Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Doom-monger at the Door

Sermon for the twentieth Sunday after Trinity

There is a knock at the door. You open it to find one of those very earnest “religious” types who immediately begins with “isn’t it a terrible world? Look at all the things going wrong.”

Before your visitor carries on with this speech, you have the opportunity to speak your mind, but you have to be quick.

Quickly, then, is this a terrible world, or not?


It would be unsurprising if your gut reaction was, “yes, this is a terrible world. Look at all the poor, the starving. Look at those affected by disasters both small and large. Look at all the resources being waste. Look at climate change. Look at the decline in morals…”

Goodness, your gut has a lot to say in a split second!

We live in Evil times, don’t we?

Clearly, we can’t pretend that everything is sweetness and light. Our Christian duty is to stand alongside people in their suffering, offering them some comfort, and trying to help end the oppression that afflicts so many. There is a lot of mourning to be done with those who mourn. But is everything really terrible? Are human beings so totally evil?


Right in the beginning, God sees all that He has made and, behold, it is very good. There’s an interesting little point about this. What about things in the future? Has God made things that don’t exist yet? If it is God that has made us and not we ourselves, what about our children’s children and our children’s children’s children? Clearly, God is responsible for the existence of everything. He sits beyond Time and Space. Everything is present to Him. And everything is very good.

Evil may have entered creation by the free choice of Adam and Eve, but what God’s very existence tells us is that it works out all good in The End.  Beyond the confines of Time and Space, Evil doesn’t have any part in Creation. We see Evil because we are stuck in Time and its effects. We cannot step outside to see the Truth. This is why we must have faith in the One Who can Truly See, for He has created all things from nothing.
Nice thought, but what about people’s suffering now? This is so difficult, especially when there is so much suffering that we can’t even begin to see how to stop it. However, God’s goodness means that, no matter how bad things get, our suffering and pain are not without meaning to God who not only sees but chooses to suffer with us to show that we are not alone. All things work for good for those who love God.

On the Cross, Christ redeems humanity from the clutches of Sin and Death. He buys us back from Evil by pouring His Blood into the crack in Creation caused by Sin. Ironically, in paying the price for Sin He destroys Evil in the same way that a hole in the pavement is destroyed by paying it back with concrete.


And we, too, are to be redeemers. Not in the same way, but St Paul bids us be redeemers of the time because the days are evil. We are to buy back time from the evil in the world by seizing every opportunity to see and preach the Good.

Like a hole, Evil is the absence of Good, so the more Good there is, the less Evil there can be. The more we consecrate our days to the love of God, the more we wrest opportunities from the Devil and his failed attempt to make Creation evil and flawed.

Human beings may be capable of evil, but we are fundamentally Good. We are salvageable from Evil. If we were totally Evil, there would be nothing left to save, but Christ becomes fully Human so that everything that makes us human can be saved.


There will be times of despair, when we look at the world and can see nothing of God’s goodness. That’s where Faith comes in and we have to exercise it to the best of our abilities so that by our actions we can bring the goodness of God into the world, even if it hurts so, so much. We can't do much: we just do what we can and give our little to God to work His miracles.

Then, one day, we won’t have to worry. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

So what are you going to tell the doom-monger at the door?

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Harvest Sacrifice

Sermon for the Harvest Festival and first public Mass of the Provisional Mission of St Anselm and St Odile, Sheffield.

You may be uncomfortable with the phrase “sacrifice of the Mass.” Mention the word “sacrifice” and you might already be thinking of something like the ending of the film “The Wicker Man” with folk sacrificing animals and an unsuspecting policeman to pagan gods whilst Sir Christopher Lee dances around singing “Sumer is ycomen in”.  in his mum’s best frock last thing you want to see when the word “sacrifice” is mentoned is a man in a dress singing loudly.

But we often talk of sacrifices in our everyday language, don’t we? In fact, the harvest festivals that happen every year are themselves sacrifices and ones that we make, or could make daily if we want.
When did you last make a sacrifice?


We might say that sacrifice means pain and going without for a greater good. We sacrifice a morning’s sleep to get up and go to work to earn money for our family. We sacrifice our last chocolate hobnob to our little daughter just for the smile on her face. However, to sacrifice literally means to make something holy. When we celebrate a harvest festival we give thanks to God for the produce that has been grown or made – a year’s hard work of the farming community. But that produce, all that has been grown or made or farmed or milked, all is the result of our labours and those of our farming and fishing communities. Why give thanks to God for our hard work? We did it, didn’t we?


It’s been a hard year for farmers this year. The weather has been against us, and we face perhaps a difficult winter without good food for our sheep and cattle. No amount of hard work can alter the weather in our favour. In fact, as scientists say, it is precisely our hard work since the Industrial Revolution that has caused Global Warming. We reap the rewards of that Global Warming now because we sought to make work easier a couple of centuries ago. It sounds very depressing, but it appears that all our hard work causes us more hard work and there is no end to it.

Right back in the beginning Adam and Eve, standing for all of humanity, sin because they try to decide what is Good and what is Evil for themselves without God. They don’t want to live on God’s terms but rather their own. And so, God gives them what they want and it isn’t pretty.

And unto Adam he said , Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee , saying , Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken : for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return .

Hard words, but what we see in our lives is that living and working without God is just toil and labour unceasing. We make rods for our own backs.

If our idea of sacrifice is indeed pain and hardship for a greater good, then maybe we have lost sight of that greater good in the world. For many people, sacrifices are made to no avail and this is because they have lost the idea of what it means to be holy. To be holy, we need God’s involvement. The fruit of our labours is given its worth by God; the pain and suffering we go to for our labours is given meaning by God, and with that meaning comes a joy that can’t be taken away. To offer our hardships to God and enduring them means that we can make present something truly good in this world, a good that stands apart from it.


And what of the Sacrifice of the Mass? Here we share in the sacrifice that Our Lord Jesus Christ made of Himself for our Salvation. In the Sacrifice of the Mass we join ourselves not only to the first Mass on Maundy Thursday in the upper room, but to the crucifixion of Our Lord. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, we receive Our Lord’s true body and blood so that we may share in the fruit of His labours on our behalf, namely our Salvation from all that is evil. Every Mass is a Harvest Festival because we thank God for bringing about His work at our hands.

Our hard work is worth more than we think. It depends who we are working for.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Feeling Graceful?

Sermon for the eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

How does St Paul know?

How does he know if you enriched by Christ in all utterance and in all knowledge? How does he know that the testimony of Christ is confirmed in you, and that you come behind in no gift of God?

Or perhaps this isn’t a message for you. Perhaps it’s just for the Corinthians.
If that’s the case, then why do we still read that passage today?


It must surely be relevant to us, and if it is then our question still stands. How does St Paul, or we, or anyone else know that we have been enriched by Christ in what we say and know? Sometimes we do feel enriched, but there are many times that we don’t. If you’re tired and the world has been very hard on you, if you’ve fallen into misfortune, lost someone very dear, if you’re bored and restless, confused and not really understanding life, how on earth can you know that you are enriched by Christ?

The fact is that feelings don’t come into it.

This is grace, not feeling.


Feelings are very important because they provide us with information about how the world affects us. We feel happy when we see someone receive a lovely present. We feel fear when we see someone in peril, devastated if they lose their life, overjoyed if they are saved. The trouble is, feelings just are and we can’t force them.

This is a mistake that many people make. They say that in order to love, you have to feel it. If that’s true, then this isn’t the love that God wants us to share. The love that God wants us to have for Him and for each other is something we do, not something we feel. As any married couple knows, the first feelings of love pass away to be replaced by a love that exists by living that commitment with their spouse. There may be tough times, feelings may run high, the relationship may get strained, but the couple that seeks always the good of the other even when times are tough is actively loving.

You have to love, despite your feelings.


The same is true for grace.

What is grace?

There is a sense in which it means God’s favour – His favourable disposition upon all who love Him, but it is more than that. God’s grace does something. St Paul says to St Titus,

[T]he grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ…

God’s grace justifies us, teaches us, helps us look for hope and points us to Christ. Grace is very much God’s gift to us of His active presence with us and within us.

This is why the sacraments are so vital because they distribute to the whole Church and to each Christian that active presence of God working His will.
Perhaps this is why we often don’t feel it – after all, it is God doing the work. But we are being enriched by Christ to do His work, to know the One God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost better.

We demand to be able to feel things because we are sceptical. Feelings are a way of knowing that something is true within us. However, that’s a false belief. We often feel things that aren’t true. A man can’t feel like a woman because he has no idea what feeling like a woman must be like. We can’t feel like God, because we have no idea what power or knowledge He has. We also don’t feel things that are true. We know we ought to feel sad when someone dies, but we don’t and we feel guilty. We need to take our feelings with a pinch of salt.


What we do need to do is have faith and allow it to grow. If we aren’t feeling particularly faithful, then we need to pray along with the father of the possess child, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” But then we need to bypass the feeling and trust in God to work His will. We need to acknowledge what we feel, but then pass to what we believe to be true, that God is faithful even when we are not.

If we don’t feel enriched, we pray and then pass it to God.
If we feel ignorant, we pray and then pass it to God.
If we feel weak, we pray and then pass it to God.

In passing it to God, we pass the reality of our situation over to Him and to the grace that He has given to us in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Mass. Likewise, priests pray to God in the grace of their ordination. Married couples tap in to the grace of their marriage through prayer. The penitent may not feel forgiven when leaving the Confessional, but if they have confessed their sins in penitence and faith, then they are forgiven. God is faithful when we are not. The dying can receive comfort in their last hour when God imposes the grace of Holy Unction and they can depart in His peace. Their families too, in their profound grief, can trust that God will receive their loved ones into their keeping.


The sacraments are for us to receive grace even when we don’t feel grace-full.

All we have to do is reach out to God in fidelity and He will give that grace. We must receive it in humility and hope, not expecting what we want to happen, but expecting fully God’s goodness to be worked out some way. We Christians always have Hope to go with our Faith and Love.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Stereotypes: Preserve or Abolish?

Nearly a year ago, I posted this. I rather think that my point still stands firm, perhaps even more so.
I notice that the group under the umbrella of the world’s longest acronym (which begins LGBT…) sits ill at ease with itself. I believe that there is a subgroup, particularly among the Transgender community, who have formed a movement called “Get the ‘L’ out”. Why? Essentially because Lesbians are necessarily “transphobic” i.e. they will not engage in copulation with a “person” who possesses a biologically male pudendum. According to the Transgender communities, there are biologically male pudenda which are designated female and, therefore, if one “identifies” with being a transgender lesbian (i.e. in point of fact, a heterosexual biological male) a lesbian has no business rejecting one’s sexual advances on the grounds of one’s male physiology.
The trouble is, that there is this gross confusion between what sex is and what gender is. They are not the same.
The former is biological, genetic and objectively measurable. Medicine that is designed for one sex is thus created to cater for the biochemical peculiarities of the individual. Medicine meant for a man will not be suitable for a woman and vice versa. Likewise, biology makes sexual intercourse a danger for the biological female because she can get pregnant, and pregnancy is a supreme, and sometimes extreme, sacrifice of body autonomy. A man who identifies as a woman cannot get pregnant – at least not without major medical modification.
The latter is based upon feeling and stereotype. I’ve noticed that there is no definition of what a woman is based upon gender. The reason is that this definition is based on stereotypes of the sexes. Is my son really a girl because he likes wearing pink, or is he actually from the late 18th Century according to Xavier de Maistre in his Voyage autour de ma chamber? Does he identify with being a woman because he likes wearing a floofy dress, or is he identifying as a typical male child from the late 19thCentury?
It seems to me that the existence of gender dysphoria really comes about because of the sexual stereotypes ingrained in our society. If we see a man with the physique of an overweight construction worker wearing a cocktail dress, we do indeed stare because we know something is incongruous: it goes against something deep within our experience of what it is to be a person in society. However, a cocktail dress does not a woman make. It may be feminine, but not female.
We know that stereotypes are built upon sweeping generalisations of sections of society. These generalisations are often unfair, unrepresentative and, even, offensive as anyone in any form of ethnic minority will say. We need only look at the 80s ITV Sitcom Mind Your Langauge! to see how stereotypes belittle in our society.
Take away the stereotype and we should be able to cure gender dysphoria… IF gender dysphoria is a disease.
That raises an interesting question. Is gender dysphoria a bone fide disease or a disability?
If it is, then it ought to be treated and its sufferers helped to function in a society of binary male and female people. One cannot ban people from keeping cats because a percentage of the population is allergic to cats. A disease or disability is necessarily a deviation from the norm. We cannot say that the average number of legs of a human being is 1.999 et c because of those born without legs. We base our understanding of what is normal based on the use of the Mode as average, not the Arithmetic Mean.
If gender dysphoria is not a disease, then it must take its place with the democratic allocation of materials to other normal stratifications of society. We cannot make everything left-handed just because a significant minority of the population is left-handed and making all things ambidextrous is not easily remedied (just how do you do ambidextrous scissors? Use your teeth?). We cannot incorporate Sharia Law into our legislation just because there is a significant minority of Muslims in Society. We cannot make all restrooms unisex (and thus deprive biological women of a safe space) on the grounds of a significant minority. That’s undemocratic.
It certainly seems very tempting to see gender dysphoria as a form of a psychological condition in which one believes that a stereotype has control over one’s identity. It is a diminution of the self. If one tells a sufferer of gender dysphoria that they don’t believe that a man can be a woman and vice versa, or that pudenda are peculiar to their sex, will often receive the response, “you’re denying my existence!” Given that the sufferer is reducing their identity to a stereotype, it seems that actually the “transphobic” person here is actually crediting the “transgender” person with more existence than they give themselves. The stereotype is actually quite lethal: indeed there is a disproportionate number suicides among the Transgender community than nationally.
Quite why that’s the case is a matter of debate: it could be due to the lack of recognition of society and rejection of the family towards the intended gender, or it could be a psychological propensity towards self-destructive tendencies. Either way, there is a brokenness here that needs to be dealt with for the sake of those who suffer from gender dysphoria.
I look at children’s clothes in our local store and note that the girls clothes are all pink, pretty, delicate, floofy, and completely impractical for outdoor activities such as running, jumping and climbing trees. My daughter loves running, jumping and climbing, and none of this comes from her desire to be a certain gender. She is a child who loves running, jumping and climbing. And she is a girl who wears clothing which the store designates as being “boy’s” clothes. It’s an unnecessary designation. For little children as the early 20thCentury shows, there is really no such thing as boy’s clothes and girls’ clothes. The under-fives all wore some kind of floofy dress and sported long hair.
In the same store, I see bikinis for the under-tens! Bikinis!
It seems to me that there is a complex interplay between sexualisation, marketing and corporate demand which feed off each other. What is the cause?
I would say it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, and we find ourselves in medias res where our society is hung up on looking sexually attractive that our children are persuaded that that’s how they ought to look, and thus put demand on the businesses who produce the clothing, use market strategies to get people to buy their product, and thus begin to persuade people that what they produce is sexually attractive… It’s a cycle in which each element feeds the other and thus is unbreakable. We are a society that is so hung up on sex that we perceive it as a right to have sex, and that destroys all of the biological, social, teleological and moral reasons for sex, namely to produce a committed, consenting, loving family in which the genes of both parents can be propagated in the children together with a nurturing respect for each member of the family as they really are.
To enforce a right to sex is to endorse rape, and it’s truly shocking that, until the 1990s, a husband could take his pleasure from his wife without her consent. That is certainly not what the Lord Jesus Christ intended, and it is dreadful that the Church of England rather tacitly supported the right of a husband over his wife in this way during its period of being the “Conservative Party at Prayer”. The right to sex is to enforce another stereotype, namely that of the human animal – the belief that we are nothing more than animals who copulate freely in the wild without any social mores.
So, should men be allowed to wear dresses and women trousers if sexual stereotypes are to be abolished? That’s a good question. I would argue that a man wearing a dress is not a woman but rather a man wearing a dress, but that he has every legal right to wear his dress. My concern really is to the extent that he wishes to pass himself off as a woman and, more importantly, what is intentions are for doing so. Bruce Jenner is perfectly within his rights to change his name to Caitlin and live “as a woman,” whatever that means, but biologically he is still a man and to deny it is to deny that there is an objective reality in which we do science and make the great discoveries that the Human Race has thus made so far. In order to go to the Moon, we have to believe that the Moon exists as something to go to. In order to cure genetic diseases such as ovarian cancer, we have to believe that the recipient of the treatment actually has ovaries and is, therefore, biologically a woman. That cannot be written out of Society!
I do notice that transgender activists (i.e. those who seek to impose the will of a minority onto the majority) refuse to make the definition as to what a “man” is and what a “woman” is, but rather pass the buck back to the questioner declaring that knowing what a “man” or a “woman” is is part of our enlightenment. I had rather believed that the Enlightenment was based upon Reason and Scientific progress. This form of transgender activism is, to my mind, a regression to some fablulous dark age of superstition in which one can change sex by uttering the magic spell, “I identify as…”
However, we are talking about real people here – people who look at themselves in a way that is not full, but reductionist. To be honest, we are all like that in some way, seeing ourselves as needing to fulfil some stereotype because we see something attractive in it. We must recognise that the doctrine of Original Sin states very clearly that we are each affected by the sin of the people around us and of those who came before us. We are all broken; we are all in need of transformation; we each see ourselves as being less than the people God created us to be. Accepting that brokenness is not enough – we have to reject it. We need to want to get better, not wallow in our deficiencies and die in them. Sometimes we need to repent, not of sins that we have actually committed, but also of the sins our society commits against its members. Repentance simply means to turn to God and to His light and accept His say and definition of who we are. If we take up self-definition to be our right, then we wrest it from God’s hand. In so doing, not only do we become empty stereotypes, but we also must take upon us the responsibility of being, and that is a responsibility that we are simply too small to bear.
 If the Church is to represent anything good for people with gender dysphoria, then it must do so with loving care and dignity for the individual, and recall the problems of stereotypes. One stereotype is that which I have alluded to in this text. A transgender woman is not simply a man in a dress as many would think and it would be unkind and disrespectful simply to dismiss sufferers of gender dysphoria in that way. To say a transgender woman is just a man in a dress is in itself another stereotype, or at least a reduction to an oversimplified view. There is an issue here with how that person perceives themselves. If he comes to church in a cocktail dress, or if she comes to church in a three-piece suit, then we should try hard not to react, but continue to present the transforming nature of Christ’s love to all whom we meet. What we should not do is encourage that dysphoria, particularly in our children whose perceptions of things are necessarily myopic due to their inexperience and confusion. We can do that by ensuring that our stereotypes are seen for what they are and rob them of their control over our identity. This effectively comes when we pull down the idols of our society and replace them with temples to the Living God, Trinity in Unity to Whom all praise, honour and glory belong, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fake Good News => Fake Christians

Sermon for the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

How do you feel about the Church today?
There’s a lot of disillusionment about it and with good reason.

There are churches which like to “reinterpret” Holy Scripture to make it say what they want it to say.

There are churches which preach the words of Holy Scripture but don’t actually live out those words.
There are churches in which people are hurt more than in any other area of Society.

We are all sickened by the actions of some priests of God who are living lives of dissolution, decadence and who have abused and even still abusing people in their care.

Trouble is, this is nothing new.


The Old Testament introduces us to Phinehas and Hophni, sons of the priest Eli. What do we know of them?

Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD. And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

Even before Our Lord’s Incarnation, we see priests in the act of embezzlement and defrauding the Lord Himself! Yet, the prophet Samuel who is trained in the priesthood by Eli, is a major figure in the life of the Church. The priesthood is not evil just because some priests behave appallingly, and it’s important to get this right. Christopher Hitchens refused to believe in God because he thought that Christians are so horrible to each other and everyone else.

Our conduct as Christians does matter in this world. It is our behaviour that may have prevented Christopher Hitchens from seeing God, but then perhaps he wasn’t all that willing to see Him in the first place! The point is: our behaviour didn’t help! Our behaviour can put people off finding Our Lord and that is surely a terrible thing to have on one’s conscience.


This is important. We say in the Creed that we believe One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and that is part of our faith. What we are not saying is that we believe the Church of Today is the Church in its entirety, but rather that we believe the WHOLE Church; we believe the Church that God has separated out for Himself to preach His Gospel; we believe the Church that is true to the faith of the Apostles and the grace that they have received at the hands of Christ Himself. And we believe that this Church is ONE.
One? With so many splinters, sects and schisms?


St Paul is very clear:
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

There is indeed One Church because there is One Lord Jesus Christ. While there are so many divisions over doctrine, we must remember that we cannot say meaningfully that “Jesus Christ is Lord” without the Holy Spirit’s assistance. While the Spirit may blow where He will, He is consistent because He will not confuse the children of God.
If we want to hear the Holy Ghost and recognise His work in us, then we need to listen to the whole Church, especially before all the divisions really started. The faith does not change. The Gospel does not change. The Gospel the Church preached in the first century is the Gospel that it preaches now.

And the Devil hates that and so he sows discord, dissension and distrust.


If we are one body, then our every action affects that one body. Our sins affect the whole Church!

But that’s not the end of it. Our repentance also affects the whole Church. That’s why the angels in Heaven rejoice over each and every one of us who repents from the heart.

It is important for us Christians to work at being holy rather wanting to be called holy. And this is such hard work.

Our priests may be sinners just like us, but good priests will always present you with the Gospel that the Church has universally preached by remembering the voice of God Who called them to be priests.

 Likewise, in seeking to bring our lives in line with Our Lord Jesus Christ, we will help people see Him better in us. We have to be authentic Christians, not fake ones. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ad multos annos!

I started this blogling 13 years ago come December. I was then only slightly disillusioned a member of the CofE and was shortly to embark upon my journey out of Babel and towards the Unknown Region. Two years later, following a Synod Mass with Ordination, I was introduced briefly to a large and, to my mind, rather imposing Vicar General of what appeared to be a very grave and very earnest group of Christians. I left that Mass with the seeds of affinity down in me.

A further year later, that serious and imposing Vicar General was consecrated Bishop on 20th September 2008. It took a further three years before, following some initial enquiries, for that bishop to contact me, invite me to Mass and to talk.

I found that the grave Vicar General was personable, easy to talk to. He listened and understood. He had felt my pain at least a decade-and-a-half earlier than I had. And he presented me with a Church that sought authenticity.

I joined.

And I haven't looked back.

The priest, dear Fr Tim Perkins, whose ordination I attended back in 2007 which introduced me to the ACC, has since been gathered to God. Other priests have come and gone seeking their own devices and desires. I have seen Bishop Damien Mead suffer that pain on each occasion.

He has suffered injury, ill-health and even the odd brush with the Reaper. He has been defamed, denounced, and derided even by people whom he held dear.

He has given this Diocese stability and purpose. He has also given it a lot of work to do but he has rolled up his sleeves and done it too.

To many, this may all sound glib and nice and gooey and sentimental. Yet, if you check, I have given facts. A quick look back on this blogling may be in order.

I don't know what the future holds, but the Church has been given a mechanism to cope with uncertainty: it is called Hope. I truly perceive it in my Diocese and I hope Bishop Damien perceives it too for it is the fruit of his labour and the labour of those whom he has encouraged.

I pray to God asking the prayers of St Augustine of Canterbury, St Anselm, St Thomas Becket and St Damien of Molokai, that Bishop Damien may be given the strength to bear the maniple of tears and sorrow and that he may receive the true reward of his labours. I pray also for many more happy years as my bishop!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Erosion and Hope

I hated Geography at school. I hated it because it tried to be both rigorous and uncertain and often just dull for being neither one nor the other. All the measurements were statistical and general trends were taken to laws. To be honest, I think different teachers and different teaching methods would have helped. As a former teacher, I have to accept that my method for teaching mathematics would not have brought the best out in every single student I have taught. These days, it is an expectation of teachers not just to do our best, but to do the best that can be done anywhere.

That is an unreasonable and silly demand, but leaders in education who have to reduce everything to soundbites in order to do justice to the smallness of their thinking and laziness in building an education community embrace this shoddy idea and force it down the throats of the simple educator. A school motto, appropriately chosen, can certainly inspire; however, this needs to be done with care. My school motto was appropriately Benedictine: ora et labora – Pray and work! This is reasonable, sets the tone and gives each person, teacher and pupil alike, a guiding principle. Something like “The best that can be done anywhere” is unreasonable because it is nebulous, fosters unnecessary competition to constructive collaboration with others, and ultimately promotes a fear of failure. Such a soundbite erodes confidence.

And that is something I did learn about in Geography in (I think) the second form. Erosion is something that occurs via seemingly innocuous means. It is said that the Little Bird of Svíþjóð sharpens its beak on a rock every thousand years and, on the first day of Eternity, the rock will have been worn away. Of course, Eternity is Timeless, but one can see the principle of erosion at work. Over time (possibly centuries, millennia or aeons) little repetitive actions leave an appreciable and indelible mark. Erosion is a sure and certain way of getting rid of rocks. And it is the Devil’s way of trying to get rid of The Rock.

It doesn’t take much looking at the state of the Church and Christian belief in general to see how this erosion is working. On all sides, the Devil is playing the long game by exploiting human nature and, indeed, the transience of human beings to bring down the Rock of Our Salvation and render it of none effect.

Erosion always happens at the cliff face where it is exposed to the elements. Evil is an absence of Good, and the cliff-face between the two exists actually within the rational soul because the rational soul has the free choice between good and evil even if that choice is influenced and affected by ambient good and evil. We are born in sin but not born sinners. Our human nature, while good in itself being creatures of God, is eroded by sin. Were each one of us totally evil, totally lacking in any good, there would be nothing to save. If the human will is so corrupt, why is it to be saved? Why does our Lord adopt a human will as well, if not to transform that as well?

Yet, our flesh is corrupted by Evil which has got in through the fracture caused by the First Sin, and none of us can escape that. It is because Evil has the capacity to erode us, eat us away, that we require Salvation. Our Lady may have been sinless, but she still needed to be saved from this erosive Evil as much as any of us. Death and sin come hand in hand. Even if we don’t sin, the presence of sin around us is lethal. That’s why we all need salvation and why it is easier to save the sinless (in particularly the unborn) than the sinner.

There are several different types of erosion, for example attrition, hydraulic, abrasion, and dissolution. The little bird of Svíþjóð works his erosion by abrasion; acid rain dissolves the White Cliffs of Dover; the chain gang breaks rocks through attrition; the sheer power of water can burst a dam at speed, or slowly fracture a rock by freeze-thaw action. And the Devil uses all of these to try and break the Church.

The sheer inhuman actions of human beings to others is enough to batter people’s faith that they leave the Church. We can see this most clearly in the recent actions and covers-up of paedophile priests. Their actions tar the whole priesthood in the eyes of others, and the fall from the faith convinced that the evil of one means that the whole institution is evil. Sometimes it is hard to see round this war of attrition. The only antidotes are Justice and Mercy. Every action of every human being can be forgiven save that sin against the Holy Ghost. We have to dare to forgive and we have to dare to confess in order to be forgiven. Given the sheer magnitude of some human actions it is easy to see why this is hard and looks to be impossible.

The actions of the secular world abrade the morality of Christians. Tu Quoque arguments are often powerful when they pit the majority against the minority. Christians know that sexual activity outside marriage is sinful and yet it seems to become acceptable because the people who warn against it are in an ever decreasing number. Little wonder that this also leads to a form of freeze-thaw action within the Church whereby what is socially acceptable enters into the Church and slowly forces a split through a series of amendments to canons and practices. We see Christian poetry replacing readings at the Eucharist. Once that has established, Christian poetry is replaced with secular poetry; secular poetry with poetry from different faiths (just to be inclusive); poetry from different faiths with readings from the Q’ran. Slippery slope arguments aren’t always the best arguments but can become so when there is evidence that the slope is indeed slippery in the first place. Once Christian morals have been eroded by abrasion from the outside and eroded by sheer hydraulic action of the waters of chaos from the inside, the structure becomes less believable. The antidote is to reject the authority of the secular world over the doctrine of the Church. The trouble is that the doctrine of the Church is under the same erosion because the whole idea of objective truth is being eroded by the same abrasion and hydraulic action.

Finally, the Rock suffers from dissolution through the direct hatred of people who see it as a force of regression and oppression and fail to see that it is they who are under the subjugation of evil. The pernicious cultural Marxism (which does exist as a thing and is happening throughout every sphere of life) is particularly acidic as its adherents claim the moral high ground without basis and use their might to attack the church through secular means. In the West, this is done through the law courts. Their aim is to dissolve the Church through depriving it of the resources to keep it going. This includes the media through which the Church can broadcast its message. The Social Justice Warriors both within and without the Church brand those of us who adhere to the Traditional Catholic Faith as bigots, misogynsts, homophobic, transphobic et c, because these words (though fantastically misapplied and abused) are convenient. Once they can label the Church with these negative aspects, they can draw the supports away hoping the edifice will collapse.

We need to recognise this erosion carefully. It has already resulted in fractures within the Church, though my confraternity in the other Continuing Anglican jurisdictions are bucking this trend. We cannot let the caustic nature of SJWs, the moral relativity of Society, the deluded liberal element within the Church, and the scale of human depravity pull us away from the loving arms of our Crucified God.

What is the Church to do in amidst uncertainty?

God has given us a remedy for uncertainty at every level. It is called Hope.

Christian Hope is real and it allows us to cling on to God in the raging tempest. Hope is the mechanism by which we can find certainty within uncertainty. Even when Truth itself is being threatened we hold tight to what we know to be true even if the proof of it escapes us for the moment. That proof and evidence will come because God is faithful. We trust God because He is not an abstract proposition but the Supreme Rational Being and who develops a relationship with His Church at the level of the person as well as the level of the Whole.

There is one incontrovertible fact, no matter how hard the Devil tries, He cannot obliterate Good, because he cannot obliterate God. The best he can do is to try and erode the Good out of God’s creation, but even there he fails because every thing that God has created exists and derives the very fact of existence from God. In that the Devil is a creature of God shows the goodness of God and that is why the Devil is so lunatic because he seeks to rip the goodness of his existence from himself. Such is his hatred of God that he would rather burn in Hell than find Eternal bliss. It’s utterly incredible that one would choose this path, but it’s true that not even the Devil can escape the love of God. That’s why Hell burns: it burns with the fury of souls that want to possess their own good rather than the good that is given to them as a gift from the love of God.

Goodness cannot be destroyed. It can be eroded and leached from creatures, but while that creature exists, there is good in it. This is why the priest offers the Chalice of Salvation for His own benefit, for those present and for the WHOLE World. The sting of Erosion is based on the Lie that it is possible for all Goodness to be taken away from creation. Even in the most corrupt human organisation lies the dignity of being human in the first place, lives so precious that God seeks their preservation and salvation at the cost of His Son.

Yes, there are priests and bishops (and deacons) who have abused their position for their own despicable pleasure, but there are so many clergy who do not. And even those abusers can be forgiven, though Justice dictates that there must be an appropriately severe penalty in order for reconciliation to occur.

It’s easy to worry about Erosion that is taking place in our Society. It is truly overwhelming and it seems that there is such little that can be done. But, as I say, the Christian mechanism to deal with states of uncertainty is Hope. Believe me, if your faith is being tested hold firm to God even if He seems unlikely. The erosive forces of evil are deliberately targeting you to get you to give up. Pray hard, and trust even if it seems laughable to do so. Recite the Creeds – all three of them – and hear the Church speak through the centuries bearing witness to the reality of God. Seek out righteousness in your life and stick with it even if you fall: God’s forgiveness is a reality and total, His mercy endures forever! And He wants you to endure forever too! Stick with it: you are NOT totally depraved.