Sunday, 24 August 2014

Dominic Grieve: British Christians face "an aggressive form of secularism"

The former Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, has warned in an interview with The Telegraph that an aggressive form of secularism is forcing Christians in Britain to hide their beliefs or be excluded from public life. 
Given his role at the heart of government in the United Kingdom and at the centre of the English legal establishment until only a few weeks ago, this is an astonishing and shocking admission, confirming our suspicions that the present coalition government, despite all protestations to the contrary, is not a natural friend to the practice of faith in the public square. 
Many have sought to downplay this growing problem (a situation which has been all too evident to certain of us for some time), claiming that complaints of discrimination against Christians and the Christian faith in modern Britain have been grossly exaggerated. 
However, if anyone should know the truth about this it is Mr Grieve himself.

This is the relevant section of the article which can be read in full here  
"..Dominic Grieve said he found it “quite extraordinary” that people were being sacked or disciplined for expressing their beliefs at work.He described Christianity as a “powerful force for good” in modern Britain and warned that Christians should not be “intimidated” and “excluded” for their beliefs.He said that politicians and public figures should not be afraid of “doing God” and that they have a duty to explain how their beliefs inform their decisions.The “appalling” scenes in Iraq, which have seen Islamic extremists behead and crucify religious minorities including Christians, showed that it was “more important than ever” for people to express their religious beliefs, he said. He told The Telegraph: “I worry that there are attempts to push faith out of the public space. Clearly it happens at a level of local power.“You can watch institutions or organisations do it or watch it happen at a local government level. In my view it’s very undesirable.“ Some of the cases which have come to light of employers being disciplined or sacked for simply trying to talk about their faith in the workplace I find quite extraordinary.“ The sanitisation will lead to people of faith excluding themselves from the public space and being excluded.“It is in nobody’s interest that groups should find themselves excluded from society.” Two years ago the Government changed the law to ensure that councils could not face legal challenges for holding prayers before town hall meetings after the High Court backed a controversial campaign to abolish such acts of worship.There have also been a series of high-profile cases in which people have been banned from wearing crosses at work or sacked for resisting tasks which went against their religious beliefs. Mr Grieve, a practising Anglican, said that Britain is “underpinned” by Christian ethics and principles..."

Friday, 22 August 2014

Jean Langlais: Messe Salve Regina

For the today's feast of the Queenship of Mary, Jean Langlais' Messe Salve Regina of 1954, with Maìtrises de Notre Dame de Paris, de Sainte-Marie d'Antony et de la Résurrection d'Asnières, L' Ensemble de Cuivres Roger Delmotte, Quatuor de Trombones de Paris, Georges Bessonnet, Orgue de Choeur and. Pierre Cochereau, Grand Orgue, under the direction of Patrick Giraud 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

James Foley - "It didn’t make sense, but faith did."

There is a report here which speaks of the Catholic Christian faith of the murdered American photojournalist, James Foley, a victim - it would seem to our shame - of a fanatical British adherent of the savage barbarism which is the 'Islamic State.' Perhaps his appalling death will at last alert the world to the monster we have allowed to grow unchecked, both in the Middle East and in our own backyards.

What follows is taken from a very moving letter written by Mr Foley to his alma mater, Marquette University in Milwaukee, following his earlier period of captivity in Libya, and now published on their website
"....Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.
I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.....
Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well.
One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”
I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.” “Jimmy, where are you?” “I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you. How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t. “They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked. “I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat. The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did."
May he rest in peace; our prayers are offered also for his family and friends.

another colleague, for t

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"It is clearly the time for seeking and for calling" - Thomas Merton on Saint Bernard

St Bernard by Philippe de Champaigne

"...But now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. It is clearly the time for seeking and for calling, for often his presence is sensed before he is called. Now hear his promise: `Before you call me,’ he says, `I will answer. See, I am here.' The psalmist, too, plainly describes the generosity of the Bridegroom, and the urgency: `The Lord hears the crying of the poor; his ear hears the movement of their hearts.' 
If God is to be sought through good works, then while we have time let us do good to all men, all the more because the Lord says clearly that the night is coming when no-one can work. Will you find any other time in ages to come to seek for God, or to do good, except that time which God has ordained, when he will remember you?  
Thus today is the day of salvation, because God our king before all ages has been working salvation in the midst of the earth ..."
St Bernard of Clairvaux: 
from On Seeking Him With the Whole Heart - Sermon 75 on The Song of Songs 

Here is a very interesting recording of a monastic conference where Thomas Merton OCSO speaks about St Bernard, 'the last of the Fathers,' and his view of the 'real humanism'...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"You are in danger" - updated

The blog Rorate Caeli has a translation of  this report from a correspondent writing for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera
"August 9, 2014. 
The young ask for guns. The elderly approve. "Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future," says Amel Nona, 47, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul exiled in Erbil. The message is unequivocal: the only way to end the Christian exodus from the places that witnessed its origins in the pre-Islamic age is to respond to violence with violence, to force with force. Nona is a wounded, pain-stricken man, but not resigned. "I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive." He is very glad to meet Western media. "Please, try to understand us," he exclaims. "Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal," Archbishop Amel Nona continues, "but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home."
Without in the least wishing to impugn the motives and values of the vast majority of British Muslims, most of whom wish, like the rest of us, to live in peace with their neighbours and be free to practice their religion freely and  without fear of violence or discrimination, one has to admit that the Chaldean Archbishop, deeply scarred by the atrocities committed against his people by ISIS and others , may not simply be guilty of alarmism or scaremongering in order to promote the Iraqi Christian cause.

The dangers and tensions to a large extent inevitable in the welcoming into our country of millions of those with a different culture and faith (itself a legacy of the injustices, complexities and ambiguities of an imperial past, lest we forget) have certainly been exacerbated by the rise of  a fundamentalist form of Islam. We already know that the security services are deeply concerned by the numbers of young British Muslims seeking meaning and foreign adventure in allying themselves to the jihadist cause. * We should also be aware by now that the established policy of 'multiculturalism' (such is our recent transatlantic enthusiasm for the recognition of 'communities' of all kinds),  far from having encouraged a high degree of integration and harmony, has instead, very predictably given the natural desire of incomers and their families to live in a  familiar and friendly cultural environment, promoted the creation in many of our large towns and cities of parallel societies with sometimes rather tenuous links to British society as a whole. 
This, of course, has been a taboo and even toxic subject in the United Kingdom for a long time, our politicians, partly out of a fear of being accused of racism or Islamophobia - and, of course, either of inflaming the situation or of losing votes, until recently largely choosing to ignore rather than attempt to address and in some way ameliorate the social problems which have arisen.

But the major difficulty, of course, lies not so much with the British Muslim community as with contemporary western secular culture which, while in effect discouraging positive social integration,  has turned its back on our own faith, history and culture, preferring to pursue the philosophical dead-end of relativism whilst creating a rootless social climate of hedonistic consumerism. 
Moreover, the Church (that is Christians of all traditions and most particularly their leaders) can't be absolved from its own responsibility over the last half century or so for the virtual disappearance (save in a purely ceremonial, constitutional, or vestigially nostalgic sense) of the Christian faith from the lives of most British people. It is not so much an Islamic take-over which should concern us, but that, in culture as in nature, vacuums have a habit of being filled ... and as we know from recent European history, given the right conditions the most evil and fanatical ideologies can easily gain a foothold even in the most outwardly civilised of societies.

Liberal secularists, of course, place their hopes in the belief that immersion in the globalised 'culture' of the western world will gradually, within a few generations, result in the complete assimilation of those of other faiths; that, to put it crudely, the appeal of a combination of Harvey Nicks and the satisfaction of unbridled sexual appetite will prevail over that of the mosques as it has over the churches.
Time will tell. 
But it would, however, be a little premature to write off all religious faith as a thing of the past. The human spirit seems naturally to crave ideals which are nobler and more self-sacrificial than that offered up to us by the interests of international economics and the prevailing atomised narcissism of our elites. If so, given the present downward cultural trajectory of the West, the Archbishop of Mosul may prove more prescient than we think ...  
We have been warned.

* Update 20.08.2014 
See here for a very alarming insight into the problem we face now in Britain.
From The Telegraph:
"Islamic State jihadists have released a video in which a militant speaking English with a British accent beheads a man they claim to be an American journalist.The journalist, claimed by Islamic State to be James Foley, has been missing since he was seized by armed men in Syria in 2012.The terrorist group, formerly known as Isis, released the graphic video of the beheading, saying it was conducted in retaliation for US air strikes in northern Iraq.The killer then issued a threat to President Barack Obama that a second journalist would be killed unless air strikes are called off.White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of US citizen James Foley... the intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity..."

