Update: See When Christianity is at its best. Does anyone know of such ideal communities?
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I have had quite a number of reactions on my posting about trying to play the violin as a wind instrument or bow the valves of a trumpet. Some perhaps suggested that ceasing to discuss archaic liturgical forms would favour the work of engaging the modern world with the Christian faith and witnessing among unbelievers. Perhaps. It seems a good argument, and it is obvious that there are several billion Christians in the world, but probably less than twenty persons in the world are remotely interested in Sarum. I attempted a response to an English conservative Roman Catholic who is satisfied with the modern Roman rite and advances the usual conservative arguments. I suppose I should exclaim that I had “never thought of that” and go to my local parish church, served once a month, go through the canonical process of laicisation then perhaps persuade the brave people of our village who are not terribly interested in religion to become model urban conservatives.
I have to admit that I am somewhat “out of it”. I see little of the world living in the countryside in a dormitory village and consulting a fraction of a percent of the Internet. It looks like I am irrelevant. The modern clash and bang of “pop” and rock “music” shocks and frightens me, though it often comes blaring out of car windows as my wife and I go to town for a concert or do some shopping or sort out serious stuff at the bank. I am glad to get home to the cows and apple trees, and better still, get out to sea – the ultimate desert. The reflection keeps coming into my mind: Relevant to what? Everything has been tried and the Christian ideal is utterly incompatible with everything round us.
This came up today, and expressed things so well: The culture war is lost – now get on with being counter-cultural. That seems quite a mouthful. We have French bishops deciding to challenge laïcisme, which is obviously atheism as an official “religion”. Give up engaging in politics and there is no further point to anything. That is quite an epitaph! The liberal left is more resilient than what most conservatives would like to believe. Liberation theology gone all the way! Christianity is no more than a load of empty words with no meaning except a twisted one taken from some ideology based on Marx, Nietzsche and Darwin.
I don’t have to give a précis of JD’s article here, but there is an idea that emerges from the thick London fog. The culture we are in is a manufactured culture as never happened in the past. That notion is extremely far-reaching.
Christianity’s natural home is: a) in defiance of the dominant culture (which often tacitly endorsed a morality Christianity openly rejected) and b) along the borderlands of law, always walking the line between questionable legal status and outright illegality.
The trouble is knowing what Christianity is nowadays in terms of churches. Institutional Christianity seems to have become an image of the current situation in France: a governing party calling itself Socialist but manifestly serving the oligarchs and the elite, and a workers’ union representing ideas that were discredited in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. The weakest will collapse, but the stronger will not necessarily be right.
I am reminded of the much-bandied idea of Josef Ratzinger about the remnant church, something like the underground churches in the Soviet bloc at the height of the persecution. But, in the west, I see little evidence of their existence, whilst there are brash, noisy churches in the cities with lots of people and with no opposition from the political regime. The traditionalists tried to fulfil that role in the 1970’s and early 80’s, but they were eager to join the respectability club and get their justification from political groups. Only the monasteries seem to have something of that gratuity of Christianity as a spiritual way and a philosophy of life. Even then, too many monasteries remind the observer of the barracks! Too many pinched faces who don’t exactly exude the joy of the Resurrection!
My little chapel and my eccentric quirks hardly seem to herald the future. In worldly terms, what I value and represent is dying, as it did at the onset of the Reformation. In historical terms, I will soon be a thing of the past, forgotten and obliterated by the needs of the living. I say this but I am not depressed, just starkly realistic. Blessed Charles de Foucault was shot dead in 1916 by a group of Islamic zealots, and all he did was to live a contemplative life in a desert that was as barren in geographical terms as in human terms. He was not forgotten, but was totally irrelevant in his lifetime and did not convert a single Muslim to Christianity. In worldly terms his life was a waste and a failure.
Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.