The title of this post came into my mind, Italian for “between concerns”. It was the title of a piece of legislation by Pope Pius X about church music. Though I am concerned about church music, I am also concerned about things that can cause worries. We are living in an uncertain world. Many of us see the current events in the world leading to a new world war, because they go far beyond the immigration of Muslim populations into the formerly Christian western world. Ukraine is heating up and tensions grow between the NATO countries and Russia. I am no expert on these events, and readers are advised to consult blogs written by specialised journalists and analysts. The war will not only be military, not excluding the possibility of nukes, but also financial.
There is a lot of junk on the internet written by religious fanatics, and I am quite amazed by the many “prophetic warnings” issued by Evangelical preachers of every kind. It seems to be the modern equivalent of an odd type I once saw in Oxford Street in London wearing a sandwich board saying The end is nigh. We need to learn healthy scepticism and the critical faculties recommended by such as Voltaire in the eighteenth century. We might not know much about everything, but some things seem more plausible than others. Experience of life often teaches us that things don’t go with a bang, but are damp squibs that go with a whimper. We need to seek the inner meaning.
I have already mentioned blogs that claimed in some way to “out” me from some dirty little secret. Anyone who searches for my name on the internet will find traces of my religious life of before my joining the TAC ten years ago, and then the ACC a little less than two years ago. After leaving the Roman Catholic Church, to which I had belonged by conversion for about fifteen years, I was ordained a priest by an independent bishop in France (1998) and consecrated a bishop two years later (2000) by another independent bishop in Belgium. It seemed right at the time, but I gave up the episcopate as I “reverted” to Anglicanism and my priesthood is now regular.
Several bloggers and commenters would like me to go into some of the more controversial subjects here on my blog. I was struck by the atrocity in Paris early in January this year and wrote what I believed to be measured reflections. I began to get a number of near-troll comments, and this rocked my own certitudes. It was better to take the whole lot down and give it all another think-through. Such would also delete the comments that seemed to be at the borderline between trolling and legitimately expressing an opinion. I was also motivated by the consideration that a blogger is legally liable for comments written by others which offend against the limits of the freedom of expression (promoting racial hatred, defending terrorism or crimes against humanity, etc.).
I refuse to move into a simplist paradigm according to which immigrants in western Europe and other countries have to be expelled or even killed. At the same time, I recognise that there is a problem with large populations of people who will never do an honest day’s work or try to assimilate into the country that has accepted them on humanitarian grounds. They are a burden to the Social Security system and the taxpayer. Those who are violent represent a real problem of security, which the police finds difficult to keep under control for the sake of public order. You will find these problems debated between politicians and in the media. You will also find extreme suggestions of solutions. These matters can be discussed without hatred. It is very uncertain ground for me, as much as for any discipline in which I am not well informed.
As a priest, I am not inclined to become politically committed in any way to extreme or “mainstream” politics. My life as a priest is a lot less clerical than when I was a Roman Catholic deacon in a seminary or on pastoral assignments. I am married, self-employed as a technical translator and spend my entire life with ordinary folk. I live in a country where I am allowed to live and work on the basis of being a EU citizen (that might not last if the EU breaks up), but I remain a foreigner in many ways. I would never be able to move back to England on account of the prohibitive cost of real-estate or even of rented housing. I have no sympathy for the French political establishment, in remote terms going back to the Revolution and the Jacobins and having gone through all the historical transformations from the two empires and the five republics. It’s a confusing mess, the present system essentially going back to General Charles de Gaulle and France’s liberation from the Nazi occupation in 1944. Things have changed and the French way is very different from my own English cultural and political references. For example, French socialism is something very different from the Christian socialism of Victorian England and the Anglo-Catholic slum priests. In France like many other countries, the State is everything and the human person is very little, though admittedly a little more than in National Socialism or Stalinist Communism.
I have read very little on the one party in France, the Front National that might please some of our Confederate American friends, but which might displease them on account of its essential Socialist and Statist manifesto. I am not interested in it and I a fear that that cure might be worse than the disease! They might win in the next Presidential Election (2017), but again they might not. My wife and I were deeply disappointed by the last Sarkozy term that seemed so promising at its beginning, and François Hollande has gone down like a lead balloon. Politics is all about money and the richest and most corrupt keeping what they’ve got. Whether the lolly belongs to the State or private multinational big business, it’s all the same for us ordinary folk. They are sucking us dry! But, for the moment, those guys are pulling the strings and are stronger than any of us.
I have been fascinated by the history of the twentieth century since having had a very good history teacher at school who gave a series of lessons on the rise of Nazism from the Versailles Treaty. It is bad taste to compare everything with Nazism, and often entirely inappropriate, but some patterns are repeating themselves. The most significant is scapegoating. All society’s problems have to be blamed on a particular group of people. Hitler seized on the ambient anti-Semitism of the early twentieth century with its roots going back many centuries in Europe. Hitler made it the core of his ideology, together with cranky esoteric and “philosophical” ideas to justify the single issue. This is why I am sceptical about blaming Muslims for everything, even though some Muslims commit terrorist acts. Many others do too, including Christians. American right-wingers tend to go for blacks, though segregationism is now a little out of fashion among most decent people. These are valid points of comparison. Scapegoating and hatred are not the way to promote the future of humanity.
I am only an individual person, and my views are insignificant. Something will happen over the next few years, and I fear the possibility of a world war or an interconnected series of civil wars. Many will die. Perhaps I will be one of them. May God receive my soul in his mercy!
There may be something in theories of critical masses of immigrant populations. The “white” status quo is hardly Christian or something to die for! Europe is no longer Christian, even though many of us try to keep our Christian faith and life going. We are a very small minority and hardly in a position to declare war or a crusade against anyone. The idea is absurd.
Like most people I read articles and books, and watch documentaries. I try to understand the issues as best as possible by attempting to find what opposing viewpoints have in common. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis according to the dialectical method of Hegel. The voice of truth and common sense is difficult to discern amid the noise and hubbub of those clanging their weapons and baying for blood. My role as a priest, other than pastoral ministry properly speaking, prayer and the Sacraments, is to seek the basis on which peace can be built and a new way for humanity to seek grace and good for all. We priests do so, not by fighting and killing, but through our knowledge of philosophy and history and our seeking for wisdom. Our role is not political, but philosophical and any tiny bit of good influence we can bring.
We may be facing the “big one”, World War III, or something much more subtle. Will they use nukes and kill us all? Will they fight a war they believe they can win? Who are the “goodies” and who are the “baddies”? I fear that I live among the “baddies” and this time, we are the Axis and the “others” (Russians, Chinese, etc.) are the Allies. Could this be so? Would I be prepared to fight for a “side” in whose cause I did not believe? Many will ask these questions – if it is not a matter of the two opposing sides pushing the red button and it all being over in ten minutes!
My thoughts and emotions this week have been like those who faced war in 1914 and 1939. How can a good God allow such evil? War destroys faith in God and humanity or brings us to draw near to God to see a way over the present anguish. May God grant us courage and faith in the tribulations ahead, and above all let us pray and work for peace and justice.