Naming the Powers

Our contemporaries have an addiction to power. They have isolated power from the question of for whom and for what purpose is it exercised? We can help by naming for them the powers that they have placed themselves under.

Our contemporaries say that they place themselves above all other relationships and forces. They are each of them entirely sovereign in their isolation. They establish themselves simply by asserting and defending their superiority to and isolation from all other beings. They establish themselves simply by rhetoric (to the extent that this persuades those around them) and by their own gullibility. We have to identify the forces that our contemporaries – moderns – put themselves under. They swap the truth of autonomy for a lie. They swap autonomy with relationship (with God, and through God with all other creatures), for autonomy without relationship (which is to say, with a relationship only to power, fear, emptiness and death). They worship the void. The void has entered them and is now hollowing them out.

Christians must expose our contemporaries as intensely religious people. We must blow open our contemporaries’ claim that they are immune to status anxiety, are above all forms of compulsion or commitment, of public acknowledgement of duty, of public declarations of obligations owed, or acknowledgement of superiority and inferiority. They are adamant that for them no relationship is mandatory, no acknowledge of relationship is obligatory. In fact, they are afraid of powers that they are aware of but cannot name and cannot come to terms with.  Their god is Power. In the cult, they give an unconstrained worship to this god of Power. They insist on what is not true, which is that Power is the god above all gods, that Power is above goodness and above relationship, and so it above all constraint, and that Power without restraint, must be followed and emulated, and so each other them turns themselves into an asocial being, renounced their own intrinsically social nature, and takes on the solipsistic character of someone used to being unchallenged, the autist behaviour of the man who can only scream, cringe and clutch himself when anything happens outside his own control. Because they are narcissistic, they are hysterical, panicked and superstitious.

Our contemporaries revere other gods. They are in hock to other powers. They acknowledge many lords and obey many masters. And they do indeed worship and venerate these powers. They are first puzzled then incensed when we do not join them. They regard it as blasphemy or treason when we do not the same public gestures of obedience. They adulation and loyalty to their gods turn to hatred of us who refuse to join them or to make the obeisance demanded by their cult. Because they refuse to acknowledge any ties, and so refuse to acknowledge any duty or any do any homage, they are involuntarily and unwittingly doing homage to the most vicious of forces, which are Power itself, and the worship of Power results in their bondage to Destruction and Death.  

It is for Christians to reverse this blindness to the other forces which have slipped in to our political culture and made themselves at home in the mindset of our contemporaries. They are incapable of seeing that these are powers with an agenda to reduce our dignity, to make us malleable, to turn us into deracinated individuals, stripped of all relationships, separable and interchangeable, so that we can be put in or taken out of whatever functions our power-brokers decide. These agents and mediators, our managerial class, all wrongly assume that the regime will reward their loyalty. They have the copy and simulacrum of individual autonomy, and they sustain it only by their refusal to see that they are bound by it to obedience to the powers and to their fear of Death, and thus their autonomy is sham.

They are having a breakdown. Their revolt is aimed at everything that they have inherited, every cultural and political accomplishment and institution that was there before them, and which they cannot take credit for. Their uprising against the world they find themselves in, which the goodness or even the objectivity of which they do not want to acknowledge, is a kind of grief that wants to tear down and smashes up and everything apart until it is exhausted and sits alone in the ruins. Their breakdown is bringing about a universal demolition. It is spiritual and psychological, and consequently it is cultural, political and economic. This is the result of our failure to see the goodness of what we have as good, as good enough, and to be content with it and so to express our contentment and even find a basic thankfulness. If we cannot make this basic attitude of thankfulness, we will finally be left only with this anger that will rage until it has broken everything and is left with nothing.

Christians must point out that the worldview of our contemporaries is characterised by powers that acknowledge no limits or restraint. They are powers without definition and so without any control. These powers have gone wild. There is no restraint. There is no modesty and no self-knowledge. This is an attempt to break all the restraints that make for a civil society, in which we acknowledge under one law, and instead set upon one another in a dog fight.

We must say that these claims are false and dangerous. They are extreme, unwarranted and destructive. They will bring about the unravelling of the mutual respect and civility, the rule of law and political culture laboriously built up over many generations to create a complex society and an unparalleled standard of living. All these are being thrown out, and we will all be poorer, culturally and in terms of security, life expectancy, and prosperity. They can all be broken and lost by a generation that, unable to acknowledge the goodness of what it has received, refuses to pass it on, and instead trashes it.  

So, we always need to give our answer in three parts, one in which we are individuals, each of us an agent responsible for themselves, in another of which there are powers and forces (such as the movement of crowds). These are partly identifiable in economic, political, psychological and other terms for which the social sciences can offer us descriptions. In the third account, a simply malignant force is pushing us towards ruin. It runs over all positive human achievement, apparently unable to distinguish good from bad. This force is sheer power, that is, power decoupled from goodness and therefore from all considerations of purpose, and rationality. It rolls forward like an automaton over all human achievement, and so it is a sheerly inhuman and anti-human force, that squanders and crushes everything that might become good, and it conceals and deceives, so that increasingly no one is able to say what is good. This is nothingness become an active force, it is motivated only by envy resentment and fury, and it wants to see every human come to an end, so that we vanish along with our culture and all our hopes, and are replaced by nothing. Its goal is emptiness. Christians sometimes refer to this as Death, towards which sin draws us, deflecting all that is good into its opposite. The individual, the self, that sees itself in enmity which sees itself threatened by every relationship and attempts to withdraw from them. So, we have first the individual, second, the forces that press around him and, third, sheer power, that results in the destruction of whatever it touches. In the Christian account this sheer destructive power is termed ‘Satan’ and these three forces together are referred to as ‘the World, the Flesh and the Devil’.  

What is going to happen next?

Our society is in the dark about one great issue. Its own continuance. It fears that if its standard of living falls, society itself will fall. This is the publicly unsayable thought which paralyses all public debate. It is not true of course. It is possible that we could undergo economic collapse and yet still remain an intact society. That is a matter of moral strength, which we can’t assess until we need it and then either do or don’t discover it. Perhaps we will find the courage on the day to hold together as a united national community under the rule of law.   

Since our standard of living depends on consumption of energy, and that means on coal, oil and gas, and (despite the rise of solar and wind power) at greater levels than ever before, it is imperative that energy continue to be cheap and available. That is our problem. Our energy is becoming more expensive because it is becoming more difficult to extract. We consumed first the energy that was easy to reach and so cheapest. The question is, is there enough productivity in our economy to afford to pay the price of getting this more expensive oil out of the ground? If we are unable to pay the energy extraction industries what they require for this increasingly difficult oil and gas extraction, that oil and gas will stay in the ground. The oil price has to go much higher if oil companies are going to be able to drill and pump oil. But if the oil price goes higher, our economy goes into recession and demand for oil falls back. There is then a loss of enterprises, of employment and of infrastructure and so a drop in demand. If enough economic damage is done, demand for oil may not recover. Then oil companies stop investing, exploring, drilling and soon after, pumping. Perhaps this is the moment we have arrived at. Our economies are now at stalling point. Every single transaction requires energy, but available energy has become too expensive for us, and now every single part of the economy has become vulnerable to a never-before experienced volatility.   

For a long while our society has faked its standard of living. Our long-term drop in productivity has been masked by debt, which has been the principal source of growth, for the last forty years. There is scarcely any home-produced energy, any industry, and certainly none of the industrial sectors that we rely on for transport and communications that could make our debt burden plausible. We are no longer able to procure the energy to maintain the productivity that supports the public sector and service industries which employ most people. There is not enough productivity to support our present standard of living.

Our leaders have, wittingly or not, responded by cutting a large proportion of the population out of economic participation. Bizarrely, governments have decided that the only essential workers are public sector workers, while the private sector, the small and medium businesses are expendable. Governments must serve their clients first, and buy off short-term trouble even though this means making things worse long-term. They have shut large parts of our population out of economic participation, as consumers and producers. It has been decided that these are unneeded and superfluous. They have effectively been made redundant. They are no longer able to travel and commute or even gather in groups. Measures have discouraged them from congregating in city and town centres, either in the pubs, clubs, gyms and stadiums and festivals of the sports and entertainment industries, which was previously how numbers of people came together and were able to exchange views face-to-face. Governments are dealing with our energy crisis by dramatically reducing our freedom to travel and meet, o work and support ourselves, and to discuss and oppose this power grab. Perhaps they have decided that it is imperative that there be no panic and no opportunity for protests and violence as this great economic slide becomes obvious. What is going to happen next? Here’s hoping we all find our courage.

Christianity helps you see

Christianity helps you see. You may have noticed that not everybody wants you to see because then you can see what they are doing and can challenge them. They prefer it if you have just a restricted and short-term view, limited to what is immediately around you. These people don’t want you to develop any long-term perspective. They want you to be easily whirled around and pointed in whatever direction they intend for you.

