The Spiritual War against the President

I am on the record as believing that President Trump is a Cyrus-like figure. He had the courage to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, recognising the city as the capital of Israel. Actions of such significance on behalf of God’s people and God’s covenants seldom go unchallenged by the powers of darkness. Today Richard’s Watch shared a prophetic word from Veronika West about the spiritual assault on the President. I advise any reader to always weigh a prophetic word, regardless of the source. Nevertheless, the basic premise of Veronika’s post should be uncontroversial – there is a spiritual war against the current President.

The Abortion Front

This President favours a Supreme Court that tends towards originalism or conservatism. This kind of jurisprudence is an enemy of the pro-abortion lobby for two reasons. Firstly, it returns the question of abortion to the States’ legislatures. A number of States are controlled by conservative politicians, which means that in those States, abortion would face restrictions or become entirely illegal.

Secondly, interpreting the Constitution in its original context could lead to the conclusion that the right to life includes the right of unborn babies to life. The Constitution comes from a time when abortion was generally viewed as a barbaric act. Christians in Europe and America were ashamed of the actions of their ancestors during the Roman Empire. If anyone obtained an abortion, she would certainly not speak publicly about it. By consensus across the Protestant and Catholic communities, a foetus was held to be an unborn child. Even among those who held that ensoulment occurred after conception, the time of ensoulment was still considered to be very early in the pregnancy (see ecclesiastical law). As a supporter of the pro-life cause, this President faces the opposition not only of liberal humans, but of the powers of darkness that revel in the sacrifice of the unborn.

National Defence

President Trump is a patriot. He believes in Americans’ right to national sovereignty and national defence. He believes that invasion in its various forms is not only an assault on the American people, but on the culture, traditions, history, and philosophy that they represent. America is fighting a civil war and a foreign war to protect her way of life. If the America that we know and love were to end, the world would be a different place. There would be less resistance to the evils that characterise our present age: relativism; death cults; hedonism; paganism; and statism.

America is not a perfect nation: she has made a number of errors on the foreign policy front. But she has been a staunch ally and a supporter of liberty – the mistakes that she made under the Neocons were made in an attempt to promote liberty. The City on a Hill is a bastion, a place of refuge for those who would preserve what ought to be preserved. Amidst the madness of our materialistic age, America is the great paradox: the source of wealth and goods, and the voice that says life is not just about our material possessions. In opposing those who seek to invade America in order to obtain wealth, the President is making the point that being a Westerner, and specifically an Anglo one, is not about drinking cola and watching sports on a flat screen television. If you have those things, but no respect for the rule of law, the principle of individual responsibility, or the dignity of labour, you are not a true Westerner.

The Temple

Source close to the President suggest that he would like Jerusalem to become, as Isaiah said, a house of prayer for all nations. He may well be a supporter of the plan to rebuild the Temple, which is the promised House of prayer. This recognition of Jewish rights to prayer and worship on the Temple Mount puts the President at odds with the Palestinian and wider Islamic agenda.

The Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque and the Waqf’s control of the Temple Mount represent a spiritual challenge to the God of Israel. If worship of the God of Israel were to be re-established on the Temple Mount, then that would be a sign that the times of the Gentiles were coming to an end and the imprisonment of Satan drawing near.


Pray for the President: he faces great challenges and he is still a human being, capable of mistakes and failings. May God bless and guide the President and grant him boldness to do what is just.

Secular Pharisees

Legalism is a term Protestants use to talk about a nexus of spiritual and psychological problems concomitant with overly formalised and burdensome religious practices. It can also be used in a secular context to describe the angst that modern Westerners feel in an overly-legislated everyday environment, be it the workplace, roads, the internet, or even the home.

Law serves a variety of purposes in the secular and religious worlds. It informs people about moral principles that should guide their attitudes and conduct and it controls groups by imposing punishments for unrighteous behaviour. God’s laws are always just, but man’s laws may be unjust. The application and creation of laws are complex matters. On the one hand, it is wrong to deny an ideal; on the other, it is naïve to think that fallen human beings are perfect. As St Paul says in Romans, “I do not do the good that I wish to do; the evil that I do not wish to do, that I do.”

