Monday 30 June 2014

Al Jazeera journalists or the Christians of Mosul? News priorities yet again

Last week's western media coverage of the jailing of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt raises some important questions for us who are 'consumers' of their 'product' - as we have to concede that is in effect what have become and that is what we receive in today's global information market. 

No one could argue with the basic premise that the muzzling of journalists or their intimidation is wrong in principle and undesirable in practice, * as is any threat to the free exchange of news and ideas, yet there's little doubt that the coverage was entirely disproportionate, say, in comparison with that of the recent persecution and 'cleansing' of the Christian minorities of the Middle East. [see here

All institutions, whether supermarket chains, health services or news organisations - not to mention others closer to home -  have a regrettable (but preventable) tendency to become self-referential and self-serving. But did this particular problem lie with a misjudgement on the part of news editors, or is it part of a deeper problem that our mass media only tend to sit up and take notice when one of their own is threatened, or when a news story somehow 'fits' the prevailing cultural or political narrative? Our contemporary media, largely the cheerleaders of the' dictatorship of relativism' tend to be remarkably absolutist when it comes to journalistic freedom ....

The issue is only so important to the average listener or viewer because information is increasing filtered- and filtered increasingly -  through the lens of those whose political and cultural agenda remains substantially hidden,  and in itself places a large question mark over exactly how 'free' we can really consider ourselves to be. 
In the 'mainstream' media in Britain, where are the alternative voices? How competitive is the 'market' in broadcast news?

* Although, journalistic freedom was very much restricted by the Western Allies 'in the national interest' during the Second World War and, of course, in more recent conflicts: the present Egyptian Government certainly believes it is fighting a war of a kind ... not that that is much of a justification - at least  to those of us who are not having to live in that divided and violent society. 
And for a take on the Egyptian situation you will not often come across in the media see various statements here


Tim Stanley at The Telegraph has some interesting thoughts about cultural shifts, prompted in part by the singer-songwriter Sir Elton John's recent public speculations on Our Lord's attitude to gay marriage. Such comments as those of Sir Elton are easy to dismiss as both theologically uninformed and possibly self-serving, yet are shared by many, certainly in the West, and not only by those who are in thrall to 'celebrity culture' or who would naturally identify with predominant secular attitudes:
"...This confusion is understandable, even if the association of tolerance and Christianity does create the paradox of making Jesus look remarkably unchristian. It’s also not something to be dismissed out of hand by more literate theologians. As society’s understanding of love changes/progresses (depending on one’s point of view), then it’s understandable that the popular impression of what Christianity’s all about will shift with it. People, rightly, always want Jesus to be a symbol of total love – and there is a case for tolerance indeed being an important part of compassion. But this cultural shift towards a liberal understanding of Christianity obviously poses a challenge for conservative Christians determined to uphold what they regard as biblical truths and traditional social mores.Has the popular image of Jesus actually become a problem for the promotion of an orthodox brand of theology? And what can the religious conservatives do to “reclaim” the image of Jesus without seeming to reject “love” as the West now sees it? I’m not providing any answers, just asking questions that might open up a wider debate about Christianity's identity crisis...."
Mankind has always had a tendency to create a deity in its own image - as many of the Old Testament prophets discovered to their physical danger, fallen human nature prefers to be given a message of affirmation - but the very rapidity of this undeniable and revolutionary shift in the values of western society profoundly  challenges the Church. It points Christians back to the ever more urgent task of identifying and adhering to the authentic tradition and to the content of revelation, whilst it makes even more onerous the task of living and proclaiming the Gospel in a culture which now seems to hold as its highest ideal what every previous generation would have regarded as an extreme, intellectually untenable, and counter-intuitive form of non-judgementalism.

Saturday 28 June 2014

George Butterworth (1885 - 1916)

Two classic recordings of haunting works by the English composer George Butterworth, killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 (he had been awarded the MC for exceptional gallantry) - the song 'Loveliest of Trees,' set to words of A.E Housman, sung by baritone John Shirley-Quirk accompanied by Martin Isepp, piano; and, using his own song setting as its principal theme,  the orchestral rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad (1912), with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.

A glimpse of a lost world and of a promise snuffed out by "the monstrous anger of the guns"...

News: 'assisted dying' - cat and mouse - and the distant goal of unity

'Assisted dying' - Perhaps the best concise critique of Lord Falconer's bill - here via Fr Stephen Wang

ACNA elects a new Archbishop - from Anglican Ink here, and a positive reaction from Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth [here]

Cat and mouse in Sudan -   having been arrested on 'apostasy' charges, released and then re-detained, Meriam Ibrahim is reported to be 'safe and well' in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum-   from The Guardian [here]
These are the usual bullying tactics of unpleasant authoritarians everywhere - 'See, we have power over you.'
And see this article by Gabriel Said Reynolds at First Things :
"We all can learn from the example of Meriam Ibrahim. After her conviction in May, Meriam was given three days to embrace Islam and save her life. This would have been an easy choice to make, but Meriam refused, declaring: “I am a Christian and I will remain a Christian.” Those who wonder whether heroic—and saintly—courage still exists can look to her".
Fr John Hunwicke comments on Forward in Faith and the recent 'Parting of Friends' [here and here] 

The Telegraph has an interesting series counting down the days to the outbreak of the Great War a hundred years ago [here]
On the centenary of the assassination which triggered the greatest disaster to befall western civilisation in modern times, the person of Gavrilo Princip continues to divide opinion in the Balkans ...

The recent speech of Pope Francis on the subject of Roman Catholic- Anglican unity [here] has raised hopes in certain quarters about a renewed convergence of the two traditions. 
We share the hope, but cannot help but point out this soberly realistic sentence: 'The goal of full unity may seem distant indeed, it remains the aim which should direct our every step along the way.' 
We pray, we hope even against hope; but this is a far cry from the optimism of those now distant days of the early 1980s .... before Anglicans decided other matters were of more significance.  We have a good idea as to what further obstacles will soon be placed in the way ...

Saturday 21 June 2014

O Sacrum Convivium

Cristóbal de Morales' (c1500-1553) O Sacrum Convivium: sung by the Choir of Christ Church, Oxford, under the direction of Stephen Darlington

"What is consecration? The Word of God seizes upon some grains of baked flour and some drops of wine, sets them apart from other physical things, and fixes them in a new and holy use. It happned when Jesus blessed bread and wine at the Last Supper: it has happened in every eucharist since.
Something resembling it, though on the natural plane, happened when each of you was conceived in his mother's womb. Creative power seized suddenly upon a few elements among thousands, and fixed them in a new and vital being out of which you have come. The natural and the supernatural joined, when Christ was conceived in Mary by the Holy Ghost. The mystery is continued and extended in this holy sacrament. Bread and wine are made the body and blood of Christ; men, sluggish and blind as we are, seized by the creative Word, and confirmed in our heavenly being, as living parts of Christ." 
Austin Farrer (1904 - 1968)from ‘The Crown of the Year’ (Trinity x)

Friday 20 June 2014

Welsh Code of Practice - an 'interesting' delay

This very short and rather cryptic paragraph was included in the Bishop of Monmouth's weekly email today:
"Code of Practice relating to the ordination of women Bishops
The Bench of Bishops will make a statement at the next Governing Body meeting in September 17-18 September "
So, we are to have a further period of waiting and uncertainty, just to make the summer even more enjoyable for those most closely affected. 
What does this imply? Could the delay perhaps indicate a divided Bench on the issue, a failure to agree on the contents of the promised code?

One hopes, too, that when the Bench's statement is issued to the Governing Body, all submissions on the subject of the Code of Practice (including the dates when they were submitted)  will be published, together with the proceedings of the diocesan meetings - we may even be able to help with the latter should there be a problem ....

I'm told that, in political circles, Friday is traditionally 'put out the trash day.'

Today is the feast day of the protomartyrs of Britain, Ss Alban, Julius & Aaron.

Monday 16 June 2014

The new 'German Christians'

All Christians living in this age of bewildering complexity, with its fetishised cult of change, live in a constant state of tension, trying (with or without the help of the ecclesial body to which they belong) to discern the signs of the times. 
There are those, however, who are so in thrall to the spirit of the age that they have lost all critical faculties in relation to 'modernity' or 'post modernity' (or whatever we choose to call the contemporary philosophical or theological scene in our uniquely narcissistic period of history)

The support by some from within the Body of Christ for so-called "assisted dying"  is a sad but unsurprising example, and essentially comes as a result of their failure even to attempt to understand the complexities of the Christian moral and ethical tradition before seeking to distance themselves from it. We constantly seek to stand outside and judge that which should be interrogating us.
Yes, we live in a 'democracy' (and worryingly, one which now repeatedly fails to respect the consciences of those who refuse to fall in step with fashionable trends) but these are the new 'German Christians,' those whose fundamental concern is always to be 'on the side of history,' always in tune with the culture of the day, in this case those whose self-proclaimed 'humanitarian' instincts will lead to the death of civilisation and the substitution of an infinitely elastic subjective and emotional narrative in place of a rigorous rule of respect for human life which itself has to go beyond the appalling suffering of 'hard cases' in order to protect us all. 
In the Christian tradition (indeed, in the tradition we also inherited and developed from the ancient Greeks and Romans) doctors do not intentionally seek to kill:  as the world found out in the 1940s, there are some rather good reasons for that... 
Moreover,  those who cannot distinguish between the primary intention of an action and its secondary effects should learn to think before they venture to speak.

The story is here
Canon Rosie Harper, vicar of Great Missenden and chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham, said she supports Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill which receives its second reading in the House of Lords on July 18.
Her position directly contradicts that of the Church of England, which has argued consistently for no change in the law.
Canon Harper was one of three faith leaders backing the Bill during a debate on the issue hosted by Interfaith Leaders for Dignity in Dying in Westminster, London yesterday.
She described the assisted death of her uncle with Dignitas in Switzerland. "My uncle had a beautiful death, with his family around him - good music, good wine, and a pain-free end. The days that would have followed as he struggled through the end stage of a brain tumour would have been terrible. He had no choice about dying. He did have choice about the manner of his death. That's all this bill is offering."
She said she could not believe in a God who would require "the most extreme suffering" simply in order to shore up "her" sovereignty.
"Nor do I believe that holding on to life at all costs is the uncontested goal of humanity. The crucifixion itself demonstrates that there are higher goals than the preservation of one's life. John 15.3: There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."
She argued that a God who offered "freedom of will" would not insist on "extreme suffering" at the end of life when there was a different, better way. Addressing the arguments against, she continued: "First there is the contention that pain can always be controlled. We know that simply is not the case. Anyway - in what way is there value in a person being technically still alive if they are sedated to the point of oblivion?
"Secondly, what this bill proposes is infinitely more honourable than what routinely happens now when a dying person is gradually and cruelly starved to death.
She also said in countries where it is already legal, such as Switzerland, "grannies are not being bumped off, and both old people's homes and hospice care is of a far better standard than anything we offer over here."
The bill would be for a small number of people but offer comfort for a larger number of people. "It is loving, kind and honourable, all good Christian and indeed human values."
Speaking also to Christian Today, she said: "I support Falconer's bill really out of the depths of my faith. I think it comes down to what sort of God you believe in. I believe in a God who is compassionate and who essentially offers us free will."
Anima naturaliter pagana ...

The 'new religion'- fascistic, fallacious and functionalist-  is among us and spreading its  seductive message of a tasteful 'designer death' (presumably accompanied by canapés from Fortnum and Mason for those present) to save us from the sheer messiness of human life and, perhaps, sheltering us from the uncomfortable truth of the Incarnation itself - not that we are unfashionable enough still to believe in that . 
These are the values of a suburban anteroom of hell ...

Saturday 14 June 2014

The Most Holy Trinity

For Trinity Sunday, Olivier Latry plays part II of Messiaen's Meditations sur le Mystere de la Sainte Trinité: Dieu est saint

Friday 13 June 2014

Dawkins & Tolkien on fairy stories

Here are two contrasting views on the value of fairy stories, the first by Professor Richard Dawkins, the second by Professor JRR Tolkien:
“Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasies of childhood, magical as they are? Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?’
“I think it's rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism – we get enough of that anyway,’.....
“Even fairy tales, the ones we all love, with wizards or princesses turning into frogs or whatever it was. There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable.”  See report here 
Somewhat confusingly, Professor Dawkins seems since to have rowed back from the rather extreme position he has put forward  ....
  "Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion.
For creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it. So upon logic was founded the nonsense that displays itself in the tales and rhymes of Lewis Carroll. If men really could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy-stories about frog-kings would not have arisen.
Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess. It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves, but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them, even worshipped those most deformed by their authors’ own evil. But they have made false gods out of other materials: their notions, their banners, their monies;even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. Abusus non tollit usum. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker..."  
 J.R.R. Tolkien: On Fairy-Stories from Tree and Leaf  (George Allen  & Unwin 1964) p50

I leave it to the reader to determine which view is the more thought-through, not to say, 'scientific' ....

Trojan horses: beware of G(r)eeks bearing 'British values' .....

Whatever the underlying situation may be in Birmingham Schools - and a brother priest has something very interesting to say about the way this issue has been (mis)represented [here] - surely the suggestion that our children should all be instructed in something called  'British values' is one of the most ludicrous comments of all.
What might those values now be? I would hate to attempt a contemporary definition - those attempts I have seen read like something from a health and safety manual .... or worse ... 

Peter Hitchens has some interesting comments about the way in which our society has been largely content, even enthusiastic, to sell its heritage, its values and its traditions for a mess of pottage .... the bread and circuses of modern living - while successive Governments (with public acquiescence) have undermined that most characteristic 'British' value of all, the belief in liberty .....
"...More than that, we are a society which has an established Church, the Christian Church of England, and a country in which the churches, especially the C of E and the Roman Catholics, did much to set up schools for the children of the poor. They did this when the state was more or less uninterested in doing so. Thanks to various treaties between church and state, in which the Churches were in a strong position because of the work they had done, the state conceded large freedoms to the churches, especially the freedom to continue to maintain schools in the state system, which had a religious character and which are allowed to choose many of their pupils on a religious test.
In my view the Church of England were diddled, because the promise they extracted in return for ceding control of many schools, that all state schools would have a ‘broadly Christian’ daily act of worship, and that the national faith would be taught as such in schools, has been comprehensively broken. I use the word ‘comprehensive'deliberately,. The creation of vast new American-style high schools has made  it far easier for these obligations to be shelved, forgotten or bureaucratically obstructed .'We just don’t have a hall big enough. We can’t fit it in to the timetable. We don’t have the qualified teachers', etc.
I’d be very interested in a survey of how many non-RC state schools actually deal with the Christianity question. I think it would show that most pupils could get through their school careers without ever encountering anything resembling organized Christianity ,as a living faith.
 Now, one of the things I really like about Muslims is that they are not having any of that. They value their faith, they believe in it, and they see it is one of their main duties in life to pass it on, undiluted, to their sons and daughters. ..."
Read it all here 

And as for the historically insular secularists who argue that the so-called 'Trojan Horse' affair displays the need for the abolition of all state-funded faith schools, the answer from the Church should be this: 'Fine, but can we have our money back, please - with interest?'

Thursday 12 June 2014

There is stupidity - and then there is downright insanity ....

Having done our best to destabilise the Middle East and bolster Islamic fundamentalism, in the region and throughout the world, by our reckless invasion of Iraq without any kind of plan for a stable successor government to Sadaam Hussein's (secular) tyranny, incredibly some commentators are arguing that the current catastrophe in Mosul is due to our failure to intervene on the side of the opposition in Syria ..... 
Words fail me.
Meanwhile, the ancient Christian communities of Iraq suffer - that is, they die -  at the hands of merciless barbarians ...
Ed West comments here, and this is an urgent plea from Canon Andrew White.

My own Member of Parliament, David T. C. Davies, is a man of integrity and an orthodox Christian (on the side of the angels in many ways) and someone who is concerned about the plight of our brothers and sisters in the faith through the world, yet the answers given to him (or rather the lack of answers), and the official sentiments expressed, in his correspondence with the British Foreign Office on the subject of the global persecution of Christians (with the possible exception of the situation in North Korea - where we have, of course,  no hope of influencing anything at all) don't exactly fill me with confidence .... or reassure about the government's concern for Christian minorities threatened by the rise of radical Islam...

The governments of the West (whatever their political complexion)  simply do not care what happens to Christians - anywhere in the world .....  at least judging by their actions and not by their words. 
As we know, words are cheap ....  and mere sentiments even cheaper ...

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Disagreements : a follow up comment

Reprinted from yesterday's blog post  & in response to the comment of "Don Camillo SSC"

... I would largely concur with what you say. If the Ordinariate is given by the Catholic Church sufficient space and genuine encouragement to prosper, it may well (in the long term) be the only form in which the Anglo-Catholic tradition (the classical Anglican tradition itself, some might argue) will be allowed to survive, given the ruthless determination of our opponents to impose their new religion upon us all. 

In the meantime, we should certainly not be attacking each other and encouraging what is, in today's cultural situation, an utterly nonsensical anti-Romanism - our fire should be directed elsewhere.

It’s not hard to understand the possible motivation behind the somewhat critical rhetoric now being directed at the Ordinariate. It is an easy way of demonstrating to our new masters and mistresses that we are “loyal Anglicans” and do not intend to leave for other ecclesial shores. But it also runs the huge risk of being perceived as aligning ourselves, even if only tactically and rhetorically, with those whose theology is so utterly corrosive of the historic Christian faith, and also giving the mistaken impression that our ecumenical goal – that of the reunion of the Catholic Church, East and West - has been jettisoned in favour of a (semi)protected position within an ecclesial body which is drifting, it seems inexorably, towards heresy.

The immediate agenda and prospects of those who have left to form the Ordinariate and those who have chosen to continue the struggle within Anglicanism [these are tough judgement calls – but we should be grown up enough to respect others’ decisions in this regard, even if we believe them to be flawed} are of necessity different, yet I think it is still in the best interests of everyone in the wider 'catholic' tradition, and of ecumenism itself, if orthodox Anglo-Catholic parishes can continue to thrive, even against all the odds, within the 'Canterbury' structures, but, surely, ultimately, we are on the same side.

Or so I believed ... and will continue to believe ... 

And see yesterday's comment thread ...

Monday 9 June 2014

FIF: different visions clash

I make no comment either way, after all one has to live among the wreckage, but there is a distinct, shall we say, 'difference of opinion' on the role and history of Forward in Faith between its current Director [see here - page 9ff] and its past Chairman.

As an aside, but without necessarily taking sides in an unhelpful and destructive dispute (even if some might think it tactically necessary in the Church of England at present),  if the Ordinariate - however one chooses to view it and its prospects - is not meant to appeal to Catholic-minded Anglicans, one wonders what exactly is its purpose .... ?

And, whatever situation Anglican Catholics in these islands now have to deal with, in no sense can we believe that we have reached anything like a permanent 'solution' to our 'difficulties' ... 

Don't execute Meriam Yehya Ibrahim for being Christian

It's not too late to sign this petition for Meriam Yehya Ibrahim (if you have missed the story details are here - from CSW) 
If you haven't signed , please do so as a matter of urgency here

Sunday 8 June 2014

"I'm just a vicious little Scotsman" - News round up

Tim Stanley talks sense about the Tuam scandal and the media's agenda [here

Ancient Briton muses on the possibilities of  an acceptable Code of Practice in Wales [here
A capitulation to the radical chic(as) of neo-feminist theology and its illiberal apologists will only serve to hasten the demise of an already weakened Church in Wales ..... the enemy is within the walls .... and how!    
As for the Code of Practice, we will soon know ....

More on 'the smoke of Satan,' in Pope Paul VI's words: the confusion of the contemporary Church - from a Roman Catholic perspective [here]: Bishop Athanasius Schneider speaks of liberal collaboration with the 'new paganism.' 
We know a certain amount about that over here .... 

The dangers of  an attitude of over familiarity with sacred things - ἀναστόμωσις on the degradation of 'over-handling' [here]. The Fathers of the Oxford Movement expressed a similar caution .... 

"During my lifetime I have never been terrified. I'm just a vicious little Scotsman" - No, not Alex Salmond, nor Richard Holloway, but perhaps the ultimate denial of modern touchy-feelyness - from, of course,  a D Day veteran: here 

It's somewhat characteristic of the superficiality of modern Britain that the issue of Islamic extremists attempting to infiltrate state schools (or not, depending on one's view of the available evidence..)  should be reported as a personal row between two 'big beasts'  of the Coalition Cabinet - one despairs ..... [here

Finally, and bizarrely, Adam lay y-bounden ... (apologies) - Christopher Howse at The Telegraph writes entertainingly [here] on the (to modern eyes) strange Victorian campaign to ban lavatories in new churches.....
Although the Ecclesiologists may have been on to something, as, in all kinds of ways,  we Anglicans, regrettably, seem to be returning to pre-Tractarian attitudes  - with a vengeance....

Gerald Finzi: Three Anthems

For the end of Eastertide, and looking ahead to Corpus Christi, the Three Anthems by Gerald Finzi Op 27, sung by the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, directed by Christopher Robinson with Christopher Whitton, organ

Wednesday 4 June 2014

"Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly..."

Back from Santiago de Compostela, Finisterre and Muxia - more of that later in the week.

This is posted without the slightest hint of irony and the thought of what we have become ... the decidedly inappropriate applause at the end of the video is undoubtedly a symptom .... me, me, me ....