So, there are people who don’t want you to discover that Christianity helps you to see. They tell us that Christianity is a religion, and that religion is a bad thing, that Christianity is mistaken, and we can do without it. They want you to think that you can become mature, independent and far-sighted entirely by yourself. If that were possible, there would be nothing to learn from other people, or through books from previous generations. There would be nothing that could make you more far-sighted than you already are, and there is no particular device that will help you get further than you can on your own. They tell you that any viewpoint and any direction you take will be just as valid as any other. They know, that on your own, you will go round in circles, and remain powerless. You will be unable to see what they are doing, and unable to challenge them on it. The powerful don’t want to be challenged. They don’t want a world of informed, critical, articulate, ambitious people. They don’t want you to discover Christianity. They have told us that Christianity is a threat to us, whereas it is only a threat to them.

This profoundly mistaken belief that Christianity has to be put behind us has been damaging us all for a long time. The extent to which they have been successful, and people have believed them and not made use of Christianity, is the extent that people have become fearful and infantile. Earlier generations of our society were motivated by hope, which came at first or second-hand from the hope created by Christianity. But generations later, our hopes that we may become mature have gone. The result of rejecting Christianity is that the powerful are unchallenged, and that most of us are poor, gullible and fearful, because we don’t know that we can challenge them and we don’t know how to do so.

Christianity is the device that helps you see. Through it you can see, so that you are less confined to your immediate surroundings and so less wrapped up in the present moment. It allows you to anticipate. Christianity makes it possible for you to see that there are various world-viewing devices, various worldviews, and so makes it possible for you to choose which of them you are going to adopt. It makes it possible for you to decide that you prefer the world-viewing device that allows you to identity many of the forces at work in your environment, and so to see furthest.

If you employ Christianity, you give yourself the best chance to see the world as it is, and the best chance of seeing which forces are sympathetic to your freedom and your development and which are hostile. This make it possible for you to move towards whatever is sympathetic and to avoid whatever is hostile. You can move towards a greater maturity, a greater emotional intelligence, a greater toleration for unknowns, and so you are able to explore and discover. You are not stuck where you are. You do not confine yourself to your present situation and comprehension of it. You are not so emotionally brittle, you do not start screaming when you cannot control those around you and your world become unpredictable. You can learn. You can go forward. You have a mind of your own. You gain a brain. This is the advantage of Christianity. It gives you the critical intelligence to avoid hostile control. This means that the powerful are wary of those who have this advantage. They don’t like it, and they don’t like you if you have it. So one of the chief features which pervades the thought-world broadcast to us by our rulers is the belittling of Christianity. It is this permanent disrespect that Christians know well. The entire world is a contest between the Powers-that-be, on one hand, and Christianity, on the other. Once you discover this truth, you will shortly discover many others too.

You want to be strong. But the powerful don’t want you to be strong. They want you to be weak. They want you to follow the paths which will take you in circles, all avoiding those turning points at which you could enter any part of the great West tradition created by Christianity. They want you to listen to consume the entertainment provided for you. They want to keep you happy with whatever is trite and trivial. They want you to prefer banal music, for example, and not to take up the challenge of listening to that much more rewarding music because it is more demanding and so has higher hopes of you.

The gullible cheer at the official line. The easily-led join in the great belittling. Anyone who cheers when the powerful are belittling Christianity, or the culture that comes from it, or any dissenters, is making it difficult for themselves to escape into anything more worthwhile. The Powers-that-be will never notice your loyalty to them. They are not going to reward you. Those who cheer for the Powerful and worship what their entertainment channels tell them to worship, are frittering away their own chances. They either do not realise that they are trashing their own chances or they are just too afraid to resist. I have said that it is the Powers-that-be that are inflicting this suffocating constriction of worldview on us. But more than that, the Powers-that-be want us to identity with them. They want us to inflict this on ourselves, and on one another. They do not want us to see that they are different from us, that our interests are not the same as theirs. They want us to spend our lives to hanging on their words, and loving them while they extinguish all our hopes. They want us to worship them who want to get rid of us.

In 2021 the Church follows the Gospel of Mark

Here are some of the themes that appear in the early chapters of Mark

Jesus came proclaiming the good news. Good news for the poor, according to Isaiah 61, is freedom for the captives, release from darkness for the prisoners… and this is because (Isaiah 40) her hard service has been completed, her sin has been paid off… Israel has done her time, her deficit has been paid off, and she is out of debt, and no longer owned by anyone. The Lord proclaims a general release. He is commanding all tyrants to let go of the people they have enslaved. No contract of debt bondage is binding, they are null and void. Our masters don’t have the power to hold you any longer. You are no longer under arrest. You cannot be held. The authorities have to admit who they are holding – this is ‘Habeas Corpus’ – and release them. No more detention is over. No fines need be paid. We have paid them enough, since we have been paying interest that has been compounding faster than you can pay it down.  This is not merely news, but an announcement to all masters that we are no longer their slaves. The locks turn, the doors fly open, the warders have gone, the gate swings wide, our way out is clear before us. 

