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Archive for the ‘Happenings’ Category

Anointing DavidIn the BBC’s copious coverage of the 60th anniversary of the last coronation at Westminster, back in June, there was a note of special pleading.  I think that the issue it raises is an important and a contentious one which should be dealt with now, before the next coronation. (more…)

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Until recently, I didn’t know the outcome of that blackly comic incident in the 1980s when a bishop tried to persuade the US Navy not to name their latest submarine after Our Lord.  Now I know.  They came to a compromise.

This was during the time that the US was naming all their new Los Angeles class submarines after American cities, who usually jostled for the honour.  When the next available name on the commissioning list turned out to be that of Corpus Christi TX, the Bishop of Corpus Christi – who the dates suggest was the Irish-born octogenerian Thomas Joseph Drury – objected to the proposed names on the grounds that a warship could not be called after The Body of Christ.

Nobody seems to have spotted the difficulty before and many citizens were angry, not at the Navy but at the bishop.  Eventually it was agreed that SSN-705 should be named City of Corpus Christi.  It is still in service, manned by those who “go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters” (Psalm 107:23) and God is not mocked.  Details in Wikipedia.

USS City of Corpus Christi

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For some people, even believers, Easter is far from being an unalloyed occasion for joy.  Despite its premier place in Christian belief, it seems to be slipping further and further down the mainstream Anglo national consciousness.  One obvious reason is that nowadays we think about death, and the risk of eternal damnation, somewhat differently from our forbears.  That affects our views about the credibility, desirability, let alone possibility, of life after death. (more…)

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God prevents a church from falling down.  This little anecdote, collected and retold by Marco Polo, is of Samarkand the ancient city on the Silk Route to Cathay.  It can be heard in various ways including benign – one can imagine it in the mouth and gestures of a storyteller in the market place – or malign, as a relic of intercommunal strife in 13th century Central Asia: (more…)

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The dreadful evidence being put forward by the prosecution in the witch-murder trial at the Old Bailey this week is heart-ending.   It alleges that the children were abused, and one of them killed, because the adults involved believed that sorcery had entered the household through the victim and battened upon them all.

This reminds me of something that happened in South Africa in the mid-1990s.  There had been a recurrence of witch-burning in Northern Province (now Limpopo Province): a recurrent problem there caused by a fatal conjunction between two givens.  On the one hand, ordinary grievances and the readiness of those involved to resort to vigilante tactics – house-burning, lynching and so forth – to resolve them; on the other hand, a widespread community conviction that victims of such mob action were witches and deserved to die.  A working party of appropriate people was set up and tasked to see what could be done about this situation.

In due course the group reported their findings and recommendations at an open hearing by the provincial government.  When they had had their say,a provincial minister exclaimed, more or less, “Yes, yes, these proposals are fine, but inadequate:  I have yet to hear from you what measures we can take to combat witchcraft in Northern Province.”  The working party was at a loss for words.

As far as I am concerned, and despite what the Pope and Islamists say, people are free to believe what they want, so long as nobody else gets hurt by their exercise of such a freedom.  That is clearly the nub of the case now going on in London.  What gets to me is the powerful impression that the accused were convinced that they were in a life-or-death struggle against malign powers.

The terror that must be felt by those people, all over the world, who believe in such forces and are terrified of them!  I include those who wreaked havoc amongst families in the Orkneys in 1991 because they just ‘knew’ that Satanism was prevalent there.  They must live in a never-ending nightmare, punctuated by sheer panic.

These terrors give birth to evil, right enough, but that is because they are the Original Sin in this nighmare, lodged in and nurtured by people who must be both pitied and stopped.  The tragedy is that if the Old Bailey accused are convicted they will probably be baffled as to why the state is thereby ignoring an unimaginably greater threat than imprisonment: one to which it seems blithely indifferent.

What can be done?  We in Britain stopped believing in witches in the early 1700s.  What went right?  At what stage were wwe mature enough, and finally trusting enough, to understand what the prophet told us by the waters of Babylon, centuries ago, that “They shall dwell securely and none shall make them afraid” (Ezekiel 34:28)? And how can we persuade others that this is so?

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Recent events in Pakistan have reminded us of aspect of traditional Islam: that for some Muslims, apostasy is the ultimate crime, punishable by death.  For those of us brought up in the Western tradition of freedom of belief, this is a shocking, even repellent doctrine.  How has it come about? (more…)

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An atrocity in which scores of priests and their parishioners were forcibly drowned in the Loire took place at Nantes in late 1793.  I’ve devoted a page to the rantings of the zealot who ordered the massacre and some salient facts.

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