Some random thoughts for a Sunday evening

The Rapture, or perhaps, the absence of same, is now old news. The media, always happy to find eccentrics to quote, were on the story like white on rice. World to end on Saturday. Earthquakes at 6 pm local time all over the world. Mr. Camping will not schedule an interview for Sunday as “he will not be here”. Families who differ on whether there will be a rapture are split. Parents spend their children’s university money on advertisements.

Well, we’re all here. The Rapture didn’t happen. People who gave away (or, worse, euthanised) their pets are now petless. Family Radio, whose owner is Mr. Camping, was silent on the Rapture-less world today. They were singing hymns from the Family Radio Hymnal, available from their website.

Those of us who are rational Christians now are being lumped in with the Rapturists. This is bad news. Christianity is not about pie in the sky when you die. It’s not about Rapture, or trying to predict Rapture, or preparing for Rapture. It’s about living a life of charity and service to the world. It’s about committing yourself to make this world, where we live right now, a better place. It’s about being in communion with your fellow humans as God’s actors in the world. These last three sentences are my Christianity. They do not include people who delude others into believing that these people can predict the end of the world.

There was quite a lot of humour, satire, and just plain abuse on Twitter and Facebook over this weekend. I participated in some of that. But what I am really concerned about is the welfare of those who placed their trust in this misguided “prophet”. These people have been deluded, and now disappointed, by this “prophet”. They are the true victims of this, and my thoughts and prayers are with them today. If we all concentrate on making this world a better place, we’ll be doing something that we know will help people live better lives. Jesus came that we might have life, and have life abundantly. He did not come to ensure that we had the wit to deduce when we were all going to fly up to heaven.

UK political shenanigans are beginning to surface yet again this week.

  • A former minister in the Labour government has been jailed for a year and a half for fiddling his expenses. The judge explained that he would have imposed a harsher sentence except that the former member of Parliament pled guilty.
  • A current Cabinet minister is suspected of persuading his then-wife to take the rap for a speeding ticket, as he would have lost his license for a while had the ticket been laid at his door. (I’m relating this in US-centric language; here I would say that this Cabinet secretary had gotten his then-wife to take points on her driving license for speeding.) This is, of course, horribly illegal and the Cabinet minister is in danger of not only losing his job, but also his seat as an MP and his liberty, if the allegations are proven.
  • Various public figures who have obtained superinjunctions to prevent the media from revealing their names, the matter under litigation, or the mere fact that there is an injunction against them. This is quite foreign to my American sensibilities, as a request for such an injunction would be laughed out of even a justice of the peace’s court in the US. The law is evolving rapidly here, and the judges are not happy about it. Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge (yes, that’s right. Justice Judge) has been muttering that Twitter and the intarwebz are out of control. The names of those with superinjunctions have been revealed on Twitter, on Wikipedia, and in at least one case, in a British newspaper published in Scotland, and thus outside the jurisdiction of the English courts. This is all very interesting stuff, and it remains to be seen whether the courts can enforce an order on Twitter to disclose the identities of those who have Tweeted about the superinjunction people. I seriously doubt it.
  • The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke (one of the few survivors of the last Tory cabinet in the 1990’s), when speaking to an interviewer about sentencing policy, seemed to imply that some rape was less serious than other rapes. He claimed later on that he was speaking of the difference between statutory rape (where even if the young girl or boy tries to give consent they cannot do so legally and the other person has committed an offense) and “regular” rape, a crime of violence. Many women (and not a few men) were outraged at this, and have said so. He claims that he was misquoted and misconstrued, but it seems likely that he’s past his political prime and may be reshuffled out of the Cabinet later on. The Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, called for Clarke to be sacked at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday, thus securing Ken Clarke’s job for quite a while (until the public has forgotten that Miliband said anything, at least). The only thing that crossed my mind when I heard about it was, “What an idiot Clarke is!” He should pull his foot out of his mouth long enough to say, “I resign!”

The Queen visited the Republic of Ireland this week. She laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance for those killed during the Irish wars for independence from the UK. She gave one speech, which she began with a few words in Irish Gaelic, to the delight of the entire nation. She went on to say how sorry she was for wrongs committed by the British government in Ireland. The Sinn Fein mayor of Cork shook her hand and welcomed her to the city. She went to a stud farm (no, it was horses, all you with dirty minds. She’s 85, for goodness’ sake!). She seems to have charmed quite a few people in the Republic of Ireland, and this can only be a good thing. I don’t think she’ll be over there again anytime soon, as the security alone cost the Irish government quite a few million Euros. But the value of her visit is incalculable. At the Garden of Remembrance she not only laid a wreath, she bowed her head for a moment of silent reflection. The Queen has only once before bowed her head in public, when she bowed as the funeral cortege of Diana, Princess of Wales, passed Buckingham Palace on its way to Westminster. This is powerful stuff. When she bowed, she embodied the United Kingdom’s realisation that what happened in Ireland during Britain’s rule there often was wrong, immoral, and harmful to Irish people. It is hard to make amends to people long emigrated to the far corners of the globe, or who were killed in the Great Famine, or in the Troubles, but with one bow, the Queen has made it clear that as a nation, we are sorry beyond words for what our forebears did. It was a noble gesture. I am grateful that she made it in our names.

A newly-appointed flying bishop (AKA “Provincial Episcopal Visitor”, a bishop chartered to take care of congregations that are not happy to accept the ministry of women, or of bishops who support the ministry of women) resigned from the Freemasons this week before he is consecrated next month. There is a long history of suspicion of Freemasonry here in the United Kingdom, and especially in England. Secret societies are thought to conceal grotesque ceremonies and beliefs that are incompatible with Christianity. The odd fact is that Archbishop Williams, who is empowered to appoint flying bishops in the southern province of England, knew of this man’s membership in Freemasonry and, while “troubled” by it, did not require his resignation from the Craft. Once the bishop-designate was identified publicly as a Freemason, however, he resigned right away.

I confess here and now: I am a Freemason, and Master of my Lodge for a second consecutive year. There is nothing in either the secrets, the ritual, or the practice of Freemasonry which conflicts in any way with my Christian beliefs. Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1944 to 1961 and was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to meet a Pope in modern times (they now seem to have a season ticket to Rome and wander off there with great regularity), was also a Freemason, and was Grand Chaplain of the United Grand Lodge of England. While he was not a perfect Archbishop, he was on record as saying that it was “harmless fun”. I believe there’s a bit more to it, but as we define Freemasonry as “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”, it is a good way of explaining how to be a good person in terms that people can understand and connect with. There is no question of preferring another Freemason over someone who is not initiated. Any Freemason who was a judge and who let another Freemason off in a court case would, if discovered, be removed from the Craft. The secrets, if you knew what they were, are trivial and have meaning only in context; the signs, grips, and words are not used outside of the Masonic temple.

The bishop-designate’s resignation, however, seems to imply that there is something incompatible with Christianity (or, for that matter, other faiths) in Freemasonry. There is not. I do wish he had stuck to his guns and refused to resign.

4 Responses to “Some random thoughts for a Sunday evening”

  1. trawnapanda says:

    I’m not NEARLY as peturbed by the bishop-designate’s masonic status as I am at his bishop-designate status. Institutionalising gynophobia, providing purple shirts to poor dears who swoon at the thought of a priest with eew-ick-girl-cooties is FOLLY. the last three such bishops swam the tiber, they should not have been replaced. All three of them going at once was a heaven-sent opportunity to kill the position off. By providing flying bishops, the idjits in the CofE who authorised ’em in the first place have ensured that gynophobia will be significantly around for a century or more. that’s yesterday’s (or last century’s) battle in Canada (where we have four women (+2 retired) in bishops’ orders, two as diocesans.

    as to the rapture, I agree with you completely. I’m failing to come up with the actual quote, but there was some person in colonial America, in the provincial legislature (NH? MA?) which was in session when for some reason (the sky grew very dark?) people were immediately worried that the Lord Jesus was returning within the next ten minutes or so. Some were shouting that they should adjourn immediately to the church next door, and the person I’m remembering said, no, bring in lights. if the lord is returning, let him find us about our business.

    I think that’s the right attitude to have.

  2. chrishansenhome says:

    If and when the legislation authorising the ordination of women as bishops is approved, the flying bishops become redundant. To be perfectly honest, a lot of the “top anti-woman talent” in the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church has already donned its Speedos and swum the Tiber. They have now become part of the leper colony…er…the Ordinariate and the one clergyman who left our Deanery has already been reordained deacon, at a service with several other Ordinariate clerics where when there was a call for objections someone objected because at least one of the candidates is openly gay. The objector was silenced and hustled out. So much for Roman Catholic unity.

  3. leejean says:

    White on rice? Haven’t heard that before.

  4. chrishansenhome says:

    I believe it’s a US phrase, and probably an African-American one.