Monday, 18 August 2014

"Increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians" - letter to the Prime Minister

Over the weekend the (Church of England) Bishop of Leeds, it would seem with the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has written to the Prime Minister with a scathing critique of British Government policy towards the Middle East, and particularly with regard to Islamic extremism and the plight of the Christian minorities. 

Today comes the news in an interview (courtesy of the BBC Today programme - here beginning at about 2 hours, 50 minutes) that those Syrian rebels who were to have received the backing of Western Governments have, in effect, ceased to be a significant force in that country, and that organised resistance to the Assad regime now lies either with Al Qaeda affiliates or with groups who have an even more extreme Islamic ideology. The choice all round in Syria seems to be between different kinds of barbarism. Perhaps the West should have thought more carefully before destabilising the undoubtedly unpleasant Assad Government, a regime which had the one merit of  encouraging its minorities to live together peaceably. 

Foreign policy, we have always been led to believe in Britain, is best - and is at its least destructive - when conducted pragmatically, rather than idealistically and ideologically without thought for the wider consequences. Unfortunately, following the United States all too slavishly, we have adopted over the last decades, a naively almost Wilsonian attitude to foreign affairs (paradoxically revived in the U.S. by those calling themselves 'neo-conservatives') with uniformly disastrous results. At least it is now very clear indeed, for those with eyes to see, that 'democracy', without an established societal tradition of restraint and equality under the law, rapidly turns either into a persecuting tyranny of the majority or complete and bloody anarchy: in either scenario it is minorities (and in the Islamic world, it is usually Christian minorities) who bear the brunt of violence and oppression.

The full text of  Bishop Baines' letter is available here at the Guardian website, but these are 
its salient points: 
"1. It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach.
Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK government's response to both the humanitarian situation and what Islamic State is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe. Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is – particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect. 
The Church internationally must be a primary partner in addressing this complexity. 
2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yazidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?  
3. As yet, there appears to have been no response to pleas for asylum provision to be made for those Christians (and other minorities) needing sanctuary from Iraq in the UK. I recognise that we do not wish to encourage Christians or other displaced and suffering people to leave their homeland – the consequences for those cultures and nations would be extremely detrimental at every level – but for some of them this will be the only recourse. The French and German governments have already made provision, but there has so far been only silence from the UK government. Therefore, I ask for a response to the question of whether there is any intention to offer asylum to Iraqi migrants (as part of a holistic strategy
to addressing the challenges of Iraq)? 
4. Following on from this, I note that the bishop of Coventry tabled a series of questions to HM government in the House of Lords on Monday 28 July. All but two were answered on Monday 11 August. The outstanding questions included the following: "The lord bishop of Coventry to ask Her Majesty's government what consideration they have given to resettling here in the UK a fair proportion of those displaced from Isis controlled areas of northern Iraq." I would be grateful to know why this question has not so far been answered – something that causes me and colleagues some concern.
5. Underlying these concerns is the need for reassurance that a commitment to religious freedom will remain a priority for the government, given the departure of ministers who championed this. Will the foreign secretary's human rights advisory panel continue under the new foreign secretary? Is this not the time to appoint an ambassador at large for international religious freedom – which would demonstrate the government's serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence?"
At The Spectator, however, Damian Thompson [here] - while broadly welcoming Bishop Baines' intervention-  adds this qualification. Reluctantly, one has to admit  he has a point: 
"...For decades, the Anglican and Catholic Churches have ignored the growth of the domestic Islamic extremism that has seen British Muslims travel to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis. They have warned us (rightly) against Islamophobia without considering the possibility that many Muslims hate the Churches with unwavering intensity. Archbishop Rowan Williams supported the extension of Sharia in this country. His attitude was one factor in persuading the only C of E bishop who did draw attention to the Islamist threat, Michael Nazir-Ali, to resign the see of Rochester and work full-time to protect Christians abroad...." 

 to addressing the cha

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A cultural war against the Christian faith

When confronted with news stories from around the world of death and exile inflicted upon our brothers and sisters in the faith, it's difficult to justify over-blown allegations of 'persecution' against Christians in Britain.
What we do have to face, however, is a cultural war against Christianity - the removal of Gideon Bibles from rooms in the Travelodge budget hotel chain [here]  is just the latest episode in a long line of similar incidents. 

