A Different View of Diversity

On my daily rounds of the Internet, I try to keep to things that are inspiring and positive, unlike news (whether fake or “official”), but I could not resist a comparison between someone giving a personal answer to the question of whether Aspergers can be “fixed” and an article on the ideology of “identity politics”.

To quote the view of someone with Aspergers, with which I can perfectly identify:

I simply happen to think differently from many people on this planet. Some might say I have problems on a social level; I simply think I don’t need some of the ‘trappings’ that seem important to folks not on the spectrum. I am not impressed by status, not interested in most material things, can’t be bothered by gossip and more interested in looking at people without all these ‘add ons’. My inner life is ‘rich’ and I treasure that.

The longer I study this question and see these little points of view, the more I see what Christ seems to have been all about: that famous paradox of the humble being given the highest places and the haughty being told to leave the places they had usurped. Maybe my own life would have been more “successful” with a better social sense – definitely at seminary where I spent as much time alone as possible. This disassociation from the “world” coincides so perfectly with the Gospel idea “and the world knew him not” and so many more expressions especially in St John. To me, I seem to have received a gift that is humbling and filled with light.

I also seem to have received the ability to detect human sophistry (worldly wisdom) in such a way that I simply don’t understand many people around me. One example is this article Identity Politics vs white people that appeared in an alternative news site I occasionally consult. On one hand, I understand the animosity felt in regard to aggressive and insensitive men who historically have exploited those they have defeated by brute strength and competition. I have no sympathy with right-wing politics and the subordination of the human person to the totalitarian collective, but I also eschew this desire for revenge, for an equal and opposite reaction.

Whatever happens in the future, we are best off by taking our distance, both physically and ideologically. Someone is trying to stir up a war between right and left, black and white, homosexual and heterosexual, men and women and so forth. Perhaps one advantage with Aspergers is that we don’t have issues with women, people of other races, those who live their lives as they are and getting by as best as possible in an imperfect world. Perhaps the best way to work for inclusion of diversity is oneself to accept one’s own difference and personality, and then we understand that no two persons are the same except for any superficial external characteristics.

I am concerned that this “identity politics” ideology may lead to something dreadful like Stalinism or Orwell’s Big Brother, perhaps an all-out war between races, religions and any differences. Then, to survive, we would all have to be the same like new cars coming off the assembly line of a factory. My impression is that the ideology is so absurd and stupid that it cannot survive and would do little more than cause blowback against those who are protesting that white males are different from what they think they are.

Such is the world:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. – John xv. 18-27

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To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite. – Novalis

Doing my rounds on Facebook, I came across this sublime quote. I looked up this character and found two articles:

His real name was Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg (2nd May 1772 – 25th March 1801). I am getting very intrigued by this young German philosopher in the early Romantic tradition. Like many philosophers and poets of that era, he died very young of tuberculosis. He also had long natural hair, which was more in fashion in the eighteenth century than now. I recognise many of the themes and constructs from German idealism and Romanticism.

Like Nicholas Berdyaev, he was very influenced by his extensive reading of Jakob Böhme, and we find many themes of mystical Lutheranism.

Time to get reading….

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Where it all happens

I have been doing a massive job of reorganising my scriptorium, or in less pretentious terms, my office. It’s still not finished, but it is operational for my translating jobs and other uses I make of my computer including this blog. I have selected the most consulted of my books to be near me, and all the others are left in a library in another room of the house – still to be reorganised and adapted for Sophie to be able to use it as an office.

It was quite a mammoth task, as both she and I tend to be hoarders – and the useless stuff is going. I won’t sleep and work in a furniture store. The house is becoming something of a Kubric’s Cube! What comes out of one place has to go into another. Sophie is convinced of the need to do much more sorting-out, and get rid of, give away or sell what we don’t need. It’s a start.

In order to do the main heaving and moving, I have not attended to the details of archiving loose papers, but came across a few photos that dropped out of an envelope. One of them was this one of my priestly ordination in 1998.

Of the six of us in the photo, only I and one other are still alive! It is a sobering thought. I am glad to have found my way back to Anglicanism and the possibility to minister somewhat more legitimately as a priest in a diocese under a Bishop. I thank God for that grace, because we are not priests for ourselves but for the Church. This coming June, it will be my twentieth anniversary… In March (19th) it will be the Silver Anniversary of my diaconate (at Gricigliano by Cardinal Pietro Palazzini).

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The Potomac two-step

On receiving an e-mail from a correspondent in Belgium this morning, I was reminded of a film I once saw of Harrison Ford with a fictitious American President. The President reminds Ford about the realities of Washington politics and the need for Machiavellianism, expressed as the Potomac two-step. Ford replies to the President: “Sorry Mr President, I don’t dance” and then goes “up the hill” to the Senate to expose the President’s unconstitutional acts.

I am brought to think about this expression when considering the present-day clash between the conservative Right and the various minorities seeking to flaunt their ways of life and expect to be deferred to because they shout the loudest. I believe that I have always made the effort to understand the alternative lifestyles of everyone and to respect their choices, just as I have my way of life and thought. I have, for example, expressed my reserves about the “neurodiversity” movement if the statistical one in fifty of men sought to rule the world by their experience of life. The result is invariably provoking the growing groundswell of bigotry and conservative simplism. The more we complain about discrimination, the more people will feel inclined to discriminate and be bloody-minded.

Just a few decades ago, black people in some parts of the United States were segregated, weren’t allow to drink in the same bars or even use the same bathroom facilities. Now, some of them are calling for genocide against white males. Don’t you find that a little excessive? Doesn’t that make us tempted to make racist comments in circumstances where we wouldn’t get in trouble with the law? I saw a black school pupil for the first time when I was about 7 – and I had no problem with that. We had to endure a lecture from the schoolteacher about black people being humans like us. The question didn’t even come into my mind – Stella, as she was called, was simply a human being with a different appearance. Why should I have a problem with that? I felt that the teacher was putting ideas into our minds. Of course I was not the other pupils in the class who might have had racist ideas. Is it Aspergers that makes me feel alienated?

A few days ago, I wrote a posting about a point of view representing reasons to be optimistic about our times, and found the same old message of feminism, “anti-homophobia” and environmentalism. I tried to see the good in these positions. The e-mail I received this morning caused me to remove that posting, along with comments mitigating this optimism. I felt on shaky ground, so decided to remove the posting. Also in the posting, I expressed my reserves about gay marriage. That for the person who wrote to me was an expression of homophobia. My intention was not one of hatefulness and condemnation, but a call for discretion and respect for those who cannot be expected to understand or accept their way of life.

My attitude was compared with the way “true church” apologists seek to disturb the certitudes of Anglicans and get them into the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches. According to this young man, apparently a priest of some Church that promotes Orthodox doctrine and the gay lifestyle, I was treating people “like shit” in the same way as I would be treated “like shit” by Roman Catholic or Orthodox apologists. It would be inappropriate to quote the e-mail or say who wrote it. The person isn’t in question, but the ideas are. I don’t mind that the person lives in a gay marriage and loves his friend. In itself, it is a good thing if that person has found happiness, where many in heterosexual marriages only find unhappiness and discord.

We find ourselves faced with the old tolerance paradox yet again. It seems to be a watershed moment, between Scylla and Charybdis, between the people who are truly motivated by hatred, bigotry and prejudice on one hand, and, on the other, those people who want to impose their minority choices on the majority. The world has never been entirely Christian, and we are increasingly forced into the private sphere, a life of silence and contemplation, because seeking a public profile would put us on the Right or the Left.

The thing that bothers me most is being in that position of promoting tolerance and peace in regard to minorities (I belong to several myself) and asking for prudence and discretion. Perhaps this is a cowardly attitude, the person who tried to stay neutral during Robespierre’s Terror and ended up by getting his head lopped off anyway. Many Germans and people in the occupied countries tried to carry on living in spite of the Nazi tyranny and were punished for collaboration or non-resistance. The only real resistance to Nazism in France under the Occupation came from the Communists. Do we have to be Communists to resist the evils of Fascism? This is the dilemma being presented to us every day. Protest against LGBT (and any number of additional letters), certain excesses of feminism, trans-genderism and so forth – and you are necessarily one of those American Klu Klux Klan rednecks from the South! My optimism for human nature has taken a blow.

My immediate instinct is to get off the internet and just get on with life: say Mass and Office, otherwise mess about with my boats and do the garden. Make efforts with the art of small-talk at various times when I have to be with groups of people. Make sure that the outside world has no idea that I am a priest or anything. There is of course the notion that we didn’t help so-and-so when the men in the jackboots carried him away to a concentration camp, the same thing with any group of humans, and finally no one said anything when they came for me. That gives me the obligation to become some kind of activist. But activism provokes blowback, the equal and opposite reaction. Catch 22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

A part of the purpose of this blog is to discover a way forward, and help others, and transcend this diabolical binary dilemma and paradigm of manipulation. I get one or two ideas from Nietzsche, though he was wrong in rejecting Christianity as just another manifestation of nihilism and human weakness. We have to go deeper.

Mankind is behaving very irrationally, but I think that has always been the case. There has always been hatred, persecution and warfare. It seems to be a part of our nature and “total perversity” as Calvin put it. The so-called “majority” has rights too, and people don’t like to be told what to do or think.

A watershed moment, indeed. I have been conversing with my brother priest along these same lines, and am dismayed by this question of the Church’s attitude to the world. If we have the right to preach our doctrine and morals, do not the other minorities also have the right to impose their ways and require them to be normal in society? Perhaps we should all be silent and live in our private spheres.

It hasn’t been a very good start to my day, and I would appreciate ideas…

* * *

I have just received another e-mail from the person who apologises if he has hurt my feelings. I sent this in response (I wrote in French and here is my translation):

I understand your message and I’m used to not being understood. We live in a world of advertising and propaganda, right as well as left. Göbbels said that if you repeat a lie often enough, the people end up believing it. I am talking about identity politics, which has nothing to do with respect for our people and our way of life. The button is pressed and the acronym LGBT still takes on more letters. In some countries ideologues encourage children to undergo an operation to “change sex”. At the end of all this, the Right will mix everything up as in the 1930s in Germany. Very exceptional life dramas are becoming banal and trendy. Nietzsche was right when he grumbled against the herd mentality!

Yes, I belong to a Church that has the same moral position as Rome and the Russian Orthodox. I have always distinguished between the pulpit and the confessional. I appreciate the notion of friendship, true friendship, probably more than you think, and I’m not interested in sexual issues unless someone asks me the question. In myself, I am rather liberal, but I cannot stand the ideologies in this world that seek to impose George Orwell’s dystopia – a ban on thinking, writing and expressing oneself even when there is no hatred. Live your life discreetly, and life is beautiful in your neighbourhood, the world of work and even at church. Impose oneself, and we will be faced with reaction, the feeling of being fed up and the instinct to think like the totalitarian right-wing.

My target is not diversity, true diversity, but the ideology that gives rise to opposing ideologies. That’s why I don’t have time for Gay Pride, Affirming Anglicanism and all the organizations that promote cultural Marxism, nihilism and counter-culture. A distinction must be made.

Otherwise, in Orwell’s words: “There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.”

We want freedom to be human. The “monster” appropriates all the movements of claiming tolerance and freedom for minorities, and things no longer have the same meaning. I’m not right-wing, because I see too much of the philosophical aspect. There are choices to make if you want to live your life for a long time, if I don’t want to be put in a psychiatric hospital or the gas chamber. I exaggerate… Maybe. Do you want to take that risk?

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Another response to my brother priest

As promised, since I am well advanced with my translation orders that have to be delivered tomorrow. I have done about 26,000 words in only four days, but with the help of automatic translation – a very good and intuitive programme – which I have only to post-edit to give the human translation the customer is paying for. That’s quite a lot of work, so I’ll get this little one in.

The new article of Fr Jonathan is this:

Currants and Raisins: a response to Fr Chadwick

Like him, I am living quite remotely and risk losing sight of reality with only the material on the Internet to inform me. I can get impressions of people that are probably very wrong because I have never met them. It is a temptation to construct a personality from partial information. Like Fr Jonathan, I don’t want to sound anti-American, because I am not. Human beings live in other countries too, and we all fall short and fall for the temptation of intolerance and being simplistic.

I agree that our conduct on the Internet should not compromise the efforts our Bishops are making to unite our Churches in the spirit of the Congress of St Louis. We do have that responsibility. I have already commented on the limited diversity of liturgical rites used in our Churches, beginning with the widely-used Anglican Missal and English Missal. We are all united in publicly celebrating the liturgy in classical so-called “Cranmerian” English, meaning the formal idiom of the early seventeenth century and thereabouts. What would be clearly heterogenous would be the use of modern English like in the RC Novus Ordo or the various Anglican books published in the 1970’s. In spite of our diversity between the 1928 American book, the Anglican Missal and the Warren translation of the Sarum Missal I use, we all use the Coverdale Psalter, the King James Bible (with Apocrypha) and those prayers translated by Cranmer directly from the Latin Sarum books. Our fidelity to the Prayer Book is seen in these terms rather than the idea of using the truncated explicitly Protestant rite of Holy Communion from the 1662 Prayer Book – which is not in use in our Diocese.

Perhaps these points will be cleared up, hopefully by the Bishops and our canonists legislating according to pre-existing custom, which is the usual way of canon law. But, that is for them, not for us simple priests. This issue of the Prayer Book has been a point of agony and cognitive dissonance for a very long time, through the days of pompous Victorian gentlemen with enormous moustaches boasting their philistine masculinity to the rejected English 1928 Prayer Book project. By the early twentieth century, the choice was that of Percy Dearmer, like what the Fathers of the London Oratory do with the Novus Ordo, becoming Roman Catholic or introducing pre-Reformation or Roman Catholic rites into Anglican parishes. In the Church of England, it made for an indisciplined Church with a parish-based ecclesiology prevailing over diocesan and episcopal theology. We in the ACC, fortunately, don’t have to deal with Protestant and Latitudinarian bishops. Many of us would not have joined the ACC if the Prayer Book were the only rite available, having to be interpreted in a “Percy Dearmer” kind of way: do all the ceremonies in a pre-Reformation way, but don’t deviate from the texts or add to them. For my part, I was honest and up-front when I applied to Bishop Damien Mead and his Board of Ministry – and I was let in!

We are often tempted to see our vocation as “saving the Church” and fighting against heresy. I have come to see things differently, like with the moral issues in our society, even those concerning human life and the integrity of the human genome. As priests, we have no power to change anything in this world. I think Fr Jonathan understands this with his expression of the Benedict Option idea insofar as it can be adapted for our situation. It is deeply discouraging to live in a place where no one is remotely interested in what we offer or teach. Our treasure is their garbage. How can we expect to change their behaviour when what they do would be unacceptable in a Christian context? We can’t beat them and we are not inclined to join them! We are marginalised and living in the catacombs like English people who convert to Buddhism or Hinduism. There comes a time when we become overloaded by the polemics and “identity politics” and all the stuff buzzing around on Facebook.

As priests coming from elsewhere, we find more in common with the ACC than anything else. Our Churches are essentially manifestations of the traditionalist reaction from a notion in the Anglican Communion that would reduce all religion to a civil level and conventional morality based on changing trends and identity politics. Gone would be the spiritual and contemplative dimension, to be replaced by entertainment and social partying. We can’t legislate or police them – but we can try to do better ourselves without getting upset because our way is not contagious!

We live in total indifference and occasional hostility. However, some souls are curious about the paranormal and science, and cannot accept the idea of annihilation at physical death. Instead of seeing such ideas as competitors against Christian monotheistic orthodoxy, we can try to understand some of these approaches. It must be difficult to be a hard-core atheist and live with one’s extremely narrow view of life – because there is the fact of death. Most people know that spending millions to have your brain frozen and one day plugged into a machine is complete rubbish. When the brain is dead, is is dead, gestorben, mort, defuncto, kaputt, you name it. The spirit is still alive, but the hard atheist denies its existence. We have to diversify, widen, without denying anything we believe to be true and wholesome. “Liberal” religion is political. Our is contemplative and concerned with our higher life. I do believe that this is where continuing Anglicanism should be going with our traditional liturgy and contemplative approach to God.

I used to be familiar with the idea of traditionalist Roman Catholics getting all their buildings back. But are pre-Reformation church buildings their property? I think not. Their owners went along with the Reformation, and they belong to the Church of England. I think it would be a mistake to expose our Bishop to the risk of being ridiculed for being claimed to be the (Arch)Bishop of Canterbury. It would be nice for our Bishops to have names of towns for the titles of their sees, but the usual way is describing the territory rather than a single city. Most of our dioceses are named after whole countries or parts of a vast country like the United States. We have the Diocese of the Resurrection and only one diocese named after a single city, New Orleans. The Old Roman Catholics have titles like Caer-Glow and Selsea, unless they adapt styles like we have in the ACC.

One thing we can do if we find ourselves as priests without congregations because no one could care less – is to study and teach, to work in the arts and crafts with the expression ora et labora in our minds. Fr Jonathan is a Benedictine oblate, and this commitment is precious in our midst. I see that he shares my interest in penetrating the mystery of God as far as our limited human reason and experience will allow.

He is in good company. I love playing with words myself, which takes on a whole perspective with my differing degrees of knowledge of other ancient and modern languages.

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Some Trumpish Levity

I really do try to stay off politics on this blog, but I found this amazing cartoon on Facebook.

The political correctness obviously refers to the notion expressed by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, whereby conformity to an ideology takes precedence over rational debate. The “herd” mentality is a cause and consequence of nihilism, decried by Nietzsche and promoted by the twentieth-century dictatorships and cultural Marxism. This is obviously a caricature of St George and his symbolic victory over the forces of evil in his martyrdom.

What I find most remarkable in this drawing is the long hair, not only the iconic bit over Mr Trump’s forehead, but down his back. The symbolism of long hair is both forgotten and powerful. Traditionally, it means aristocracy, strength, masculinity, freedom and fidelity to oneself over conformity and fashion.

Whether Mr Trump’s combat is truly against ideology and conformity and for rational debate in terms of social doctrine, the common good and justice, the cartoon is thought-provoking.

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Fr Jonathan Munn begins the year with a bang!

Sorry for the corny title! Fr Jonathan has reached the end of his tether with Facebook. That is something I fully understand, though I have learned to use Facebook with great care and understanding it as a place for special interests (like the old Yahoo e-mail group) and for light banter (something we aspies are not very good with, except it is by writing and not chattering). He has just written Currents and Raisons. I wrote the following comment which is longer than the posting!

I am a little puzzled by the title, though my knowledge of French points me to think in terms of courants (de pensée) and raisons – reasons or rational thought. Perhaps Fr Jonathan will enlighten us as to his choice of title…

* * *

I think you experience life differently in that lovely Yorkshire countryside, perhaps not unlike here in Normandy. Something that taught me a stern lesson was being in the TAC at the time when Archbishop Hepworth was telling us that the water was warm. In reaction to all those people getting on the “coeti-bus”, we were struggling to define what it is to be an Anglican and what is our justification for saying “Hold your horses” as the bus driver was telling us “Bitte, einsteig” (Please get onboard). We don’t have to justify not joining any herd of people all wanting to do the “done thing” (converting to a “true church”).

You and I have different experience. For example, you went to the ACC from the Church of England. My own way was more tortuous, going via the Roman “true church” and becoming very unhappy, perhaps largely due to my own difficulties. It is natural to want to appropriate our “identity” and monopolise it to validate ourselves and protect ourselves from having to go back to more justifying and negotiating with the bullies. I begin to analyse things in these terms, because I know the pain of having to go outside the box to find our own way and make sense of our experience.

I don’t think we have to justify ourselves vis à vis the Prayer Book. As far as I am concerned, I am simply an English Catholic, pre-Reformation, and sharing many things with the French of before the Revolution. The blog seems to be our place for such reflection and education of others, because it is written in greater depth and eventually becomes a self-publishing book. We let people have it for free instead of letting a publisher sell it for money and slap a copyright on it. We in the ACC don’t all have this Romantic pre-reformation perspective on our Anglicanism as a kind of “English Gallicanism”, but we have largely let go of the Reformation and have never been influenced by the Counter-Reformation (though there were good things like St Philip’s Oratory and some great diocesan bishops like Francis of Sales). We in England have the Anglican Missal – I have Sarum in Latin and English – and no one minds what we use for the Office, though most of us prefer the Coverdale Psalms to any other English translation.

The problem with many Americans is that they lose sight of the existence of cultures and people outside their country. Though it is a melting-pot of all cultures, they can be incredibly parochial like English people in their little northern neighbourhoods. My own experience of life has made me one in a thousand – and I can be perceived as quite threatening to the “herd”.

We certainly need to move on away from the polemics and self-justification to the study of history and philosophy. I am too aware that our treasure, our faith, is superstitious bunk to nearly everyone else. Our churches should be razed to the ground or given to other religions or to cultural or business concerns. We should all be like Richard Dawkins and realise once and for all that in the beginning there was brute matter and we cease to exist when we die, that life is totally pointless and futile. I am working on studying scientific views of the primacy of consciousness over matter, because I believe that the notion of God can thus be revived and re-discovered in a totally new light. It is the seed from which our treasure can re-grow and be loved once again – and influence our lives in the family and society. Along with science, there is art and culture, which can vehicle the faith and the essentials of the Tradition. This vision is becoming ever clearer in my mind.

We have now to go forwards, not looking back at our unhappy times in the past, but to build on the good a brighter future. I have no children. You do. I think you are well placed to develop the Benedict Option idea and refine it for our side of the Atlantic Ocean, to bring that something new and luminous to people who are deeply sceptical, cynical and nihilistic. We won’t get anywhere with the “herd”. We need to rebuild not only the contemplative life, but the arts and crafts of the medieval world, music, poetry, literature, architecture, working with our hands. I think you have talents in this great vision, with a logical mind capable of delving into science and philosophy and putting them into the service of Christ.

I have my blog and you have yours. We need to be as distinct as we are as two different persons, but I see the vision building up in you and the desire to forsake what is destroying Christianity and orthodoxy. I don’t care about Facebook. I have clear limits within which I use it, but I am not tempted to use it as a “blog” – because it just doesn’t work that way. If people think that culture and writing will disappear because of Facebook and the smartphone, they are wrong and push themselves into a nihilistic world where no one reads or writes! We may not be able to use the Internet for much longer for serious work, and we have had the Internet for such a short time. I hope that when we lose it, we will have the ability to write books and articles and print them on paper.

Keep your courage and discernment, and may God bless you in your new calling as a priest.

* * *

Please note Fr Jonathan’s new article Currants and Raisins: a response to Fr Chadwick. I’ll answer it when I complete the two translating orders that have to be in for tomorrow morning!

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