The view from the Vicar’s Window
Originally posted 31st Jan 2015
Dear friends, I think I must be due for retirement or a nursing home.
Have an happy Lent was followed last month my desire to contemplate the hamsters. I don’t have any hamsters. Guinea Pigs was what I meant! Anyway, Lent is almost upon us so perhaps I was merely being a bit previous. (Is that the right term?)
Anyway, onward to more serious things. The attack on the Parisian weekly has produced a number of interesting reactions from the press. (I fail to see why the views of actors and actresses should be so important. Aren’t they paid to ACT? I seem to remember that Fanny Price, the heroine of Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, declared that she could not act. She proved to be the only one with integrity and the only one not seduced by the acting and the play.
Perhaps the most interesting has been that of the Pope and of a number of people I have spoken to. Apparently, the Pope said that he would hit the person who insulted his mother. (Don’t forget that Jesus didn’t only advocate turning the other cheek. What about His treatment of the money-changers in the Temple?) Others have said that it is wrong to make fun of religion and that Charlie Weekly and Private Eye (among others) overstep the mark.
I think that this raises a number of issues in our society. Any listener to Radio Four comedy will know that Christianity and the Christian Church are constantly being ridiculed by comedians and comediennes, not least Sandi Toksvig. In fact, a recent programme included Ms. Toksvig describing Christian belief only to be met by gales of laughter from the audience a response which, presumably, she invited and encouraged.
The problem is not so much free speech as a combination of the desire to get a cheap laugh, the inability to understand what religious belief is about and the thin line between humour and insult. Non-religious people do not realise that insulting God and His holy people is tantamount to insulting a member of your own family, indeed, the head of the family more than that, the All-Holy One. How strange that our society is so obsessed with politically-correct language and the fear of causing offence to ethnic and sexual minorities, that it is blind to blasphemy and the insult of a person’s creed.
The root of the problem is unbelief. Atheists cannot see that theists take God seriously. It doesn’t help when religious people share that view. (Even some Christians talk about Our Lord as if He were an idea, not a person. Christianity is not a hobby nor a life-choice it is the recognition that Jesus is objectively LORD and GOD.) I remember as a teenager laughing at Monty Python and, later, The Life of Brian. Now I can”t stand the latter. Why? Simply because it makes it very difficult to watch any film about the life of Our Lord without it being in some way cheapened.
The problem is that many (perhaps most) young people only experience religion as either the cause of violent acts or as the butt of jokes. All very well for public school boys (who have all experienced some form of Christianity) to poke fun. More dangerous when that is the only encounter with religion as it is for most people. (A bit like pornography and sexual jokes and coarseness being one’s only experience of sex.) Some newspapers have commented that some people in our society are sympathetic to what happened in Paris. The inference is that the sympathisers are entirely from the Moslem community. I think that there must be a number of Christians (myself included) who applaud the fact that many Moslems take their faith seriously while still condemning the actions of the young men. For us Christians, we have got so used to not talking of God respectfully. We have equally got used to only laughing about Christianity in general.
I am very conscious of the people I meet who speak respectfully of such matters and who take seriously the concept of faith, even though they may not have a belief themselves. Concious because most of the time people are afraid to take anything seriously. What do we Christians do about this? Certainly not killing people. How about showing to others that we take our faith seriously. I was recently at a gathering where three persons present were going to church the following day, it being a Sunday. In the end only one went (me) because the others were invited to join the rest of the company for a late breakfast at a pub! We can give church a miss they said. What message does that communicate to God let alone the assembled company? It made me want to become a Moslem. Unfortunately, they do not believe enough about the Lord.
Have a good Lent! Every Blessing Canon Brian. The fast as taught by holy lore. The season of Lent will soon be upon us. Ash Wednesday is on the 18th and it is time to start fasting and prayer.
I believe that we need to take this very seriously this year. Nothing to do with slimming but a lot to do with spiritual discipline.Don’t miss being signed with the ash cross as a reminder of personal frailty and the need for God’s forgiveness. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.
Make a decision to come to an extra weekday mass or to a weekday mass if you don’t already. Come early so that you can spend time in quiet before the Blessed Sacrament. (if you don’t know what that means then come and see).
Come to the Lent Study Groups. We will be meeting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after mass. The subject will be Anglo- Catholicism. What does it mean to be a Catholic Anglican? Where did we come from? What does the Church of England claim to be? What is the Catholic Faith? This will not be a course but a series of talks from the Vicar followed by questions and discussion.
Come to the Lent Lunches on Fridays. There was a time (with exactly the same size congregation) when we used to get twenty or more. Soup cheese and bread are the order of the day. Donations will go to the work of the Diocese of Ho in Ghana.
Take a collection box and put your odd change (and a decent donation, if you can) towards the work of Bishop Matthias and his diocese. Take up the daily Bible reading course (Lectionary) and ask about a book of daily prayers. We could have a one-off meeting to explain. See the Vicar!
Give up meat on Fridays. Have a lovely Lent and emerge spiritually and physically refreshed to celebrate the supreme joy of the Lord’s Resurrection.