Of course, we're British; we don't like to make a fuss - God forbid, we might even  be thought to be taking religion too seriously - but the airbrushing from our culture of any visible manifestations of Christian faith seems now to be the aim of many in our political, legal, media and commercial elites, not to mention those who run our massive state bureaucracy. They should be resisted if the present cultural attrition is not in time to turn into active persecution.  At the very least we should think very carefully indeed before giving our custom to any commercial organisations which take this attitude, and we should certainly not invest in them.

The prevailing disparagement of anything which is even mildly suggestive of Christian faith may even go some way to explain the West's appallingly slow reaction to attacks on Christians in Iraq and elsewhere - Christians simply don't qualify for our sympathy or our support. Those who rule over us, often so maladroitly, and who influence our lives in so many ways, are simply embarrassed by our cultural and religious heritage - that is, if they are aware of it at all .... 

This is Tim Stanley on the latest Travelodge foolishness
"..... The white, middle-class, over-educated liberals who cry “diversity!” at every damn opportunity make the following specious arguments:
1. “Britain isn’t Christian anymore.”Yes, it is. We have thing called a state church and the Queen is the head of it. If you don't like it, go and live in France.
2. “Fewer and fewer people call themselves Christian.”But if we’re playing a numbers game then Britain is still far more Christian than anything else: 59 per cent are Jesus believers, 4.8 per cent are Muslims.
3. “People of other faiths will be offended.”Really? By a Bible hidden in a drawer?! And more disgusted by a religious book than by the hard core porn you can watch on the TV (for a small price)? The only people who are going to be actively offended by finding a Bible in there are Wahhabi terrorists. And you probably want to discourage that kind of clientele anyway.
4. “You’ve got to cater for everyone.”Yet surely that is an argument for increasing the amount of religious literature available in the hotel room? I suggest a small library: the Koran, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a Buddhist prayer wheel etc. Oh, and a Marilyn Manson LP for the Cthulhu lovers out there. (All hail Cthulhu, by the way. His day is coming.)
Given that there is no sound, logical reason for removing all the Gideons, we are at liberty to infer a motive. And it could be as simple as this: Travelodge succumbing to the anti-Christian mood of elements of the British political and commercial establishment. Maybe they’re afraid of being sued by a cranky atheist professor, maybe they’re run by the same liberal poindexters who gave us airport multi-faith prayer rooms and prayer-less assemblies (because who wants to expose children to things like morality and poetry?). Whatever the cause, they’re now contributing to the creeping crud of cultural disintegration......  "

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

"But if not ... "

An interesting post, for these dog days of summer, on the perils and difficulties of living in a disintegrating culture -  from Anthony Esolen [here
It's a particularly timely article for those Anglicans, myself among them, who wish to live in a tradition and culture which, in the opinion of many, now no longer exists ... 
"... During the early and dark days of World War II, when the British army at Dunkirk had the sea behind them and the Germans before them, they sent a message back home consisting of three words: But if not. 
It was a brilliant message, because even if the Germans managed to intercept it and decode it, it wouldn’t have done them any good. “But if not” … what?
But the army knew that their countrymen would understand. It was more than a message regarding strategy.  It captured the heart of the war itself, a battle for the survival of European culture and civilization against the diseased fantasies of the Third Reich. 
The reference comes from the story of the Hebrew youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in captivity in ancient Babylon, who refused to bow down in worship before the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar.  The king summoned them before him in a fury and demanded their submission, lest he cast them into the fiery furnace.  
Their reply was manly and direct:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. BUT IF NOT be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. 
The British people then roused themselves to action—ordinary men, anyone with a boat and a heart that beat warmly for God and country.  They crossed the channel in defiance of the enemy and rescued more than three hundred thousand men.
The incident reveals more than a common language.  It reveals a common way of life, and a common view of life.  The sterling words of the old King James Bible, a work of the highest culture, had long come to inform and vivify the ways of ordinary people. 
That message could not now be sent, either to England or America. It would be incomprehensible.  That is not because the culture has changed.  It is because it has been destroyed, and the most energetic destroyers have been the very people whom we charge with its care: teachers, professors, statesmen, and artists.
Thomas Molnar had this to say about it:
Culture has come to mean … anything that happens to catch the fancy of a group: rock concerts, supposedly for the famished of the third world; the drug culture and other subcultures; sects and cults; sexual excess and aberration; blasphemy on stage and screen; frightening and obscene shapes; the plastic wrapping of Pont-Neuf or the California coast; to smashing of the family and other institutions; the display of the queer [that is, bizarre], abject, the sick.  These instant products, meant to provide instant gratification to a society itself unmoored from foundation and tradition, accordingly deny the work of mediation and maturation and favor the incoherent, the shapeless and the repulsive...." ...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

'Ladies of the night' and other news

Baroness Warsi resigns over the British government''s stance towards the Gaza crisis and the disproportionate (if in some ways historically understandable) response of Israel towards Hamas aggression.
If Baroness Warsi, as a self-described 'moderate' Muslim, finds the policy of Mr Cameron's administration inexplicable, how sad it is that 'moderate' Christians in the same government find it impossible to press even for the resettlement here of Iraqi Christians who have been subjected to 'extremist' Muslim atrocities. Kudos (for once) to those C of E bishops who are campaigning for granting them asylum here.

In all kinds of ways over the last few decades our foreign policy has indeed been 'morally indefensible.'
Part of the legacy of the catastrophe of the Great War is, of course, our complete subservience to Washington - all part of the twentieth century 'deal' - brokered during two world wars - for struggling (at times alone) to save the liberal world order. We can (and do) talk about our shared values interminably, but history shows us that national interests and the realities of global power always take precedence over sentiment and even a common belief in freedom and the rule of law.

A new religion: this video has been doing the rounds on social media to the accompaniment of a certain amount of hilarity.
When, however, will we all wake up to the fact that, although words and rituals may appear (broadly) the same, the way that those words are used, and the manner in which rituals are being reoriented, clearly point to the fact that we have embarked upon C.S. Lewis's 'different religion,' or, as it is now claimed, 'the balancing of centuries of narrow assertions and faulty theology about the divine and its holy and creative work?' [here - the text of this quite extraordinary address from one of the leading heresiarchs Primates of the Anglican Communion will explain the heading to today's blog post]

The advocates of this different religion are with us, soon to be or already wearing mitres and poised to .... well, take over what remains of a once  glorious tradition ... the lamps are going out indeed .... will we see them lit again in our lifetime?

The Ordinariate in Wales is taking part in the 'Called to be One' national event with an afternoon presentation and discussion in Cardiff on September 6th,. The details can be found here - one wishes one could give a similar link to the Welsh Bishops' Code of Practice, a creature which has had an astonishingly long gestation period for something presumably intended to be so short-lived - or am I now giving way to cynicism? ....

When simply upholding the Church's theology and discipline is perceived as unjust discrimination - see here  - another indication of the state we're in ...

Monday, 4 August 2014

August 4th

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 3 - known as his 'Pastoral Symphony,' but in the view of many, this work, written in 1921,  is RVW's war requiem, a distillation of his experiences in the Royal Army Medical Corps and, later, as an officer in the Royal Artillery during the Great War...
Roger Norrington conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A chilling phrase

As we approach the centenary on Monday of Great Britain's entry into the Great War, I noticed this rather chilling phrase on the much misunderstood but very sane (see his recent comments on Gaza)  Peter Hitchens's Blog :
"Having lived all my life in a world that was largely sensible and reasonable, I sense that the bad times are on the way back."
In all kinds of ways, we can observe the freedoms and the Christian values our fathers and grandfathers fought to defend being discarded, and the achievements of a once great civilisation being dismantled around us. The irony is that this collapse has not been caused by any kind of external threat but by a massive loss of confidence from within - more then that, even a hatred of the culture which has produced us. 
La trahison des clercs certainly, but one senses that its roots go further and deeper even than that.  
"..... The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on out traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil. The "reasonable" people's failure is obvious. With the best intentions and a naive lack of realism, they think that with a little reason they can bend back into position the framework that has got out of joint. In their lack of vision they want to do justice to all sides, and so the conflicting forces wear them down with nothing achieved. Disappointed by the world's unreasonableness, they see themselves condemned to ineffectiveness; they step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party.
Still more pathetic is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. Fanatics think that their single-minded principles qualify them to do battle with the powers of evil; but like a bull they rush at the red cloak instead of the person who is holding it; he exhausts himself and is beaten. He gets entangled in non-essentials and falls into the trap set by cleverer people..."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 'Who Stands Fast?'