Sunday, 29 November 2009

Gone fishin'

While the anti-clerical and anti-religious make hay about large chunks of the Catholic Church in Ireland’s complicity with child abusing priests by hiding or excusing them, I’d prefer to take a quick look today about how our very own Supreme Primate has recently been inadvertently encouraging some of God’s children to despise other of God’s children here in the balmy North West of England by hiding or excusing their crimes and misdemeanours.

Archbishop of Canterbury in plea to politicians: Don’t play race card

By Tom Moseley »

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has called on all candidates at next year’s general election “not to play the race card”.


Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams said he had been “inspired” by his trip to Lancashire, where he met civic and religious leaders in Burnley, Blackburn and Preston.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, he insisted the Church was doing all it could to improve community relations and address far right political parties like the British National Party.

Yes. All those honour killings and separatism and, of course, the bankrupting of the State’s finances and indebting our children to the taxman and the inflationeer’s greed unto the umpteenth generation, that’s all the “far right’s” fault.

Dr Williams said Lancashire had “lots of challenges and diversity”.

Challenge. Diversity. Challenge.Diversity. Challenge.Diversity. Challenge.Diversity.Yorkshire’s just as diverse, tha knows.

You’d have to be crazy or truly evil not to see the good in all of this.

Asked about community relations, with the recent Cantle Report into Blackburn labelling it one of the most divided

I say ‘divided’. You say ‘diverse’. Potato. Aloo.

Say, there can’t be any connection between this and all the violence, can there?

"But if it’s just about putting up the shutters it’s not going to work.”

But…Fisk. Fisk. Fisk. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Then, like a voice from Heaven, I remembered what EU Referendum had posted about recently: citing Nick Cohen, an honest Leftist of integrity and gracious good humour.

Indeed, the standard web author rarely sees the need to spell out what his or her side believes in and argue for it in the marketplace of ideas….

and …

In Britain, Guido Fawkes, a conservative blog that is so successful it has twice the readership of the New Statesman, does not argue for right-wing policies. Like most other conservative bloggers, he takes their inherent merit for granted and devotes his time to disparaging the Left. Instead of conducting a thorough debate on why its government has failed, Left-wing blogs imitate the Right and respond in kind.


Okay, so assuming that we all agree, or are prepared to stipulate for the moment, that the present A-B of C is a cultural Marxist, for whom all the complex problems and feelings involved are because “Divisions come about because of economics or a perceived sense of injustice” and who wishes to lead a hollowed-out dhimmmi church of moral relativists and the willfully blind… what then can we say that’s positive, that argues for something that conservatives can get alongside?

What would I (who am not a Christian) want to hear a confident and faithful Archbishop of Canterbury say about immigration, culture, and the Queen’s Peace?

What might a humble but determined heir of Saint Augustine; of Wulfred; of the great Thomases - Becket and Cranmer say about these matters today?

I think he’d start with something about his faith.

I believe in the words of Jesus Christ, as preached by my church down the generations:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

And from ancient Leviticus we have; Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD,” and later we have The Great Commandment throughout the New Testament: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

The Church has preached and taught these ideas for two thousand years as the core of what we believe. Whenever the Church ands the faithful have not acted according to these holy words, then we were in the wrong. When we have followed them as we were commanded, then we were at least seeking to be right.

For most every Sunday and Christmas, Lent and Easter for two thousand years the Church had based its teaching and has intended to act according to Christ’s commandment in the belief that people matter irrespective of: their usefulness to others; or their social rank; or their sex; or their relationship to those in power; or their nationality or; eventually, of their faith. Much of the morality by which British people live today is derived directly from Christian teachings.

I think that such a man might go on to say something about the history of Christianity and Christendom.

Christianity has waxed and waned in these islands of ours for 1,500 years and more, but as it survived and changed, it has grown to great power and influence over the minds of our people. The faith has had to face many grave problems and, on some occasions has been, or been present, at some of the gravest problems.

And yet, Christianity has proved to be a solution for many of life’s hardships and injustices.

The pagan religious cults that predated Christianity were in large measure a curse to their practitioners and their neighbours alike. Human and animal sacrifice; slave-raiding one’s neighbours; frequent rape and murderous oath-breaking; the belief in gods and local spirits who terrified those who dwelt amongst them; infanticide; widow-burning – all were held to be vile by the Church Fathers in these four countries of ours, and all were later suppressed by Christian princes and their servants so that some, at least, of those horrors were banished forever. Those Christian princes and their servants were not always gentle and often acted cruelly in their work, it is true. I do not excuse that, but I ask you also to think that when the Millennium Bridge’s foundations were laid down in the city of Lancaster, how many young girls were thrown into the concrete to appease the River Lune’s spirit?

And every Sunday, Christ’s message of universal love and peace was preached to the people throughout the Dark Ages.

