WAR AND PEACE
We were 4 hours 15 minutes out of Sydney, 28,000 feet up, cruising at 888 km per hour and heading towards the Indian Ocean and Timor Sea, 2,889 kilometres from Singapore, with London still 17 hours away. Flight path information was just one of the multiple diversions available on a state of the art video entertainment system which helped kill time during a recent return trip to London. It was only three days after the 11 September atrocity and I was channel surfing while scanning several papers and books at the same time (surely a pernicious habit, as my late mother had often observed). Anyway, as if sitting in a metal cylinder hurtling along thousands of feet above mother earth was not enough to concentrate the mind, the unprecedented horror of Washington and New York certainly was. And what stood out above all else as I absorbed the eclectic images and writings on offer was not so much the rampant hypocrisy (condemnations of the unspeakable act by Yasser Arafat and Gerry Adams perhaps topping those by terrorist-pandering Western nations), but the self-deception at its heart.
Delusion and contradiction
Back on terra firma, there was news: of the Church of England's (latest) insane decision to back the decriminalisation of cannabis; of new record levels of sexually transmitted diseases and promiscuity among British youth; of a Law Lord implying that the age of consent should be further lowered to reflect "ordinary life"; of the Greater London Authority's "ground-breaking" recognition and registration of "same-sex couples"; and of government funding initiatives to further normalise divorce following "a decision by Lord Irvine [Tony Blair's mentor] to switch support away from organisations which solely work to keep marriages going". The stench of societal decay was overpowering. The quagmire of delusion and self-contradiction deepened at every turn. Brandishing The Best of the Koran: Selected Verses for the Politically Correct (or so it would seem), Prime Minister Blair confidently reassured 21 religious leaders at a Downing Street summit that Islam was a religion of "peace and tolerance". The Royal Syncretist, Prince "Defender of Faith" Charles, then visited a mosque to proclaim his humanist creed of "tolerance, compassion and understanding". At the same time, as if to set the British Establishment's seal on the nation's twin plagues of pop-religiosity and shameless irreligion, the BBC, for the first time in its history, overlooked practising Christians to appoint a non-believer as its head of religious affairs. A divorced father of two unbaptised children and self-professed "open-hearted agnostic" who lives with his girlfriend, the new appointee tragically personifies his official brief: to produce programmes "reflecting spiritual life in the UK."
Rock 'n roll devotee Tony Blair and his barrister wife also embody this new, shiny, incoherent "spiritual life" of the nation. Most especially in the corrupting and self-contradictory pseudo-Catholicism paraded by the likes of Cherie Blair. A New Age dabbler and public advocate of contraception, women 'priests' and homosexual rights, Mrs Blair once conspired in her husband's regular sacrilegious Communions and together with him has openly courted the renowned heretic Hans Kung. Her faithless example has surely influenced her non-Catholic spouse for worse in the matter of true religion. A sadly missed opportunity which has left the Prime Minister mired in a "deeply felt religious faith", as a seasoned commentator wryly observed, "of the thoroughly decent, thoroughly ecumenical, thoroughly politically correct variety." A man, in other words, as rootless, aimless and confused as the country he is leading; a lost soul who finds elastic 'religiosity' more conducive to his ardent moral relativism than the discipline of authentic spirituality.
Regularly lampooned in England's satirical weekly Private Eye as the sanctimonious Rev. A.R.P. Blair of St Albion's Parish Church, the Prime Minister's comically earnest attempts to be seen as a man of spiritual substance and moral rectitude reached new heights in his messianic address to the annual Labour Party Conference on 2 October. It was 'globalist-statesman Blair', the latest persona from his wardrobe of alter egos, who took centre-stage in the aftermath of 11 September, lauding "the power of community asserting itself", extolling "the moral power of the world acting as a community" and urging us on to "re-order this world around us…." On he went, sorting out one international imbroglio after another - from the Middle East to the Congo to Zimbabwe - demanding "true democracy, no more excuses for dictatorship, abuses of human rights, no tolerance of bad governance…". Although this self-righteous crusade to transform the world before tea-time had the controlling, Utopian ring of a United Nations charter, for his efforts Mr Blair was widely lauded as "Churchillian". For mine, the holier-than-thou sermonising from a leader whose amoral government has taken cynicism, deceit, manipulation, control, cronyism, sleaze and profligate maladministration to new levels, while displaying unprecedented contempt for parliament, the civil service, the family and human life itself, was a performance best left to the lacerating parody of Private Eye.
Yet the outward hypocrisy which marked the speech merely reflected the massive delusions and inconsistencies at play within the Prime Minister himself: the pro-abortion-up-to-birth, pro-homosexual family man who in turn typifies the self-contradiction all around us, even and especially among those (of any political persuasion) with similar spiritual pretensions to the Prime Minister. Pro-life, pro-faith President Bush, for instance, not only compromised human life with his fence-sitting decision on stem cell research (despite a prior meeting with the Holy Father), but a week after the terrorist attacks allowed the swearing in of homosexual Michael Guest as U.S. Ambassador to Rumania (complete with live-in partner, as announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell). Two other prominent homosexual activists have been given top jobs in his administration, including a promoter of the homosexual agenda in Massachussets state public schools who was appointed Ambassador to Canada.
