In an increasingly unbelieving world of humanism and secularisation, not to mention the jarring dissonance of a sharia-compliant caliphate and all the fuss over women bishops, religion has become a turn-off. God is bothersome: atheism rules the new enlightenment and Dawkins reigns supreme. Mention the Bible or Church, and eyes glaze over. But say “biblical epic”, and something numinous energises the spirit. You might not believe in the irruption of God into the affairs of man, but you will surely be drawn and compelled to all that is theatrically holy. Even Professor Dawkins might admit to being mystically gladdened by the ancient legends of transcendence and omnipotence. Continue reading →
“Due to the continued violence and civil unrest in Damascus and Aleppo, our Churches there have been closed down for the unforseeable future. Your prayers for the congregations and the people of Syria are sincerely requested and greatly appreciated. Please pray for peace throughout the Middle East.”
So reads the website of All Saints Episcopal Church in Damascus. While Christians here fret over issues of gender identity and sexuality, those across North Africa and the Middle East are confronted by a momentous crisis that is nothing short of existential. It is not merely that churches are shut, pews empty and pulpits silent; their schools are being bombed, homes ransacked and businesses burned down. From Algeria in the west to Iran in the east, Christians are being kidnapped, terrorised, tortured, raped and murdered. They are being systematically ‘cleansed’ from the very lands where Jesus preached of the coming kingdom, and the Apostles first carried the gospel of salvation. They have returned to the first-century era of intolerable persecution, martyrdom and the coming apocalypse. Continue reading →
‘Most of us laugh at the woolliness of modern Anglicanism,’ writes Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph, ‘but it is, though somewhat debased, the true heir of (England’s) national history. It offers an authentically Christian approach to life which seeks peace and a common life. This builds trust and good neighbourliness. It is not an accident that, today, most other Christian denominations and other faiths in this country happily shelter under the protection of the Church of England, and fear a secular state.’
Setting aside the welcome latitudinal ecclesiology of a prominent Roman Catholic who is content to talk of his own church as a ‘denomination’ – that is, simply one among many valid expressions of Christianity in an ocean of human difference and diversity – the observation that the Church of England ‘seeks peace and a common life’ is not only historically foundational but acutely missiological. Continue reading →
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has severed all direct communication with Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond over a minor dispute about the rights and wrongs of same-sex marriage. Apparently they still have enormous respect for each other, and remain on first-name terms. But Alex wants Scotland to pioneer gay marriage in the UK, and Keith just doesn’t. I’ve managed to obtain the transcript of their recent telephone conversation on the matter:
The very mention of the name of Enoch Powell still divides the firmaments. There is no nuanced via media of opinion on the man: either you love him as the rightest of minds, or loathe him as a deranged bigot. Either he was a prophet of God and enlightened philosopher, or the spawn of Satan and reactionary extremist. For many – if not most – his premature demise was the salvation of the Queen’s multicultural peace. For others – the undoubted minority – it was the greatest philosophical injustice since the execution of Socrates.
John Enoch Powell was born 100 years ago this year, and this collection of commemorative essays, speeches (in their entirety) and poems (some quite touching) is edited by Lord Howard of Rising with a Foreword by Iain Duncan Smith. It is published by Biteback and will set you back £25. Continue reading →