Nought for Your Comfort?

The relentlessly cheerful and optimistic can be rather trying to the rest of us, who would probably say we are ‘realists’ or claim to be cool and rational in the face of the world’s ills. (Personally, I think ‘cool and rational’ is rather overdone since it tends to be the attitude of those who like to give others the benefit of their opinion unasked, but let’s leave that for the moment.) There is certainly a great deal to be exercised about at present. In Britain we face never-ending scraps about statistics, lockdown restrictions and the economy, not helped by silly headlines such as ‘Worship Banned’ or ‘Christmas Likely To be Cancelled’ and the ramping up of the perceived likelihood of another terrorist attack. Across the Atlantic there is the disedifying spectacle of the President questioning (that’s the most neutral word I can find) the validity of his country’s democratic processes, to the great delight of Russia and China and totalitarian regimes everywhere. Meanwhile, people are dying in the mud of landslides in Guatemala or lonely and afraid in Cameroon and Mozambique, while the starving children of Yemen are largely ignored and the abuse of human rights elsewhere is mainly remembered only when it serves another purpose.

Those who forecast the end of the world as we have known it may well be right. The tradition of liberal Western democracy most of us have grown up with may not survive. The economic systems with which we are familiar may be lost as the East comes to dominate both manufacturing and finance. As for the Church, there must be a question-mark over whether she can continue to ignore so many of the intellectual and cultural changes that affect our lives or even sustain the huge investment in personnel and plant (churches, schools, seminaries, etc.) that has characterised previous centuries. Bombs, beheadings, the sheer inhumanity and selfishness we see daily must give us pause. ‘What is the world coming to?’ we cry, but answer comes there none.

And yet. And yet, God is still there, endlessly creative, and the human spirit is there, too, graced with compassion and fellow-feeling. If we are being called to a new situation, a new way of being, as I think we are, surely we can take heart from those two elementary truths. That is where real comfort (in the sense of strength) is to be found. Over the next few weeks, I hope to be able to share with you a few ideas on the subject. In the meantime, let’s pray for one another, and especially for those who feel daunted by the prospect before them.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Remembering 7 July 7 Years After

Few of us would dare to claim that we remember anything ‘exactly’ but certain events stay in the mind with distressing clarity. So it is with the events of 7 July 2005. Whether we were personally caught up in the horror of that day or merely experienced it at second-hand through the media, no one who lived through it is likely to forget the impact it had. The IRA bomb attacks of the 70s were somehow in a different league. This was terror perpetrated by British citizens in the name of God. We were on new ground, but it seemed to be shifting beneath our feet.

Seven years on, have we learned any lessons? We live with the fact of terrorism, not merely the threat, and many of us would probably admit that we don’t really know how to respond. The grief and pain of those who survived 7/7 cannot be magicked away, anymore than the dead can be forgotten; but there must surely be something we can do to ensure that death and destruction are not allowed to become the whole story. For myself I think the only answer is to try to root out violence from our own hearts: the anger, the thirst for revenge, the negativity about others. Otherwise, as René Girard has argued again and again, we are destined to pass the poison on. Let us not add another tragedy to that which has already occurred.

Note
Forgiveness is never easy, but ‘getting even’ isn’t a Christian response. We may not have to confront terrorism head on, but we all have people/events that make us angry. How we deal with the anger is important. We can either add to the stock of violence in the world or reduce it.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail