a policy of deliberate and dangerous humiliation of the former super-power even in its own backyard. 
As for Ukraine, the politics of the region are historically notoriously complex, and there are no easily identified contemporary heroes and villains anywhere to be found; as in Syria, western interference is in danger of turning a merely oppressive situation (if Ukraine could really be described as that) into a humanitarian catastrophe.

For whatever reason (and one shouldn't rule out the possibility that he actually believes it) Russia's President has championed both the revival of the Orthodox Church in his country and become an outspoken defender of traditional family values.

As for the West's increasingly shrill denunciations of Putin himself - stoked by a irresponsible media, frankly obsessed with spurious notions of  'equality', which seems to have little perspective or balance left where modern Russia is concerned - one can't help wondering whether this is entirely provoked by his intervention in Ukraine / Crimea or whether our real concern, having first 'encouraged' the toppling of Ukraine's elected, if highly flawed, pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, is not to export free and fair elections and the rule of law to the region, but to promote a far wider and less disinterested agenda altogether....

Apologies for the lack of posts recently - a combination of busy-ness, ongoing family illness and essential preparations for Lent...

Monday, 3 March 2014

Ukraine and historical perspective

A good post here from Cranmer. What those who are now advocating Western intervention in Ukraine ( as if we hadn't intervened enough already) are not saying is how many kids (British soldiers, that is) largely from deprived backgrounds in the 'sink estates' and back streets of our cities, they want to send off to die in order to defend their own elitist,  'liberal' values: the last Crimean war wasn't exactly a spectacular triumph for either side, even if we British have a long-established genius for backing the wrong horse.... having said that, Constantinople in Soviet hands would have been another story during the Cold War ... 

But it would be interesting to observe the Western reaction to a display of Chinese aggression in what it perceives as in its sphere of interest (the People's Republic of China - a regime which is no less antipathetic to 'western culture' than contemporary Russia ) - ah, but that's a matter of raw economic self-interest, isn't it?
"....While we view the current conflict through the distorted prism of secular European enlightenment and the primacy of economics, millions in the Ukraine are asserting their cultural and religious identities. On the one hand are the Western-inclined pro-EU reformists who are seeking liberation from oppression and corruption; on the other, the Eastern-facing pro-Russian conservatives are battling once again to preserve their way of life. And these are by no means the only hands: the region is fraught with complexities. But when priests sprinkle holy water over the troops, it is because they believe they are defending Christian orthodoxy and traditional morality against social liberal secularism and moral relativity. For many millions of ethnic Russians, this isn't simply a question of gay rights and wrongs, but of good versus evil. It is about the spiritual and moral foundation of civilisation itself.
So when we read the Daily Mail or listen to the BBC, we are understanding nothing of this crisis, for it is not a conflict of flesh and blood, but of principalities and powers. It is not about politics and opportunism, but morality and mission. Obama and Cameron can issue their warnings and demands that Putin respect 'equality' and ‘democratic values’, but when you believe you are called by God to do His holy work, a pesky liberal president and a devalued prime minister are of very little significance at all.
It was Russia which led the way to aid the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. It is Russia that defends 'family values' and confronts the secular zeitgeist of moral relativity with an appeal to conservatism. Putin is on a crusade. If millions of your anti-Western co-religionists appeal to you for spiritual liberty, you don't ignore their cries: their salvation is your vocation.
We may not like this Damascene conversion from KGB Communism to Christian conservatism: it may, indeed, be a dark spiritual cloak to effect a global political coup. We may feel very great sympathy for all those Ukrainians yearning for liberal values whose dissent is censored and suppressed. We may be horrified by news reports of beheaded protestors and stabbed policemen, and appalled by the spectre of wider bloodshed and another Crimean war. We are right to feel pain and share in the suffering.
But neither Brussels nor Washington can act beyond edicts of condemnation.
And London is mired in sound-bites and spin.
The US and EU are not going to war against Russia over the Ukraine, so, for God's sake, let's talk and pray and pray and talk while we spy and survey and tap and record. Either and both and all are preferable to invasion and war.
Especially if it turns out that God is on the other side...."