It is also true that the Church made war on Islam during the Crusades, and though its atrocities against Muslims, Jews, and other Christians alike were inexcusable and remain so to this day, the Crusades themselves were wars against the descendants of the conquerors of formerly Christian lands. But we can choose to do things better today, as we now take Christ’s Great Commandment seriously.

Whilst the mediaeval Church and its agents often persecuted Jews as the result of parts of the gospel stories and also out of local hatreds and personal greed and the foul legend of the Blood Libel, and even as massacre and exile from England were crimes against the Jews, the Church still held that child sacrifice was wrong for Christians and some priests and bishops struggled against local recidivism. There was the notion, ever-present if often ignored by venial priests and corrupt magistrates that the lives of all the people were worth something - at least to God.

Then Christians warred on other Christians during the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, and long and terrible were the century and a half of Western Christendom’s civil wars. Brutality in larger-scale warfare than had been fought since the fall of Rome left Europe blood-soaked and exhausted, and yet the Europeans (Oh solemn pride in this European inheritance!) learned to partly separate the affairs of State from those of the Church, and in so doing took the sword from the hands of the men who should be working for peace, and left it in the hands of the nation-states, commonwealths and empires that made our modern world. These Wars of Religion also saw Jews settled quite deliberately in Britain once more; to our great profit, as a result of other, older and authentic Christian teachings about the Jews and their special place in God’s plan. And so love thy neighbour became a policy goal for those who wanted so much to live peacefully and profitably with other kinds of Christians.

But the Reformed Church and the Catholics alike warred on pagans once more as clerical orders and secular authorities and free enterprise alike exported African animists into the New World to work in its sweltering fields and awful mines and the sugar mills that were a material Hell on Earth. And every Sunday, love thy neighbour was preached to slave owners and slaves alike until some evangelical Anglicans and Quakers chose to take those words literally and then, for the first time in four thousand years and more, slavery was abolished in Europe and some of its colonies as freedom began to spring from Christian musket muzzles and Christian cannon and Christian bayonets.

Love thy neighbour has been extended; ever more refined and ever more detailed and demanding in its application, to apply to former enemies of official Christendom in these islands such as the Catholics; to factory workers and children and the uneducated and for a Middle Eastern homeland for the Jews; to supporting the equality of women eventually and after much clerical opposition and very much after the fact that others had largely achieved it (or having talked about achieving it).

And these holy words have long since been incumbent of the Christian faithful to apply to the faithful of other religions.

Leviticus 19:34 teaches us further "But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God"). …Leviticus 19:34 universalizes the edict of Leviticus 19:18 from "one of your people" to all of humankind.

This is the faith and the world it has made that I stand for.

He might say something about the world that his faith has built.

So our nation, for all its faults, and the faults of the people living in it, is a place aflame with the idea that people matter; that they count for something here and now because God has taught us that we all matter to Him.

Our morality politics and are awash with the idea that law and power should serve an essentially Christian mission; to protect the meek, to search for justice, to aim for peace. And this is how the British describe themselves when they are feeling good about themselves; the height of approval is to say of a man ‘He’s a good chap,’ or of a woman ‘She’s very kind.’ Note that this riverbed Christianity does not praise worldly success such as fame and fortune, or the cleverness of mind, or beauty, or being at the height intellectual fashion, but rather the ability to fit in, to get along, to be a neighbour.

In these lands and amongst this country’s neighbours and its former colonies we extend the courtesy that is the everyday form and manifestation of Christian neighbourliness to our visitors and those who have settled amongst us…Or at least most of us try to though we often fail too; being fallible and weak.

Love thy neighbour is what happens when our diplomats agree that prisoners of war should be treated decently, and when soldiers are trained to do so, and when they do so under great stress and after cruel provocation. It’s also what happens when our soldiers fail to do so, and when other seek to redress that failure. Love thy neighbour is real when we give to charity, or are kind to strangers we meet, and when we choose to be polite to fools and unruly children who are not related to us. Love thy neighbour underlies the deepest motives of socialism and liberalism and much of conservatism – and even libertarianism in its respect for the individual (inherited and distant as that lineage is to the rationalist mind.) Love thy neighbour underpins much of patriotism and nationalism, too, by definition, and it need not imply and hate strangers, too.

Love thy neighbour is the foundation of the peaceful way we live because it has been put into a myriad of our laws to constrain the deeds and to control wherever possible the intentions of the sociable but often selfish or parochial species that we human beings are. Freedom itself can not be tolerated by those who fail to embrace the outer lesson of love thy neighbour which is that we are all here to lead our own lives and that this matters very much to God.

It’s not that Love thy neighbour or something very much like it is unique to Christianity: modern and mediaeval Judaism, some forms of Buddhism and Hinduism, and the very earliest teachings of Islam contain similar notions. But Christianity has it at its core, and the history of this country for a millennium and a half has been coloured by that religion.

I wish that such a Primate might conclude.

The laws and customs that have grown up under centuries of imperfect striving to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ are part of an ecology that contains rightful thinking; teaching the Gospels; respecting when their message has been fulfilled; and regretting and hoping to improve when it has not.

All we ask of each other and of our neighbours old and new, no matter what they believe and Whom they worship, is to live according to those customs and laws so that they too will share in a national community that sees strangers and colleagues; children and women and foreigners; the rich and the poor alike as worthy of respect and continued life. That’s all that we should ask - though the Church offers more to those who will take it.

Christian society does not ask much of its inhabitants, and it cannot compel us to truly love our neighbours in our hearts because only God can demand that, but it is mightily entitled to insist that all people should act as if they did not hate one another.

So we demand that everyone here must live by those laws and customs and not put personal or sectarian aims above public morality.


GCooper said...

I suspect your fantsy Primate might have a little difficulty justifying his comments about pre-Christian paganism in these islands, NNW.

Little is known about it and that little comes from questionable sources.

JuliaM said...

"I say ‘divided’. You say ‘diverse’. Potato. Aloo. "

Classic line!

North Northwester said...


Well, it's true the Druids were portrayed mostly by Julius Caesar and less Romans, who were their enemies, but Stonehenge did have at least on sacrificed child under it, and the Christian chroniclers were pretty graphic in their descriptions of rape and pillage and the blood eagle and so on. And ibn Fadlan was an Iraqi diplomat and we all know how dishonest they were...
But the sagas and eddas themselves and mountains of archaeology local and comparative (including Sutton Hoo), plus Beowulf are full of examples of ancient British and European paganaism being prety vile. And of course the Roman pagans themselves were, amongst otehr things, sadists and sexual perverts big-style. Modern neo-heathens are nice only because they're thoroughly Christianised in their morality, and I'm very grateful for it. Thralldom, anyone?

Julia, thanks for reading in that far :-)

GCooper said...

Well that's refreshing, NNW - at last we disagree about something!

I have little time for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer 'pagans', I find the presence of a single child's remains at Stonehenge absolutely insignificant (though not, of course, for the child) and my reading of the classics suggests similarities, rather than differences.

The testimony of a conquering faith as evidence of the wrongs of the one it crushes?

No, I don't think so.

Or, perhaps to put it another way, see your blood eagle and raise you an Alexandria.

Christianity? As far as I am concerned it is not only 'part of the problem'- I consider it the root of it. Certainly it's the parent of the bastard child socialism.

On the whole, I consider Julian The Apostate a greater loss than Ignatius of Loyola.

North Northwester said...

Glad to lock horns for once: mead-filed or otherwise.

Oh, there's plenty of child sacrifice in ancient paganism, hence the 'My fair lady' line in 'London Bridge is Falling Down.'
And of course I referred to Caesar and Bede and ibn Fadlan to point out I know that often the pagans' chroniclers were hostile for reasons other than Red Cross motives.
But the Conquistadors did not invent the religious massacres of the pagans they met, nor did the abomination of the Roman Circus have any parallel under Christianity, and though the colonial Spanish were foul by modern standards, they ended all manner of sacrifices as the Christian British Empire ended suttee.
All kinds of civilisations could have ended these horrors, but it was ours; our Judeo-Hellenic Christian civilisations that actually did it becasue of what their subjects were taught to beleive about right and wrong.
I'll grant you that non-communist socialism does derive in part from some Christian sects [and much more importantly from that Christian love thy neighbour theme], and as such is one of the Hells that good intentions has taken our country and our world to. And it was also the product, near and far of atheism and all kinds of anti-clerical radicalism. And, no doubt, it came from the plain pain of people with too little food and warmth and too little hope for their children. We ourselves should argue better and offer something better to hope for.

Lots of cultures could have made all these advances - and in places, some of them did. But from Imperial subject and the property of a deified Roman general to free man living at peace with his neighbours, the two thousand year history of mankind to our modern Britain has largely been controlled, and its progress promoted, by Christian teachings.
Nothing's ever truly finished, of course, and there's lots to do and always will be, to overcome emergent injustices and hurts. But I'd rather be in that game with large numbers of people who are at least influenced by 'love thy neighbour', or who know what it means, than a majority of the followers of Reason and what they've given us - and done to us - this last century of three.

In the unlikely event that we don't cross keyboards before the holidays, a Merry Christmas and Wassail to you this Yule.

James Higham said...

The Church leadership, an oxymoron if ever I heard one, is letting down Christendom in most denominations and that is a whole story in itself - the infiltration of congregations and power blocs.

For a start, there should be no power blocs in what is, after all, each person's private relationship with a deity.

I feel a post coming on.


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner