There has been much else to occupy my time this last eighteen months, and, as explained in my last posting here, the press of business in my new vocation has been such that it would have been unfair to my university to have offered it less than 100% of my time. But evenings and week-ends still exist, and as we approach Lent, I want to use some of that time to return to the themes of this blog.
At its best it has offered a voice not heard elsewhere. It has been too reactionary for the liberals, and not reactionary enough for the reactionaries. I don’t take that as a sign that the positions taken here are, therefore, in some way ‘right’, but simply that they are a voice worth the speaking.
There is much to be gloomy about. I do not suffer from what has been called ‘Trump derangement syndrome”, which is common in the circles in which I usually move. I am a fan neither of the man, nor his style, nor, in so far as he has them and I understand them (both great caveats) of his policies; but nor do I see him as a species of anti-Christ for those who need one. If he is anything, he is a symptom of a political system where the insiders had long given the impression that they regarded the mass of the population as ‘deplorable’; Mrs Clinton simply said what had, until then, been unsaid. I take rather a similar view on Brexit. Give the electorate the impression you regard them as uneducated idiots and then give them the chance to vote in a way that allows them to give you a kicking, and then express surprise. It could only happen in a democracy where the ties that bind are already loosening.
That is my main worry. Whatever it is fashionable to believe, the basic values on which Western Civilization were founded we Christian ones; explicitly so. We believe in the value of each individual not because of some abstract theory of “rights” – that came later – but because each individual is a child of God; it is that sense, and that sense alone in which we are “equal”. It is that sense alone which matters. It matters because it means we never can, nor should, instrumentalise the human person. Whether it is turning people into cogs in a machine in work-setting, or killing the unborn or the elderly for being “useless”, Christianity rightly rejects such an approach to the human person. The princes of this world, under any system of government or economic system, have a tendency to do this, and one of the great gifts of Christianity is to have rebuked them for it. It is unclear who will do this in the absence of a Christian presence.
There is a deep irony in a leading Catholic Churchman appearing to tell us that China is an exemplar of Catholic Social teaching. One of my colleagues has said all that needs to be said on this egregious nonsense here. To use his words:
Catholic social teaching demands freedom of conscience, freedom of association and the protection of life from conception until natural death. These are not optional extras and nor are they part of the moral teaching of the Church outside its social teaching. These aspects of the Church’s social teaching are fundamental because they have an impact on education, healthcare and the whole structure of political and civil society as well as on economic and social relationships.
That is true of Christian social teaching; there is nothing in that with which Archbishop William Temple and Anglicans of his hue would have disagreed.
We live in a world where on all sides these freedoms are being questioned in the name of identity politics. The idea, once risible, that one should be able to call for another to be silenced because they offended you, is now commonplace. For some of us, this was where we feared that laws prohibiting certain types of speech might lead. There is no satisfaction in having been proven right.
In a Society where people have been schooled to think that truth is relative, it is only natural that individual feeling should have become elevated into the standard by which to judge others. There is not truth, except that all truth is relative, says modern man and (naturally) woman. But for the Christian that cannot be true. There is a Truth, and it is a person, not a concept. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light, and we cannot (though we often do) relativise that.
We are all sinners. We are all children of God. We are all fallen. In Him all can rise. The old Adam (and if you must, Eve) is rampant in us all. We all of us do not what we will, but what we often do not will. For this there is but one remedy: Christ Jesus. He reaches out to each of us where we are. each of us comes to Him as we have the Grace so to do.
As the clouds lower over us, amidst th’encircling gloom, as the Blessed John Henry put it, we have but on Kindly Light. Let us pray that He illuminates our hearts, mind and spirit, in the Lent that approaches.