Friday, May 08, 2015
The morning after
Politics are always fascinating, the morning after an election the ups and downs, loss and gain show in exultation or desolation and today the resignation of three party leaders. I voted late, I suspect like many, only after a great deal of deliberation and I voted not so much for anyone but against what I know to be evil.
I know the catechism tells me I have a duty to vote and their Lordships have raised areas where we should express concern but frankly whenever I vote I feel I am co-operating with evil. Politicians might be honourable but they are concerned with power and an agenda that is increasingly distant from the Gospels. As a priest I am concerned with the one who stands before the Jerusalem politicians as a dumb lamb, before Pilate he says, 'My Kingdom is not of this world'.
My inclination is to 'flee from the world', to be 'uncontaminated by the world', like St Benedict wanting to preserve 'civilisation' in the 'closed garden' of the monastery. My inclination is to separate the Church from all that is corrupt, to draw back, to let the world go its ruinous way. There has always been that strand in Christianity, to stand in opposition to the world by creating something else, to be the beacon, the salt, the leaven, the city on the hilltop, the voice crying in the wilderness.
The alternative of course is to 'dialogue with the world', some Catholics ask where dialogue is to found in scripture or Tradition, it is of course one translation of logos (In the beginning was the dialogue Jn 1:1). Jesus himself tells the disciples to go ad gentes, to the nations, we have a duty to bring Christian teaching into the world, sometimes directly but more often indirectly by introducing Christian values. As Christianity is pushed to the edges of society it is obvious that we so often fail in this endeavour.
The Synod on the family has highlighted the situation of the German Church, which in many ways is the epitome of 'dialogue`. What has become so apparent is that dialogue is about influence but it is also about being influenced. A weak and ill defined Church is more likely to be influenced by the world if its leaders are themselves worldly.The Catholic Herald looks briefly at the pre-war situation of the German Church, in Why did the German bishops fail to raise their voice against the Nazis? Bismark introduced Church Tax as way of ensuring the Church operated with the German state, in the same way 19th century Ireland was pacified by the British government subsidizing the Irish bishops. It was a way of smothering the Church in a suffocating embrace, rather like the Blair government's embrace of the Catholic Education Service.
I can't help reflecting that Church in this country, insofar as it so often has been seen to cosy up to government loses it its vigour, because it serves no-one least of all its members. A healthy church is surely a church in constant and vigorous opposition to "political certainties", we simply can't afford to be bland, to constantly smile benignly, to be seen as a friend to the powerful and the wealthy. It might be Nick Clegg is right in his analysis of the demise of liberalism. "One thing seems to me is clear: liberalism, here, as well as across Europe, is not faring well against the politics of fear. Years of remorseless economic and social hardship following the crash in 2008 and the grinding insecurities of globalisation have led for people to reach to new certainties: the politics of identity, of nationalism, of us versus them is now on the rise." How we would interpret these "new certainties" would differ from Clegg, but they still need opposing, even the social certainties, he and the coalition partners took for granted, one of which is the monster of 'Equalities' that will tend to swallow all our rights to family and privacy, and ultimately conscience, opening us up to an Orwellian future.
Even Justin Welby recently said, "We need to move beyond inter-religious interaction in which we the usual suspects issue bland statements of anaemic intent with which you could paper the walls of Lambeth Palace – and much good would it do you – all desperate to agree with one another so that the very worst outcome could possibly be that we end up acknowledging our differences."
It is 'difference' that we need to take up, rather like John the Baptist in his prison discussions with Herod, as he speaks truth to power.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake