Friday, March 31, 2017

Protesting Holiness

It doesn't take much reading of my words to know that I can legitimately be described as a Conservative Christian. If I were in the CofE, I would be called a Traditionalist, though that seems to be a rather odd title given that all Christians have a tradition of some form. Protestants have the tradition enshrined in their understanding of Scripture Alone. Roman Catholics have the Papal Magisterium, and the Orthodox (and we Anglican Catholics and other non-Roman Catholics) have the Tradition of the Primitive Church. Even Liberals have a tradition, albeit enshrined in their "question everything" agenda.

However, it is quite clear that, because I cling to the Orthodox notion of Tradition which cannot be changed but only potentially clarified by an Oecumenical Council, to many people of the Liberal Agenda, I am persona non grata. That I follow Church teaching on the invalidity of the Ordination of Women, that I subscribe to life beginning at conception and seek the good of both mother and child, and that I reject any modern attitudes to sexuality and marriage, these are enough to get people hot under the collar with me.

I don't protest in Pro-Life events. I don't shout the consecrator down when he tries to make a woman a bishop. I don't troll LGBT websites, nor do I get aggressive with Muslims. Indeed, I find the whole idea of active protesting counter-productive. I was appalled by my own ACC when I saw a photograph of two little girls holding a banner saying "Abortion kills children" at some kind of protest. Why? Because it is precisely pushing away the people that need help - the people who need to be presented with the reality of God's grace - and further that it is indoctrinating our children to react rather than think, pray, and seek Godly, pro-active solutions.

But surely the point of protest is to make one's voice heard. Surely, walking together with like-minded people is an expression of the community that we share, showing Society that the number of people who share our concerns.

While that is a reasonable idea, it still doesn't do much. All it does is show numbers and strength, but doesn't actively address the problem. Indeed, in protesting, we make it difficult to engage with our opponents on a level of respect and generosity. If we see a problem, then we have to tackle the problem at its source, not just try and alleviate the symptoms, and we cannot alleviate symptoms by shouting at them, or by marching. The energy is better spent when we have set time aside to think about the problem in the cases which we actually encounter. We have to stop feeling, and start thinking.

Ah, perhaps I'm not a conservative, but actually a bleeding heart Liberal. Yet, have I not just said publicly that I believe Pro-Choice, Islam, the Liberal Agenda, and the LGBT Agenda to be objectively morally disordered? Well, in case I haven't:  I believe Pro-Choice, Islam, the Liberal Agenda, and the LGBT Agenda to be objectively morally disordered.

Notice that I'm stopping short of saying "morally wrong" because I cannot make such a sweeping statement about each situation as a whole. There are good things in Islam such as the call to Righteousness - "Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are of kin, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and what your right hands possess." (Q'ran 4:36). There are good things in Pro-Choice movements such as the search for justice for women who have been raped, and the need to protect the vulnerable. The LGBT Agenda shows that no-one should be persecuted because they have a certain orientation. Even the Liberal Agenda has a philosophical worth, even if I severely doubt its Theological worth.

Of course, it is not enough to be a curate's egg - good in parts. God seeks perfection, nothing less, which means that all lies must be dealt with, and the little bits of good thought that I have quoted above are used to cloak ideas of a much darker and anti-Christian origin. This is why I use the participle "disordered" because I believe that the Human Fall from God's Grace has introduced this disorder into our human existence. Each of the issues I mention above has wheat among the tares.
Another parable put He forth unto them, saying,The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.(St Matthew xiii.24-30)
Our Lord reminds us that it is not the time to uproot the tares because, in doing so, we uproot the wheat. That is precisely what careless protesting, victimisation, and shunning does. No, we cannot have Islamic prayers in Church, and any priest who thinks that is a good idea is a syncretic heretic! That doesn't mean that we cannot engage peaceably with Muslims at a social level.

My own position is that of complete separation of Church and Society. While in Society, we must be obedient to Society's rules or receive Society's punishment when we have to disobey an unjust law because it is unjust in the eyes of Him Whose Word is Law. While in Church, we must seek God's Kingdom, remember that the Church is Holy, and devote ourselves to God in ways that will scandalise Society, because we are not of Society, we are of the Church. Society is a thing of flesh: the Church is a thing of God's Holy Spirit and thus inimical to the flesh. The more we live our lives and base our thinking in things earthly, the more we will miss the things that are heavenly.

It is the quest for Holiness that is being obscured by the way we live in Society. We become obsessed with politics and philosophy and economics, and try to build theologies around them. The trouble is that there is only one Theology: if our thinking does not match up with what God reveals then, for as long as we believe in God, it is our thinking that must change. I am surprised by the number of people who choose the other option and thus lose their very identity.

We can do no good whatsoever without God, no matter how passionate we get about social justice. The miracle of the loaves and fishes shows that Jesus didn't need to call people to dig deep in their pockets to find money to buy food for the multitude. In fostering a greater faith and trust in Our Lord, we also foster faith in His providence. Solutions do present themselves, but we need to ensure that we start and end with God.

This means that there can be no such thing a Christian Extremism in the same way as Islamic Extremism. As soon as we seek to destroy an ideology by destroying people, we cease to be an advocate for Christian reality. As soon as we take up physical weapons to fight a spiritual battle, then we have lost even what we had before. The Christian way is Holiness, a full rejection of the world's values (no matter how worthy) for the values that God proclaims. That is how we transform the World. We do the radical thing, namely to love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us, to walk the extra mile, offer the other cheek, give the shirt off our back, and, in so doing, we cut Evil off at the source by refusing to spread it.

If we treat the Good News like a political weapon rather than allow ourselves to be transformed by it, then our protests are less than worthless.

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