Society today seems plagued by a burden of too many laws, and laws that are so complicated as to be beyond the comprehension of significant parts of society. The result of this can be that various people do not have access to civil and criminal justice, because the cost of hiring a lawyer is prohibitively expensive. Through improving technology, we are slowly allowing people to get access to justice (e.g. apps that help people to challenge unjust parking tickets). But there are still broader questions Are the plethora of laws we have really necessary? Are all of our laws just? Are many of our laws too complicated?

One of the criticisms Christ had for the Pharisees was that they imposed many laws on the people of Israel, but did nothing to help them bear the burden of those laws. It may be that this challenge applies equally to the secular world today. While it is true that the state does often incorporate various reliefs, extensions, and defences into its laws, while also publishing guidance documents on public governmental websites, it remains the case that scrupulous people feel overburdened in our legalistic societies. In fact, while the following proposition is not capable of being rigorously proved, one has a certain intuitive suspicion that the burden of the law today is a contributing factor to OCD in some people.

A vast body of laws would not be necessary in a society where people were generally reasonable. That is, where people knew moral precepts, were willing to submit to them, and knew how to apply them in a flexible manner that took account of the particular circumstances of a given case. Christians believe that God’s final judgment of humanity will proceed on this basis: He will judge people on what they knew or were reckless about, not on things beyond their grasp or control. This approach, which generally characterises the criminal law (actus reus and mens rea) is not found in cases of strict liability. In these cases, the innocent suffer because it is felt that letting them off will make the law become unenforceable as the truly culpable find ways of convincing courts that they lacked the necessary blameworthy attitude and intent.

The secular world of law has become murky. There is no longer consensus on what is moral and what is immoral. In truth, hypocrisy finds expression everywhere, seen, for example, in cases where people criticise corporations and then demand luxury products at low prices. At the heart of the problem lies the evil of statism, creeping like a weed through the garden of conscience. We now live in world where it seems people expect everything to fall within the remit of the state, and nothing within the personal liberty of human beings.

A slavish system will engender a slavish mentality. We are not called to be slaves to men, but servants of the living God. Christians are compelled to put up with a number of bad things – but we must not confuse the obedience required of us by conscience with the willing obedience owed to truly just laws and norms. It is my prayer that God will visit the USA and UK in revival power and change our culture, so that our governments learn to trust people and ease the excessive, neurosis-causing burden of the law we experience today.

Friday Miscellany

What follows is a series of unconnected musings I had this week.


“Project After”

This morning I read in Mises.org and FT.com that the government (ministers and civil servants) have been engaged in planning economic reforms for a no-deal Brexit since last year. They include various proposals to reduce or eliminate various taxes and tariffs. However, as the author of the Mises.org article points out, these steps are unlikely to be coherent as they will be designed and implemented by people who are not followers of the Austrian School of economics.

We shall see what the future holds, but there may be a good “restart” of our economy following Brexit, and on that basis, Christians may be able to pray and write to their MPs about future steps that could convert “Project After” into a coherent plan for economic renewal. Given the possibility of a global recession this year or next (see the New York Federal Reserve’s graph) and the possibility of the collapse of the EU in the next few years, the UK needs to think seriously about domestic finance and about the burden of taxation on companies, partnerships, and sole traders.


The Cost of the Kingdom

In His “Sermon on the Mount”, Christ talks about the cost of following Him. In my thoughts on our closeness to the return of Christ and the inception of the Millennium, I have been thinking about the cost of getting involved in God’s preparation work. Yesterday I read a post at Richard’s Watch that warned of the danger in opposing God’s work. It would be a shame if a Christian were to miss the opportunity to be involved in the great events of the end of the age. There are all sorts of barriers and obstacles that get in our way. Thinking along the lines of virtue epistemology, it seems to me that we must have an attitude of openness but not naivety. We should listen to things that are presented to us in just the same way as a court is impartial; then we should test the spirits to see if the message is of God.


Tools of the Enemy

The Enemy seeks to prevent the advance of the Kingdom of God. The more people he can keep in darkness, the more will end up in Hell. He knows that when Christ comes, he will be thrown into the Abyss for a thousand years, and then judged. So it is in Satan’s interest to forestall, if he can, the return of Christ, which is hastened by the efficacious work of the Church, empowered by the grace and Spirit of God.

One of the Enemy’s tools is causing division. He splits us by supporting and creating ideologies that fan the fire of man’s sinfulness, pitting group against group, and individual against God. Various -isms could be listed that have turned Christians against each other, and the world against the Church. The poor are turned against the rich; women against men; children against parents; the state against private individuals. If we are to overcome the Enemy, we must follow the course set out for us in Revelation: the blood of Christ and the testimony of our faith. We must find unity among true believers.


Specific Prayer

The series at my Church on Spurgeon’s great prayer sermon was concluded a few weeks ago. A number of important points came out of that sermon, and my church, in response to it, is holding a week of prayer during this coming half-term week. One of the points that particularly struck me was the lesson about making our requests as specific as possible. There are particular things I have in mind when I pray about Brexit and Israel, but I feel aware of the need to ask the Lord to grant me more insight and wisdom in praying about the work of the Church globally, and in the UK, in these last days.

Lord, I pray that you will grant insight to all who read and comment at AATW. Help us to adopt an attitude of humility as we wait for revelation from You. Help us to become one in Christ, the risen Lord, through loving each other as You have loved us. Please prepare us to give a testimony, whether by word or deed, in the face of spiritual evil, as we wait for the inauguration of Christ’s Kingdom.

 

Restoration and Renewal

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!

Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.

We hail you as our Saviour, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine
and fill the world with love divine.

All praise to you, eternal Son,
whose advent has our freedom won,
whom with the Father we adore,
and Holy Spirit, evermore.

This morning I watched the latest video from White Dove Ministries and found myself reflecting on its message (Opening Blind Eyes). What is the cost of restoration? A central part of the Biblical story is the motif of restoration. God creates Man, Man goes astray, and God restores Man. The cost of restoration is the blood of Christ and the repentance of Man. Nothing less will deliver us from the Lake of Fire, where all unrepentant sinners will burn for eternity, alienated from God, and tormented by the sight of the bliss they could have enjoyed, had they recognised Christ as their Redeemer.

As God pours out His Spirit in these last days, to restore the Church, to bring more people into it, and to bring about the promises He gave to Israel, the path remains the same: the bloody trail of crucifixion and repentance. If Christ, the unique Son of God, who was equal to God, and who was without sin, condescended to be baptised by John the Immerser, then so must we. 

I believe that, though the darkness is great upon the world, the Lord will pour out His Spirit upon us. He is the Spirit of restoration and renewal, the Spirit of Life, and the Spirit of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. We all have aspects of our lives that we must hand to God or that we must rethink. The aim of our communal life is to grow together to form the image of Jesus Christ, just as Jesus Christ is the image of the Father. This is a work of God, but also requires co-operation on our part with God and with other believers.

We are dependent on God: without Him, we can do nothing. God’s grace is given us not only as endurance, kindness, and boldness, but also as revelation, a clarity of vision that helps us see better. Repentance is an example of this: God shines a light on our sinful thoughts and deeds and we see them as they really are: shameful. Wanting what is better, even if the will is imperfectly formed, we turn from the shameful to the sublime.

Now is a time when we need vision in two senses. Firstly, we need to focus our eyes on God, and not on all the terrible things around us that can sap the strength of our Gospel conviction. Secondly, we need clarity on how to navigate these end times. The basic principles of our faith were handed to us from Christ via the Apostles. The deposit is there, and its main theological and ethical outlines are clear. This fresh vision we require is not about re-laying the foundations of our faith. Rather, to change metaphor, it is about crossing over from the Wilderness into the Promised Land. Entering this rest is what the author of Hebrews was concerned with, and in our own times, that metaphor takes on a global meaning at the transition from this Age into the Millennium.

Lord, we ask you to help us adopt an attitude of humility as we seek and wait for a vision from you that will guide us as we prepare for your glorious return.


 

Unclean lips: Sunday reflection

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Isaiah 6:1-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

Isaiah, like SS, Peter and Paul, knows he is not worthy. “Who, me Lord?” Paul is the “least” of the Apostles, while Peter is sceptical of Jesus’ advice to go back out and cast his nets in the deep. He knew himself to be a “sinful man.” And of course he was right.

Despite Jesus’ trust in him, when he was most needed in Gethsemane he was asleep, and later he lied about even knowing Jesus. In a conscious echo of that first calling, Jesus once more advises Peter about his fishing, and it is that which makes him realise to whom he is speaking. Thrice the Lord asks Peter if he loves him, and thrice Peter affirms it; ransomed, healed, restored forgiven, the Apostle is charged with the care of the sheep. He no longer protests he is not worthy. Why is that?

It is certainly not because Peter feels any more worthy than he had had the beginning; indeed if anything Peter knew he had not lived up to the promises he had made. The contrast here with Judas Iscariot is worth noting.

Peter and Judas both betrayed Christ. Judas despaired of the evil deed he had done and, in despair, hanged himself. He could not forgive himself and he did not believe that forgiveness could be had. His pride told him that there was no remedy for his sin; so he destroyed himself, throwing back to God the gift he had been given. He had not been there when Jesus had prayed to the Father for forgiveness for those who “knew not what they do.” Not had Peter. But there was a critical difference.

Peter, like Isaiah and Paul, had the humility not to let his own pride come between him and forgiveness. We have all sinned, not one of us has reached perfection. How easy it is to hide and evade, and even lie, when we have gone wrong and done bad things and then, when we are found out, to despair. It is as though by going to the very depth of despair we make some sort of amend. But that is to judge as men do, and as with Judas, it can be to put a barrier up to the actions of God’s grace.

There is one odd thing about love; you cannot ever deserve it. Even at the secular, physical level, one cannot make the object of one’s love, love you. One can hope that by paying attention to the beloved, one might receive favourable notice, but one cannot compel or deserve love. Love, like God’s grace, is uncovenanted. God’s love is freely available to us; we did not love Him first, He loved us from the beginning.

Christ came to show us what love will do. He died for us, though we are sinners. A man might die for his family or his friends, or even for a cause. But few if any of us die for our enemies, let along for those whom we do not know. Christ did that because He is God, and we see in His atoning sacrifice a glimpse of the Glory of God; for me He did that?

Peter faced the music, so did Isaiah. Sometimes when we have gone wrong, it is easier ti run away, to take the blames, to become the sacrificial lamb. How much harder it is to face the music and to carry on living.

We are not told what Peter did after the crucifixion, just that he ended up back where he had begun, working the family fishing boats, a sadder if not a wiser man. Perhaps he reflected that it would have been better for all if Jesus had listened to him when he had said he was a sinful man? But, of course, Jesus had listened. He who, alone, knows the devices and desires of our own hearts, knew that Peter had the ability to grow spiritually, if only he would learn humility. Well, that he did.

Peter remained, like us, deeply flawed. He thought that it would be fine to eat non-kosher with Gentiles and did not see why the Jewish dietary laws should apply to all followers of Jesus. But when James and the Church in Jerusalem took a dim view of that, Peter backed away and supported them. It was left to Paul to call Peter out and contradict him. Peter let that happen. He had indeed learnt humility, if not always wisdom.

We are all of us sinners. The moment one stops knowing that, then the way os open to all sorts of sins which come from pride. But today’s Bible passages remind us  that sin can have its own pride, and that if our guilt makes us think we are beyond redemption and God’s love, then we need to think again. We have unclean lips and we are a stiff-necked and sinful people. But God loves us, and if we will but receive the message His Son brought to us about love, then all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

The Modern Age in arms?

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Near the beginning of the Sword of Honour trilogy, Evelyn Waugh allows his main protagonist (it will hardly do to call him a ‘hero,’) Guy Crouchback, a moment of epiphany when the news of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is revealed: ”The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.” Suddenly the world is the way the Crouchback, the scion of an ancient Catholic family, needs it to be. The moral complexities, the ambiguities attendant on everyday life, the shabby little compromises, all these were swept away – there was a righteous cause once more.

Within two years, Crouchback’s hopes were dashed. As he struggled back to Egypt from the wreckage of a doomed attempt to save Crete, the news came of the German invasion of Russia:

“He was back after less than two years’ pilgrimage in a Holy Land of illusion in the old ambiguous world, where priests were spies and gallant friends proved traitors and his country was led blundering into dishonour.”

The “Crusade” moment may have brought peace and clarity to Crouchback, but in the real world from which he was escaping, it led his country close to invasion and defeat. By June 1940 Britain and her Empire stood alone against a Continent divided between German and Russia. Had it not been for the invasion of Russia, it is hard to see how Britain, even with American help (had that come) could have won the war.  It was the very event Crouchback so deplored which brought the downfall of the evil of Nazism. But it resulted in the triumph of Communism and its dominance in Eastern Europe for half a century, and its pernicious influence remained a global threat into recent times.

The lesson is clear. What we were brought up to believe, that the good guys win because they are the good guys, and however great the odds against them are, they can be surmounted. That is not true.

We can, if we like, comfort ourselves with the thought that as Christians we can survive in some pure bubble of like-minded Christians, but that is not only a delusion, it is in itself a betrayal of the Great Commission. Jesus did not say “Go thou and take the Benedict option” – we have an imperative duty to share the good news. We live and exist in a world which is not as we would want it to be; but we always have.

One constant feature of human thinking is to posit the existence of a golden age. It happened just before we came to consciousness. So, in one version of this, there was a time of tight, faithful Catholic communities, when the age-old Mass ruled, priests were diligent and pious, and all was well with the world; then came Vatican II and the world began to go to hell in a handcart. Put so baldly it is clearly nonsense, unless one posits (as its proponents do) a Satanic conspiracy to destroy the Church. Had that golden age existed, then its inhabitants would surely have been able to have resisted?

We cannot, as Christians, retreat from the public square and try to keep ourselves pure. We are bound to stay and bear witness amidst the messiness and brokenness which are the inevitable concomitants of what we believe about the human condition. Do we find those things in our own Church? Of course we do, why would we not? The temptation at such times is to think oneself a better Catholic than those we think are less orthodox than us; that too is part of our own brokenness. It is unsure that people are saved by their orthodoxy; it is certain that our own uncharitableness and want of love will have a bad effect on us.

That should not be read as meaning belief does not matter; it does. But it does mean that we need to get things in order. That we disagree with our fellow Catholics is natural. That we express it in terms which imply that we are entitled to consider them as agents of Satan is to elect ourselves to a position that can be held only by God. We cannot judge as He can.

Christians have a duty to engage in the public square. If I were to make a complaint, it would be that we have been too willing to to speak about the moral components of our faith to the world whilst not emphasising its roots in Christ. We believe in loving each other because we are one in Christ, which is the same reason that we engage in good works, in education and in politics. We witness in what we do and say. What, to one, is righteous zeal is, to another, an act of bigoted self-righteousness. It was and always will be so until her comes again in Glory.

Crouchback’s experience is that of the world. There is a clarity in the enemy being clear, but if within our own self there is a satisfaction in that because it makes our live easier, that is not necessarily the road that God intends us to take. God is love and the world is as it is. That expresses the task before us. To believe both parts of that sentence, and the make the world a better place for our work and witness.

 

God and Mammon

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The parallels between the world into which Christianity was born and this world are obvious; the major difference is the legacy of the Faith, and the witness still borne to it.

The Roman world recognised no sacred nature inhering in being human: abortion; infanticide; slavery and a material view of life were the norm.  As we move away from our inheritance, it is not surprising to see some of those things reappear. What we want from our life is the only standard by which we judge; as long as it does not go against the Law of the land, we can have it. “Justice” redefines itself as “what is legal” and “what the State allows.” As we have developed the concept of “human rights” around the same principles, it follows that my right to choose trumps some intangible “right to life.” If necessary we can use the flexibility of language to aid us here. You might congratulate a woman on her forthcoming baby, and the shops have cards to that effect; but medically a foetus is a clump of cells that can be removed if the bearer of the lump of cells so wishes.

So Mammon wins out. We can, as Christians rightly lament the plight of those who do not have food, shelter or safety, and we can work for their good, knowing it coincides with the good of the wider society. Nice though the fantasy of charitable giving providing for all the needs of the needy, in practice if the State does nothing then some people starve. What is wrong with the mega-rich in our Society is not that they earn too much, it is that they pay too little in tax. We have obligations as members of a State, and those do not come free. So, for all its imperfections, the British National Health Service ensures that no one is driven to bankruptcy as a result of being sick, nor are they denied the best help because they cannot afford it.

Properly viewed, taxation can be the State’s way of doing what is needed for those who need it most. Where we used to pay tithes to the Church, we pay taxes to Mammon. It is perhaps the uses to which Mammon puts those taxes that we might direct our objections.

As Christians we recognise we have a obligation to others. We have not gone down the route of those early Christians who held all goods in common, but taxation is the way that has been developed to ensure some money goes into a common coffer.

The Churches can and do work with the State in many of the areas mentioned: health; education; social services; welfare; all are spheres where we work together. As the State in the West has begun the process of withdrawal from areas where it was over extended, the Churches have tried to occupy some of those vacant spaces.  Anyone who had worked with a Foodbank or a community group knows that Christian make up a sizeable proportion of those who give their time and efforts freely.

We give freely; but do we give too freely? Do we mistake a common concern for a common motive and common ends? To what extent do we, as organised Christian groups do what any other interest group would do, namely promote our own agenda? If we don’t, then why not? Have we become frightened that we will be accused to doing what everyone else does – that is to work towards our own goals? Or have we convinced ourselves that the goals are then identical?

In the case of tax, it is Mammon who will decide where the money goes, but when it comes to areas where the Churches are putting in money derived from the faithful, the faithful might like to start behaving like shareholders and asking what value has been added to the goals of the Church by the investment made?

Mammon and God can work together well enough for the good of God’s people, but the latter demands that the Churches ensure that good is indeed promoted and beneficial. I doubt we do that often, and am sure we do not do it systematically. Perhaps we should try harder?

 

What is to be done?

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Lenin’s famous booklet, What is to be done? argued that the proletariat would not be radicalised simply though activities designed to secure better pay and conditions. He was right; they weren’t. By extension, one might assert that Catholics have not been converted through an emphasis on how the Church deals with social and economic problems. Indeed, it would be interesting to know how many converts came into the Church because of its social teaching? That is not to say that such teaching is not important, nor to deny the Gospel imperative to help the poor, but it is to suggest that such an emphasis lies to one side of what brings people to Christianity and to the Catholic Church.

Social and economic concerns provides a point of openness to the world, but is not solely the concern of the Churches; if we provide nothing more than what the world can provide, then why would anyone go the extra mile to join a Church?

We either provide a remedy for the spiritual ills of the world, or we are wasting our time, which would be better employed helping those many agencies whose reason for being lies in tackling such ills. We can provide a reason for a bias toward the poor, and we can, do, and should, insert a moral dimension to what might otherwise be a rather utilitarian approach to the poor. We help because they are our brothers and sisters, not because they are suitable objects for our social engineering or because helping them would be a salve to our consciences. We help them because Christ tells us we should.

All of which is to say that while we can rightly concern ourselves with some of the things that are Caesar’s. we do not speak with special authority in those realms; men and woman can do good via working in them, but they do not become more Christ-like by so doing.

A sense of brokenness haunts us. We have many names for that internal emptiness which assaults our most private moments, and we have developed a rich language of therapy to help each other, not to mention a multi-billion pound pharmaceutical industry. Yet with all of that, the problem persists and, like death, is universal.

The purpose of Christian culture is to inculturate the people of the world with the culture of the Kingdom of God, and helping others is simply part of that wider culture. The Good News is that we do not need to get what we deserve. In no way do I “deserve” salvation. I cannot earn it through right belief or orthopraxis. If I were judged by the standards even of this world, I would be lost. But I have a great advocate in Christ, who has paid the price for me.

I am saved by His sacrifice, and I am being saved by it, and at the last I hope that I shall be saved, and that in my way of living I can evidence what He has done for me. If my Faith has no fruits then it is in vain; if my deeds are not done in Him, then they will avail others, but not my eternal soul. That is why knowing Christ is so important. It lies at the heart of everything.

So, for those who have, they say found Him, I cannot and do not say they are wrong. I say only that for me, He is to be found where He said He would be found, which is in His Church. I believe that Church is the Catholic Church, and that being in Communion with Rome is the safest guarantee of that fact. But I would not and do not dare say that others who say they have found Him, and evidence that in their lives, are wrong. I can and do say that the Church is our best assurance, and the best guide against too great a dependence on our own emotionalism and intellectualism.

It is the task of Christian Pastors to proclaim the Good News. Healing is there for what ails us. Do we do that? Is that what people think of when the Church is mentioned? If not, then we might ask what part we play as disciples? Do we give reasons for the hope that is in us? Do we model our Faith or just preach it? If our Faith does not quicken our hearts, then what is to be done?

Catholicism in the public square

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In England, and thus by extension the English-speaking world, we inherit a tradition which has been called the “Black Legend,” through which English Catholicism has also been viewed. It makes the Catholic Church the centre of anti-English activities, a cruel, intolerant organisation characterised by the Inquisition. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs  provided a foundational text here, portraying Queen Mary I as “Bloody Mary,” a theme now so ingrained as to be to some extent immoveable.

In his influential “A History of the English-Speaking Peoples,” Churchill captures this legend in his treatment of England’s history as one of struggle against the Catholic Powers of Spain and France. The implication of a special English “destiny” was one passed into the American DNA via the idea of “manifest destiny.” All good stories have a villain, and the Catholic Church makes an excellent one in this narrative.

On top of these older narratives, we have a newer one, propagated via aggressive modern secularism, which is hostile to Christianity, but particularly so to the Catholic Church. This new narrative has widened its scope beyond the old victims, who were mainly white male; women and children have been included in the charge sheet. The Church is portrayed as anti-women because of its stances on abortion and contraception; indeed there are some areas where even praising this is seen as “offensive.” It is also hostile to “LGBTI” rights. And then there is child abuse and its cover up. As ever, there would be no smoke without fire, and on the last of these issues, the Church still seems a little tone deaf in some places, and, of course, the large areas where it is not get no attention from its critics.

All of this amounts to a sustained narrative which creates difficulties being a Catholic in the public square. So how do we tell a different story without simply being accused of a biased “revisionism” for its own sake?

In the first place we need to get our history right.

If there was a time when Christianity was alien to England, it was before the invasion of the Emperor Claudius in A.D. 43. By the time of the great rupture we call the Reformation, Christianity had been in these Islands for nearly 1500 years. It did not arrive in the seventh century with St Augustine. Bede is clear that it was already here, and what is sometimes called the “Celtic” Church seems simply to have been the Christianity that was already rooted here before the early fifth century when the Romans withdrew.

England, then Wales and Scotland have a longer history of being “Catholic” than they have of being anything else. Indeed, as Cranmer, Laud and the whole Anglo-Catholic tradition exemplify, a very large section of English Christianity saw itself a a reformed Catholic Church. Beowulf, Chaucer and Shakespeare are all products of Catholic culture, as is our education system, as is our law and morality. Reasons of State made it necessary for the English and then the British State to play up the separation from Rome; but that was not the same as separating from what Christianity had given to England, and indeed, Britain.

If we could examine our history afresh and tell this story, rather than the grand narrative of Churchill, then we should make steps in a positive direction. This is not about “revisionism” for its own sake, but it is, as with “Black” and “Women’s history,” a recognition that unless the story of a neglected group is told, it is hard for us to ass that group in a proper historical context.

I would suggest that viewed from this angle, the narrative is one that unites us. The story it tells is of the way in which the Faith created a civilisation with values and norms which are still needed; created an art which still influences us; and created a culture which still matters.

It is not, and never should be, a matter of denigrating in turn those who have denigrated the Catholic Church, but rather one of emphasising the values of the Faith and their positive legacy and continuing influence. It is of saying that Catholics is not “Irish,” or “Spanish” or “other,” it is part of the English spirit. But who will tell that story, who will write that curriculum for out schools, and who will promote the attempt to correct the balance? And equally important, who will do it in a non-partisan manner which recognises that no story is wholly black or white?

I would suggest that if prominent Catholics are looking for good causes, they might do worse than work towards the creation of an Institute that might begin and promote this good work.

We have schools and universities which are world-class, but we have inherited a tradition of reserve and perhaps have so thoroughly taken on board the need to “keep our heads down,” that we have hesitated to take the lead where we are able. We would not want to be accused of being sectarian, not least by those who are.

But there is nothing sectarian in capturing again the ways in which Catholicism is part of our heritage. In 1852 Newman delivered a series of lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England which repay study. He outlined the problem and part of the solution. We are still looking for Catholics who will go forward with the task he outlined then. Shall we, in our time, say the way is too hard and the task too difficult? It was in Newman’s day. It is harder now. It will get no easier.