As ever, therefore, the present crisis reveals a dysfunctional elite preaching perverted notions of liberty and peace to a dysfunctional populace - both morally illiterate because spiritually blind; the logical legacy of the "Me! Now!" generation which 35 years ago dispensed with religion, the love of God and the fear of eternal damnation to institutionalise nihilism for its own selfish ends. Its political apotheosis was Bill & Hillary; who publicly thumbed their noses at Christian morality, shamelessly feigning religious belief while validating the sexual revolution at the highest levels. Its socio-political denouement was Bill & Monica; or, more precisely, the high popularity ratings they enjoyed throughout saturation coverage of their vice, lies and perjury.
War and Peace
Since Western popular culture, then, represents the antithesis of St Augustine's maxim, we can only expect successful containment of Bin Laden and his deranged hordes to provide a mere lull in a permanently false peace. Because whatever happens, we are still left with what John Paul II calls endemic "social sin" - the accumulation of numerous personal sins - which is rooted in the debased spiritual currency of the '60s; the pseudo-religious posturing of the Clintons and Blairs which is simply "the religious equivalent of inflation: there's a lot of it out there, but it isn't worth anything."
A sequence of awakening, spiritual floundering and hapless wishful-thinking has thus ensued. It was typified by one British journalist who last October spent two very tough weeks with the supposedly pro-West anti-Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan, where he found that his hosts gave no sign of rejoicing over reports of the latest Allied air and missile attacks against their Taliban opponents. Instead, the men "simply glared" while the mullah, he wrote, "turned his back on me, spat on the ground and walked away." Faced with this realisation that the northern militias hate the West as much as the Taliban, the writer reflected: "It comes down to a question of outlook, of aspiration and, when you get right down to it, of faith. I myself am the product of a Christian society and even if it is now actually more in name than practice, it has nonetheless instilled in me a belief in honesty, equal justice and opportunities for all." Hands on heart and Bibles in hand, Tony, Bill, Hillary and Cherie might have professed as much. Commenting on the vexed subject of Britain's notoriously lax asylum and immigration laws, another leading writer railed about London-based Islamic terrorists using faith as a front to undertake "activities aimed at destroying the British state and the Christian culture of our civilisation." This self-deluded scribe had clearly missed the glazed look which suddenly overcame one of his colleagues, a normally sharp and forceful newsman, when a Muslim ambassador compared Islamic fundamentalists to America's Christian fundamentalists, an opening to discussion of pivotal socio-religious issues which the clueless broadcaster was unable to pursue, even at an elementary level. Nor can he have seen the keen interest in the opinions voiced by a young Arabic man in a television audience instantly dissolve the moment he revealed in passing that he was a convert to Christianity, a springboard to real discussion but rather too inscrutable for the moderator or producer to possibly entertain. Recently asked by an interviewer about the fact that a Cross cannot be warn around the neck in Arab countries, the President of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Father Lacunza, responded: "Can you recall any time when the European Parliament seriously debated religious liberty?…. Perhaps there is fear of becoming an enemy of some Arab politician or leader." Or perhaps, like the media ignoramuses just cited, they simply wouldn't know where to start!
A Christian culture? A Christian civilisation? More a one-dimensional, sex-addicted, post-Modern construct; a secular artifice which panders to the basest human passions but lacks the wherewithal to address the numerous crises those passions engender in any more than the most superficial way. Since, as our man in Afghanistan rudely discovered, "when you get right down to it" all conflict, not just the present one, is "of faith"; is theological.
Mercy and Grace
Like the grain ("the word") that falls on rocky ground or among the briers, however, we are finally left to wonder whether food for spiritual thought, even that evoked by the abiding images of 11 September and the pervasive religious symbolism in its aftermath, can ever take root in our wicked age or fail to be smothered and remain fruitless? [Mk. 4: 5-8; 16-20]. The answer, of course, is "yes…but" - it greatly depends on our individual witness to those within our own sphere of influence; on our preparing fertile ground for the workings of grace by refusing to hide the light of our faith under a bushel. "All Catholics," the Second Vatican Council reminded us, "are called to be apostles and participate in extending the Kingdom of Christ throughout the world for the greater glory of God the Father and to direct the whole Universe to Christ" [Apostolicam Actuositatem]. Amidst the universal chaos and incoherence which surrounds us, it is the living out of this apostolic mandate by faithful Catholics which testifies to the fact that "the divine order," as Dr. Harriet Murphy wrote last month, "is still underpinning what looks like an irredeemably compromised universe in precisely those souls already touched by the grace of God." Thus, in the manner of the first Christians who faced similar disorder and dissolution on an epic scale, it is up to us to order our own souls and live out the demands of our Faith in such an exemplary way that the neo-pagans (not to mention lukewarm Catholics) will be moved to conversion; to respond in turn through our personal example to the touch of God's grace in their own lives. We can do no better in this regard than become apostles of the Divine Mercy, which devotion Jesus Himself related to Saint Faustina at Christmas 1936 as follows - a final appeal to a sin-full world perpetually at war with itself, because essentially at war with Him: