27 Feb

Letters of mass deception

The sending of letters guaranteeing immunity against prosecution to more than 180 known IRA terrorists was not, as David Cameron claimed, “a blunder of monumental proportions.” It was deliberate government policy. It was begun under Blair and it has continued under Brown and Cameron, and it was no less than a deal done with the IRA, an act of appeasement. “Sell-out” and “betrayal” are some of the shameful phrases which come to mind.

Radio Four’s PM Programme interviewed Peter Hain – of all people – on the subject. Among his other accomplishments, Hain is a type of utilitarian philosopher: that is one who does not believe in the difference between good and bad or indeed that there are moral absolutes of any sort. Though, sickeningly, he began by expressing his sympathy to the victims of IRA terrorism, he went on to say that the letters guaranteeing immunity – and now we hear even of official pardons – were justified in order to to enact the Northern Ireland Agreement, to set up the “peace process” and to provide for the cessation of terrorism and the creation of power sharing, He said more than once that the letters caused him to feel uncomfortable and he reiterated his sympathy for those who had suffered and are still suffering from the results of terrorism. But he said the policy was justified by its results.

This is the standard utilitarian approach: the ends always justify the means. Nothing is ever done because it is right in itself, but always so that a greater good might be produced. The problem with this sort of moral philosophy is precisely in its claim to aim for this greater good while refusing to give the word good any rational content. Thus utilitarianism is contradictory and incoherent. Specifically in this case it involves the assumption that peace – a questionable peace anyhow – is preferable to war. Peace at any price. But in genuine ethical reasoning there must always first be some definition of a specific and absolute good. Morality in the utilitarian philosophy becomes a mere plaything, infinitely malleable, in which human beings (and all that happens to them as a result of utilitarian policies) are regarded as means to an end – and that end never being properly identified. True ethics – deontological ethics, Kantian ethics – teaches the truth that human beings – people – must never be treated as means to any end but as ends in themselves. Moreover, that we should never do evil in the hope that good will come of it.

Utilitarianism pretends to be the embodiment of rationality and kindness, moral virtue itself. But in reality it is frightening. I have sat through the debates in moral philosophy and heard the champions of John Stuart Mill’s book Utilitarianism. And scarily, I have heard the teachings of Mill’s admirers and intellectual descendants such as A.J. Ayer and C.L. Stevenson. Ayer declared plainly in chapter six of his book Language,, Truth and Logic (1936) that all ethical terms are in every case “meaningless.” Stevenson in The Emotive meaning of Ethical Terms (1937) agreed with Ayer and then went further saying that, insofar as ethical terms have any use at all, it is only to persuade. Pressed by theists, Christians, Jews and various other deontologists, Stevenson conceded that – since ethical terms have no linguistic or syntactic meaning – they achieve their ends in much the same way as a club or any other weapon achieves its ends.

This then is the emotive meaning of ethical terms. It is the secular gospel of utilitarianism, the blunt instrument of the bully and the demagogue. It is no coincidence that Ayer and Stevenson – the 20th century’s most notable utilitarian philosophers – produced their work at the same time as Hitler and Stalin were living out the profound similarities between persuasion and the club.

The horror of it is that these things are not just academic but the very substance and ground of our political life and public policy. Specifically the utilitarian philosopher and his political disciples say: The word “good” is meaningless; moreover what I am doing I am doing for a greater good

It was Milton who described hell as “confusion worse confounded.”

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26 Feb

Confessing other people’s sins

Harriet Harman has refused to apologise for having been closely associated with the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970s when the NCCL had links to the Paedophile Information Exchange, I still cringe when I recall those days. It was the decade following the student riots in Paris and the USA. Anarchic nihilism was everywhere. There were more fringe leftist parties than you could throw a hammer and sickle at: the Socialist Workers, the Revolutionary Marxist Current, the International Marxist Group and so on. One published a newspaper called Spectre which always carried a slogan above its masthead: “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.” And “oppression” was the word ever on the lips of the radical chic. “International capitalism” and “the ruling class”  oppressed wimmin, blacks, workers and students especially – despite the fact that university tuition was free and most received generous maintenance grants. Harriet, as a member of the coy, trendy very middle class agitprop subversive NCCL, was the original radical chick: a posh gel slumming it among the proles.

PIE hijacked this loony left bandwagon and claimed that denying sexual relationships between children and adults constituted the oppression of children. Sane voices pointed out: “No – it’s child molesters who oppress children.”

I was a philosophy undergraduate at Liverpool University at the time and the long-haired, beaded flower-power lumpen intelligentsia were in full sail. “Man” was another of their favourite words. They ended every utterance with it, rather as Dr Johnson ended his sentences with “Sir.” They smoked pot and regarded Bob Dylan as a poet and a prophet.  One of the most puerile of their antics – puerile even for a mob that turned puerility into a  pop art form – was to claim that the university authorities were holding “secret files” on them all. It never occurred to them to ask why anyone in his right mind would want to to store information about this riff raff. What would such information say about them: thick, spoilt, infantilised, petulant, paranoid, lazy. So they would cut lectures and instead hold “sit-ins” in the senate building and thus prevent the office workers from working. (They must have forgotten they were supposed to be on the side of the workers). I remember the Vice Chancellor offering to throw open the administration centre and the riff raff could see for themselves there were no secret files. Came the reply, “Ah no – that’s because they’re secret!”

Forty years on and sister Harriet still has the same mindset. I’m sure she’s among that great horde of politically-correct tribunes who insist that we all apologise for stuff we didn’t do – like the slave trade, the persecution of homosexuals and blacks. I wonder they don’t ask Italian ice cream sellers to apologise for the fall of the Roman Empire. But when it comes to apologising for something for which she did have responsibility – being a leading light in the NCCL which had connections to the PIE – Ms Harman keeps her trap firmly shut.

I wish she would make a habit of it.

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25 Feb

Institutional irrationality

The mother of murdered London teenager Stephen Lawrence has said she believes parts of the police are still racist.  Speaking fifteen years after the Macpherson Report branded the Metropolitan Police force “institutionally racist”, Baroness Lawrence said some attitudes “haven’t changed much”.She said stop-and-search measures are still unfair.

There are few things worse than having your son murdered and there is rightly great public sympathy for the parents of Stephen Lawrence: but sympathy is one thing and irrationality is another thing altogether. I don’t know how racist the Metropolitan Police Force is. I cannot judge whether their stop-and-search tactics are unfair. But, fifteen year on, it is disgraceful that a very significant part of public policy and the criminal law continues to be enacted according to a definition which is manifestly absurd.

I mean that judgement in the Macpherson Report which says, “A racist incident is anything so described by the victim or any other person.” So, if I were to invite you for a nice cup of tea, you could, if you were so perverse, report this as a racist incident. And unfortunately our society is not free from exactly this sort and degree of perversity. 

This perversity is called political correctness

Most people regard political correctness as a bit of a joke and rather a laugh, but in its serious consequences it is neither. When sceptics asked for a justification for his coining the tendentious neologism “institutional racism,” Lord Macpherson declared loftily,

“We do not pretend to produce a definition which will carry all argument before it.” But that is the whole purpose in making legal definitions: to avoid the confusion which partisan arguments inevitably produce. You would think that a man who is one of our senior judges could understand this.

Macpherson’s arrogant refusal to answer criticism amounts to his saying, we won’t answer your awkward questions. Just like the secret police.

The Macpherson definition of an act of racism is meaningless of course, but it is the catch-all, you’re-guilty-even-when-you’re-innocent terminology of the gulag. If anything can be legitimately described as a racist incident, then the term “racist incident” is vacuous. Meaningless jargon, politically-correct or not, is not merely spurious: when a meaningless expression is made the basis of a law of the land it is a prescription for confusion and chaos. Certainly the definition of a racist incident set out by Macpherson is incoherent and as such cannot reasonably stand as the basis for law-making.

But it does so stand, thereby making us all victims of an insane procedure. Badly-framed legal definitions damage our whole society and undermine our way of life.

Among those who dared criticise the Macpherson Report, William Hague, former Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and now Foreign Secretary, said:

“It has led to every police officer in Britain being branded a racist.” Hague promised to “…take on and defeat the liberal elite that has never trusted the police force and now wants us to believe they are all racists”.

He never had a hope. The “liberal elite” are our rulers now. But there is nothing liberal about them.

And not just the pol;ice, but everyone in the country. “Institutional racism” is a deliberately and systematically vague expression. It is relatively easy to demonstrate racial prejudice in an individual, but how would you go about showing that a whole institution such as the police force or, as Archbishop Sentamu has said, the Church of England, is guilty of this crime?

The Macpherson definition and the concept of institutional racism are exactly the sorts of linguistic devices invented by totalitarian regimes to silence dissenters by criminalising dissent. Orwell called Newspeak.

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24 Feb

God and Evil

This is widely agreed as the Big Problem in Christian theology and the reason why so many do not believe. Ever since Voltaire in Candide mocked Leibnitz’ view that our world is “the best of all possible worlds”; ever since David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Enlightenment attitudes to the issue of God and evil have prevailed. Hume wrote what has become the standard version, stock-in-trade among modern theologians: If God would like to prevent evil but cannot, then he is not omnipotent; if he could but won’t, then he is malevolent. In either case he is not God.

The first thing to be said about this standard objection is that it is a rationalistic, anthropocentric perspective: the “enlightened” mind of man presuming to evaluate God. As such, it is a non-starter because, if God is God (and he should not be worshipped if he isn’t) then he is transcendent and his nature is beyond the scope of man’s natural, limited mind.

The true theological answer to this so called “problem of evil” is not anthropocentric but theocentric. In other words, only God can answer it. And in The Book of Job – out of the whirlwind – God does answer it: “Who is this that darkeneth counsel without knowledge? Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a fish-hook?” Job is put firmly in his place for his presumption.

So where does this leave the problem of evil? Does God’s answer to Job amount to his saying, “Keep your nose out! I’ll do as I damn well like because I’m the boss”? No, because in another place in the Bible Genesis God says, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat, for in the day that thou eastest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” This means that the mystery of the origin of evil is inextricably tied up with the mystery of the being of God: depths which we cannot plumb.

This is unsatisfactory. Happily, God provides more information and this information takes the form of the whole of subsequent Judeao-Christian history and development. It is like this…

Evil is not merely something nasty which afflicts us – an offence as it were to the self-esteem of Enlightenment Man. Evil is something which we perpetrate – by proving ourselves incapable of keeping God’s commandments. The next bit of information provided by God is God’s coming to do something about this problem in Jesus Christ who dies in order to redeem us. This is even more astonishing as a cosmic event than it appears, for it entails the truth that – God, being God and therefore omniscient, knew that his original act of creation would result in the crucifixion of the Second Person of the Trinity. Thus in the original act of creation, God willed his own suffering and death. That is he too became the victim of evil.

It is at this point in the story that Enlightenment Man pops up again and says, “Then in that case, it would have been better not to create anything at all than to do so in the sure and certain knowledge that it would entail all this misery.”

But that is the one thing precisely which we cannot know, which we are forbidden to ask about in the story of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This however is not unsatisfactory; it is no cop-out on God’s part, God throwing his weight around. For the subsequent revelation of God in Christ’s death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Ghost explains and vindicates the original act of creation. That is why our sin, Original Sin, has been called felix culpa – the happy fault without which God would not have become incarnate in Jesus Christ.

Evil remains a mystery, the mystery. But now we can see that it was necessary in order that God could manifest his love for us. That is why evil is necessary. If there had been some other way, God would have chosen that instead. But there you have it – the paradox of the cross: in order for the redemptive act of God to become real for us, evil is necessary. This redemptive act of love is real for us – because Christians for 2000 years have known it as a fact of their direct experience.

So the question is not, “How can a God of love allow evil?” Rather the answer is that it is evil which reveals that God is a God of love. It is not only a mystery, but a miracle. C.H. Sisson puts it beautifully, heartbreakingly, “The wonder is that he came here at all, where no one ever came voluntarily before.”

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22 Feb

A Better Class of Bishop

For all their ganging up with the underclass against the government’s attempts to shake these people out of their idleness and the debilitating cycle of dependency in which this keeps them, the English bishops are careful not to get too close to the lumpen proletariat. I’ve never seen a bishop in the bookie’s for instance. If they go to the pub, it’s in the form of a ceremonial visit – never to huddle with mates in the corner over a game of dominoes or the racing paper. How many bishops can actually boast of owning a savage dog? Have you ever seen a bishop smoking – a fag, I mean? I don’t know any bishop who can roll his own, let alone one who likes the occasional joint or does a line of Charlie. They only watch snippets of downmarket telly for long enough to intrude a clunking reference to, say, Strictly Come Dancing in a sermon.

I suppose we should be thankful that the right reverend gentlemen – soon to be augmented by right reverend ladies who, we may be sure, will not resemble ladettes – adjure the yobbish lifestyle. But the effete, suburban style of life they do assume is scarcely better. I bet their kids say “toilet.” Time was when bishops were princes of the church and behaved like it. Bring back the palaces, the grand balls and reception; the riding to hounds and a dash of purple visible on the grouse moor. People like class, the grand manner and the patrician mode. These guys are supposed to be our fathers-in-God after all.

It’s years since a bishop invited me to kiss his ring. But then…

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20 Feb

The New Babel

It’s just boring – so I have often been told – to keep complaining about the ubiquitous nuisance of the electronic social media. I should just get over it, I suppose. Except I fear we are stoking up for ourselves some very destructive consequences and I don’t mean only the worry that we are all going to lose the power to concentrate on anything for longer than five seconds. In fact, that inability has been with us for a long time. I’m not particularly bothered about what constant use of mobile phones and gawping into tablets might do the shape, frequency or infrequency of our brain waves. The most worrying aspect is what our obsession with these gadgets will do to our human relationships, indeed, is doing already: on every train, everyone peering into the gadget or talking through it to someone miles away rather than engaging with his neighbour – the real flesh and blood neighbour who’s sitting next to him.

I shouldn’t bang on about it, I know, but just grow up and accept the modern world as it is. After all, no one is forcing me to use these gadgets: shut up then and let the addicts and obsessives get on with it. Except this is not quite true. Of course I cannot be forced to purchase or use a mobile phone or a tablet, but because I move around over the surface of the world, I have no escape from their intrusiveness. It is hard to overestimate the degree and intensity of the nuisance – not least the banality of the content. I mean no one says anything on a mobile phone that is of any interest ever. “I’m on a train.” So are we all, darling. “I’m in the supermarket now and they have no beans. Should I get peas?” Hardly the sound of good news being brought from Ghent to Aix, or even Aix to Ghent.

But last night I witnessed something so shocking that I am forced to resume my banging on and so steel myself to tolerate the disdain of the aficionados. I was on a train – yes really. It was a tube train. Everybody was interfacing with his gadget. I sat beside a man who was playing a game on a tablet which obviously – from the sight of its baby pink design – belonged to a child. There was a child, a real one, sitting surly and whining in his pushchair and ignored by his father. This child was no more than five years old. I thought, any minute now his dad is going to switch off the tiresome device, pick his son up and talk to him, perhaps even cuddle him. But no. He – with what degree of reluctance one could assess from his scowl –  handed the accursed gadget to the child. And the child took to it as to the manner born, negotiating the buttons and levers with terrifying alacrity. I was scared by what seemed like callousness, a sort of cybernetic indifference.

Couldn’t help that biblical text hurtling into my mind: Or what man among you, whom if his son shall ask for bread will give him a stone?

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19 Feb

Alexander’s Bootiful Book

How the Future Worked: Russia through the eyes of a young non-person by Alexander Boot. (RoperPenberthy £12.99 ISBN 978-1-903905-82-1)

Winston Churchill described Russia as, “a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma.” But Churchill only visited Uncle Joe; Alexander Boot was born and brought up there in the middle of the last century and his depiction of the place is put less politely. He reveals it as an institutionalised kleptocracy, part social cesspit, part concentration camp and part open-air lunatic asylum for fornicating, pugilistic drunks. To this disturbing mix, he adds a universal paranoia in which the customary mode of speech takes the form of telling lies and everyone snitches on everyone else to the KGB. Bribery and corruption – it almost goes without saying – are endemic and are the only means by which a Soviet citizen could obtain housing marginally above the uninhabitable, a pathetically rudimentary schooling and the most hit-and-miss health care.

I used the word “paranoia,” but I was wrong. Paranoia is irrational fear, but anyone not living in perpetual fear in Soviet Russia would be insane. In this communist paradise, a slum flat – and I am talking about the higher class of slum flat – had one gas ring per family and an outside loo to be queued for and squabbled over among a score of people in temperatures of minus 25. I mentioned education, but this was all lies too. For example, the physics textbooks in schools were still defining the atom as the smallest and unsplittable particle 35 years after Rutherford had split it and while Soviet weapons scientists were splitting atoms like crazy every day in the production of hydrogen bombs. In the land where Marx was god and Comrades Lenin and Stalin his prophets, all the great scientific discoveries were declared to have been made by heroes of the revolution.

All great literature too was alleged to have been written by Russians, but even such undoubted luminaries as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov were interpreted only as participants in the sacred Marxian class struggle. Likewise the greatest composer anywhere, anytime was Tchaikovsky. On this matter of the class struggle, there were the most delicious ironies and hyperboles: while the educational and other propaganda authorities relentlessly condemned the West for its class system and attendant inequalities, the USSR was probably the most strictly hierarchical society there has ever been with a bloated and gorged nomenclature creaming off everything of quality and everyone else fighting over the scraps. Stalin made them high and lowly and ordered their estate.

Those in positions of power lived high on the hog with caviar, the best beef and fine wines, while the masses lived on slops and drowned their sorrows in gallons of industrially produced vodka mingled with chemicals so gut-rottingly foul that by the side of which a glass of meths would have seemed like a nice drop of claret. In the overcrowded communal flats, the socially and culturally deprived citizenry went in for promiscuous sex on the grand scale. You might say there was f*** all else to do. The preferred method of contraception was abortion, practised by most women – some having twenty or more.

Lies, damn lies and then Soviet education in which, for instance, the kids were told back in 1961 that the Berlin Wall had been erected to stop the flood of envious capitalists trying to get into the better life which was to be had in the Eastern Bloc. This, even while border guards were shooting wholesale hapless East Germans who tried to flee in a westerly direction. What we refer to as The Second World War, the Soviets call the Great Patriotic War. This is the patriotism in which Stalin regularly ordered a second battalion behind the first battalion advancing to shoot dead any of the ill-equipped and ill-clad, freezing forward troops who might be showing less than complete enthusiasm for the fight.

The central myth by which this terrifying dystopia authenticated itself was the glorious Bolshevik revolution of 1917 which issued in a heaven on earth first under Lenin and then Stalin. And surely the revolution was a jolly good thing for having dethroned all those terrible Tsars? Boot puts this into perspective:

“We weren’t told that throughout the turbulent 19th century, the bestial Tsars executed all of 997 criminals, including murderers. By contrast, during the five-year reign of Lenin, 1,861,568 were judicially shot by the Cheka – on top of the millions murdered extra-judicially. This before the advent of Stalin whose monstrosities Khrushchev had just exposed in his ‘secret session’ of 1956.”

Stalin slaughtered as many as 40million in his sequential purges, gulags and the collectivisation of farming, the destruction of the peasantry and the consequent impoverishment and mass-starvation of the people.

The wonder is that so many in the West, fellow-travellers – Stalin’s “useful idiots” – actually believed that the USSR was a far better place – “the future that works.” It wasn’t merely the colossally naïve such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb or that self-regarding, overblown mediocrity George Bernard Shaw who regarded the USSR as heaven on earth: many others were and are still in thrall – Stafford-Cripps, Herbert Morrison, Eric Hobsbawm and the so-called Red Dean of Canterbury along with more than a few in the Anglican hierarchy.

This book is not only ferociously and beautifully composed, scintillating in its depth and breadth and allegro molto in pace: it is also, miraculously, extremely funny. Boot combines a Rabelaisian heartiness and an eye for the scurrilous detail with the ineffable comic and satiric touch of Jonathan Swift. Amid all the horrors, I frequently laughed out loud. And once I cried. For Alexander Boot describes a great tenderness that exists in the Russian character and particularly between Russian men:

“In Russia, ‘droog’ means someone with whom I can share my innermost feelings, the last rouble, the last drop of vodka, the last girl. ‘Droog’ is someone I’d give my life for…To a Westerner, ‘friend’ essentially means nothing more than ‘someone I see occasionally who has done me no harm.’ Even ‘my dearest and best friend’ comes nowhere near the voluminous concept of a Russian ‘droog.’ That word, therefore, is not in its true sense translatable into English. Can it be that it’s not needed? I think so, for the English tend to operate within a much narrower emotional band than the Russians.”

This was new to me, surprising and deeply affecting. In the midst of such squalor and horror, such love!

As Churchill used to bawl, “Action this day!” Get yourself a copy of Alexander Boot’s wonderful book, open it up and start to read. You won’t close it again until the last page.

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18 Feb

First catch your murderer…then let him go

When capital punishment was abolished in Britain in 1965, to the public’s great displeasure, we were assured that convicted murderers would be given life sentences and that “life would mean life.” But last year the European Court of Human Rights ruled that life sentences must provide for appeal and review and now our own Court of Appeal is about to pronounce on whether this shall be so or not. The ECHR is of the opinion that whole life sentences without the possibility of review or appeal are inhumane and infringe the murderers’ human rights.

This is a subversive opinion announced by a Court notorious for its subversion of the moral order, and therefore of abrogating the very principle of justice it was created to uphold. There are no rights in wrongs. One who commits murder thereby places himself outside the usual social framework of rights. He is correctly described as an outlaw. Moreover, it is not society which makes him into an outlaw, but entirely his own doing by means of his crime. A convicted murderer must, If there is no death penalty, expect to have his freedom removed for the remainder of his days. This is just, and we know directly and intuitively that it is just. Try considering the alternative expressed as a simple proposition: “Killers should go free.” It is patently absurd. In effect it involves declaring that the murderer should not be punished but rewarded for his crime by being granted his freedom.

None of this is merely hypothetical. Between 2000 and 2010, thirty convicted murderers were freed and killed again. There have been a further five such atrocities in the last four years alone.

And it is not the murderer alone who bears responsibility for these deaths: the authorities who grant him his release are responsible too. The problem is that here we have a perverted notion of what responsibility means, as the Court which would free a murderer does so out of a perceived responsibility concerning the murderer’s rights: but this involves having no responsibility concerning the lives of those he is freed to kill.

Thus the social morality of the ECHR is a precise inversion of rational ethics and it amounts to the satanic principle: “Evil, be thou my good.” 

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17 Feb

The plague of immoderate rain and waters

Prayers published by the Church of England for deliverance from the floods are, well…wet. Here’s one:

“God of all goodness and love,

in whom we can trust in every time of need:

be close to all who live in fear and distress

at this time of flooding in our land.

We pray for wisdom and strength for all who seek to help,

and that through this emergency,

people and communities may be drawn more closely together

in service to one another;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This is yet another example of the church’s recently-acquired fondness for doggerel words in corny rhythms. I say recently, but it dates back at least as far as that simpering excrescence The Alternative Service Book (1980) – a book, incidentally, trumpeted by the General Synod as “the greatest publishing event in 400 years”; only to ban it its use a mere twenty years later. Does the so liberal Church of England really – like the Nazis – go in for banning books? Yes indeed it does. But why? Because, they wanted to make as much money as possible out of the even worse book which they launched in 2000 – a thing called Common Worship. But back to that doggerel and those rhythms…

The rhythm of that first line echoes a sort of Noddy speech first encountered in the vain-glorious Gloria from that ASB:

“Glory to God in the highest.” The next line clumps along in the same metre, and peace to his people on earth”

Diddly-diddly-dee-dee. Dee diddle-de-diddle-dee-dee. Here come the floods and the response of church poets is to go back to the playgroup. Par for the course, for all the modern services are infantilised, sentimentalised and euphemised. They are also disrespectful to God and peremptory. Notice how the one I’ve just quoted begins baldly, “God…” Not “Almighty God…” Certainly nothing so Prayer-Bookish and majestic as “God of all power and might…” They don’t like language like that: too elitist, imperialistic, hierarchical and not democratic at all. How reactionary to suggest that God is so much higher up the scale than us! Why, it smacks of feudalism…

It goes without saying that the theology of this prayer is weak to the point of being non-existent. In fact it is not theology at all, but naturalism. The foods just happen and God has no part in what is going on. There is no “plague of immoderate rain and waters” as The Book of Common Prayer majestically puts it. No plague at all: merely an “emergency.” – like running out of cigarettes at two o’clock in the morning. The prayer does not have the courage and faith to ask God to deliver us from the floods but only to form in us a queasy combination of the stoical and the touchy-feely. We shudder at that “may be drawn more closely together.”

Compare what the BCP has to say on the subject:

“O Almighty Lord God…” (That’s more like it!) “…who for the sin of man didst once drown all the world, except eight persons, and afterward of thy great mercy didst promise never to destroy it so again: we humbly beseech thee, that although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season; and learn both by thy punishment to amend our lives and for thy clemency to give thee praise and glory…”

The new prayer is not written for a world where God is in charge: judging, punishing and delivering. Instead we are merely the pagan victims of a natural order, trying our best to work up in ourselves as much sentimental togetherness as we can muster. It is therefore a faithless prayer. But what should we expect from a faithless church?

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15 Feb

Apostolicae Curae

There is room at least for a little clearing of the air.

Many of my friends, and a greater number of my enemies, ask me how I can still profess allegiance to an undoubtedly debauched modern Church of England, heretical in doctrine, tasteless in liturgy and secularised in the realm of moral theology. I answer simply that it was not always like this. The puny timeservers who presently rule the church are not its founding fathers and for this we must thank God. The Church of England is the English language inheritance of the Catholic Christianity which formed religious sensibility in England for almost a thousand years before the mistake described as the Reformation. In other words, the Church of England is apostolically constituted and so founded upon this rock – a rock as legitimate and indeed not inferior to that gang of opinion  to be found in Rome.

I am as Catholic as Augustine and Aquinas, as Anselm and Duns Scotus; as Andrewes, Law, Hooker, John Donne, Eliot and C.S. Lewis. That is I am an English-speaking Catholic – which is more than can be said (in the realms both of theology and our native language) of those in high places who now so indispose us

I do not need to justify my Anglican credentials in the face of current episcopal apostasy, of a secularising coterie of bishops and a General Synod in thrall to the nostrums of secular enlightenment. My church is historically founded on its direct descent from the primitive church. This is a fact of history and nothing advanced by the debauched “liberal” hierarchy now governing us can diminish this reality.

So, in answer to the heartfelt questions as to where I should now go after the relentless decline, women bishop and all the rest, I will say simply that I shall stay where I am: a catholic Anglican and delighted to be part of the everlasting church.

Stray bishops reading this piece might ponder – since these days they are taught neither Latin nor history – where the title of this article comes from. It’s from a papal bull of 1896 which declared Anglican orders to the priesthood to be “absolutely null and utterly void.”

How very ecumenical, Holy Father as was.  But Your Holiness, have you ever considered the fact that your own credentials are indissolubly joined with mine?

As the Home Guard bloke said in “Dad’s Army,” “They don’t like it up ‘em.”

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