I’ve not got anything good to say

Of late my thoughts have been focused too much on current events and politics. I do not want to write about those things because I think even thinking too much about them can be corrupting to the soul. It would be worth the thought and the corruption if I had any say in the way events unfold, but I don’t and it’s probably for the best because I am not qualified to pontificate and even less to act. But this is why I’ve not written much, the things I’ve been thinking are not good to write.

I am a bad person when it comes to politics, I become far too engrossed by the competing factions and the games they play to take each other down. I find the whole drama fascinating and I get a great deal of intellectual satisfaction from trying to figure out what is going on underneath the surface theatre, from considering who is sincere, who is not, who is outright lying – and in all cases why and how it relates to everyone else. I know the futility of my caring, yet I continue to care. I know that I am not smart enough or knowledgable enough to really judge a lot of things, but if anything that just makes the challenge more interesting. For me it’s a fun intellectual exercise, while for other people it is their lives or their livelihoods. For me the drama is thrilling but for people that are directly effected by it, it must be terrifying. When I was a child I was always so excited by talk of war on television, I sat at the edge of my seat, hoping for escalation, looking forward to the exciting new stories that would come tomorrow. Thrilled and mesmerised while people died, while people were tortured, while homes and businesses and whole economies were destroyed.

I still feel that way. Even though I know it is a terrible way to think and feel. People might say it is because I am spoiled, because I have never really suffered, because I don’t know what war and death and suffering really mean – and they are probably right. Sometimes I wish I could find out, because I don’t want to be evil. I don’t want to feel bloodlust or take pleasure in other peoples suffering – nothing makes me so ashamed about myself as this. It is wrong.

Maybe one day I will find out and regret, maybe I will have to really suffer to find repentance.

But maybe I will never repent – in my heart as opposed to my head – that is what terrifies me. What if I never conquer this part of myself?

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In the First Person

Up till now I’ve written this blog in the second person and largely used it for a venting ground for my angst. I will continue to make posts of that kind, but a new year comes with a new approach and I have decided for various reasons to include less morose posts in the first person.

Last night I heard about proposed changes to the baptism in the Anglican Church which are currently being trialled. I have scoffed at these changes (not very Christian of me I know) and gotten a lot of amusement from the absurdity of the Anglican Communion at once trying to be a “Church” and at the same time to be genuinely on the same page as the largely atheist UK population, because the Anglican Church has a civic as well as a religious role.

Standing outside from it all, because regardless of what religious associations I have, I am about as lukewarm and uncommitted as they come, Anglicanism appears tragic. You cannot really be all things to all men, at least not in the way they intend – and in the course of trying they fail to do something, and that something is not just the something of accurately representing small ‘o’ orthodox Christianity, something they may no longer care to do anyway.

When I looked up the quote to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” the internet was adamant that the quote was from Banksy. However in my memory I am very clear that it was used long before Banksy was born by G.K. Chesterton. I am not saying he was the originator, but he definitely said it. If the Church is to be anything at all of value to society (I am talking now of it’s role in civic society) it must be able to do this. Christ can certainly do that, Christ was not respectable, yet he was the most respectable person on earth.

Do you think the semi-atheists going in for a baptism who are offended by words like “sin” and “submission” and “repentance” and the “devil” are disturbed? I don’t doubt some of them might be, but a lot of those people are exceedingly comfortable. Comfortable in themselves, comfortable in their notion of their place in the world. “Sin” say the instigators of this “is just conceived of as a sort of naughtiness”, having a bit of sex or eating too much. Does changing the wording to “reject evil” instead alleviate this – in both cases they have no conception that evil has anything to do with them. How easy to say you will reject evil when you could not possibly consider that evil lurks in your heart.

If this were the real reason, to make people understand, telling them to reject evil will not help. They at least admitted between giggles that they have “sinned” even if that meant having one too many cream pies. How many of the “unchurched” (or maybe even the churched…) would really wholeheartedly admit that they have done evil? It’s true that it’s a stronger word nowadays, but that makes it all the easier to “reject”, it has nothing to do with us. It would be like asking a Russian man to “reject” homosexuality – he already has a repulsion for it, and he is already sure that it has absolutely nothing to do with him.

Sin works better, we recognise that we might have one too many cream cakes, but we never stop to think about what it means to eat more than your fair share in a world in which people still starve. To raise prices with demand for goods for which you have no need. We might recognise we have a bit of naughty sex but we don’t consider the complex relational, emotional and at times physical consequences that we engender. And then as we think more deeply about the social world in which we move and all the little acts of evil – a hurtful glance, or a flattering word to win our way – we may never find our way to the kind of evil that really sounds like “evil” to us. Because surely evil has to be big? Evil can’t just be persistent selfishness right? I mean – if I don’t look out for number one, who will? I’ll give £500 to charity once a year because it makes me feel good and I can spare it and I am sure that it’s a good cause, but I wouldn’t give the coat off my back to someone shivering on the streets. I paid good money for that coat, and more than the price I need my coat. If someone dies tonight out in the cold, what is that to do with me? Am I my brother’s keeper? He is probably an alcoholic anyway, he’d probably just sell the coat for booze.

Do we see evil there? Does the modern connotation of the word really extend to all the little acts of callousness, the constant deadening of our hearts that almost everyone does? When the godparent says he rejects evil, will he consider that means to reject all these attitudes? Will the word “evil” make him uncomfortable?

And if it can be taught, that every day he far from rejecting evil, curls up in joyful embrace, kisses evil’s neck and permits evil to playfully tease him and sooth him and keep him warm, could he not be taught the same using the traditional word “sin”? If teaching is required either way, why change the wording? After all sin is something that whether they diminish it or not, people recognise as about the self rather than external. There is a word that works fine to talk about the external aspects of evil, the temptations and the tricks that seduce us into doing wrong – that word is the “Devil”.

As for getting rid of the word “submit”. Where can one even begin? Heaven forfend that any of Britain’s spoiled and entitled children be forced for even one short ritual to consider the possibility that there is someone of more importance than themselves to whom submission makes sense… let not any mere priest challenge our dear little ones from their pedestal atop which they rule the universe. That simply would not do. They are very comfortable up there and would only make the most dreadful of bawling noises if they were asked, with even the most gentle and unchallenging of language, if they might not consider perhaps, getting down.

Proximity

A tragedy occurs, it’s on the news, no-one you know was involved. You look around you as people commiserate one another over the dead they didn’t know existed before today.

You watch them as they proclaim anathemas on the perpetrators, as they wring their hands about the “social issues” that led to this “terrible event”.

You think they are faking, they must be faking, they put money in a collection box for survivors they have no connection to, they shake their heads, the mood in the office is subdued, conversation steers itself toward the inevitable “isn’t it awful”.

You’re at home, holding your lover, watching the news after the watershed, images of a little girl whose face has been smashed in flash across the screen. You catch in your lover’s eye the glisten of a tear, genuine sadness and regret. “What is wrong with humanity” they say “why do we do this to one another?”

Blank emptiness fills you. You do not understand. How do they care for this girl they never knew? Mere pixels on a screen as far as your experience is concerned. You think of the grieving mother and father and recognise the suffering it must cause them. You recognise it is wrong but you cannot feel sorry, no tears find themselves in your eyes. No anger at mankind for it’s hatred and violence. “There must be something wrong with me” you think.

Turn to your lover though, anguish and love flow through your heart like an open faucet. You touch your lover’s head and wipe their tears, awed by their compassion you find it, a single tear of your own. A moment of care by proxy.

Then the words return, and with them the emptiness.