This entire morass is the consequence of man’s being hunted by man. This hunting and being hunted has become chaotic and destructive that it is difficult to say where blame lies, so we sum this up by the name Satan, the personification of the pursuit, catching and tying up of mankind, which is the of man’s unreadiness and inability to live with his fellows. Man is afraid, and afraid of them. He is panicked and lashes out. He is stampeded into retribution, trying to get his own back, to inflict pain on whoever inflicted pain on him. The limitlessness of the violence that unrolls one who just wants to see all mankind tied down and thrashing around forever, each only ever able to harm, and to hurt those nearest to them and so endlessly and helplessly to pass on the evil on, in a kind of living destruction. All Israel is sloshing around in the waters of chaos, over their heads in trouble, and with every moment making this worse for themselves.

The Lord wades in. Christ goes into the water until it goes over his head. This is the meaning of this immersion the river, this baptism with John. He hauls those he catches out onto dry land, one at a time, as it were hauling in a net, with people caught in it or clinging to it as though it were a long rope-ladder. Through all the events of the gospel of Mark we see Jesus hauling the people of Israel out of the water, the underworld domain of death. He pushes through the flood and storm into which the land and people of Israel have fallen, pulling people out, and dragging them to solid ground, out of this violence and turmoil. He cuts us loose from the folds of the endless vengeance, and so extricating us. The more we cling to this rope ladder he has thrown us or this net he is dragging behind him, the more we are pulled free of all the other coils of entanglement which have been holding down.

Since they are at Capernaum, on the shore of this inland sea of Galilee the Lord likens this hunting to fishing. The fisherman hunts an underwater creature and hauls it up to the surface. Fish don’t want to remain down there, in the dark. They want to be creatures that live in the open, in the air and light as we do. But at the moment, men live in dark dank environment, swimming through the slimy, treacly, glutenous environment created by their own vicious acts. They live in a world of revenge, in which everyone is permanently set against everyone else and so fear another.

These men, the apostles, are now going to be the rescue service, that drag us one by one out of this suffocating mesh of entanglements in which we are drowning. The waves caused by our own acts and our own irresponsibility are swamping us and whipping up a storm. Yet we still have the power to subdue the water, simply by calling out, ‘Lord, save us’.

Third Sunday in Lent John 2 Cleansing the temple

Exodus 20:1-17   Psalm 19    1 Corinthians 1:18-25    John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ …. ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem…  

The Lord has come into his city. We will follow him into his city on Palm Sunday.

Jerusalem is the place in which he has promised to make himself available, so that all nations can turn to Jerusalem and pray, appealing over the heads of their tyrants to the true God of all gods, and that the Lord will hear them. The temple is the palace into which anyone can come to have an audience with the king. It is also mechanism by which God’s people are made holy.

But the temple is not working. It is wrecking Israel and ruining God’s people. It has created the poverty that has rendered the people of Israel impure. Its sacrifices have been impoverishing the people until they are no longer able to appear before the Lord. The temple has become an anti-temple, a pagan sacrifice in which people are no longer made holy but instead consumed.

In theory each member of Israel would take his own animal to the temple, in order to demonstrate his own husbandry. The state of the animal would reveal the condition of his household. In practice, no one took their own animals with them to Jerusalem; everyone simply bought a prime animal from the livestock market at the temple. This made these sacrifices, necessary to anyone who wanted to come to the temple, financially ruinous. The sacrifices were intended to promote the good condition of the people of Israel, and so demonstrate their aspiration to holiness and their progress towards it. But in the first century, the system designed to promote holiness was creating poverty impurity, poverty and exclusion from the life of the nation. The mechanism of the temple had gone into reverse.

The temple is the place where the nation convenes and all its formal relationships – justice, education, political and constitutional life, economic life, finance and tax are carried out, all in public assembly. All the functions of citizenship and public life, all the various ministries of government take place here, in colonnades, accessible to all citizens. For the British, though, all these public services take place in the financial and governmental district of our capital, but their proceedings are in office rooms that are closed to us, communicated to us by a media only by a media more loyal to our governors than to us.   

In the first temple courtyard is a livestock market, a vast series of pens through which sheep and cattle are pushed. On one side are the financiers who issue the dockets, cheques, bonds and receipts that represent this flow of animals which is the national meat supply. Could it be that it is us who, innocent and gullible as sheep, are being herded by our governors? Are we the cattle that they are buying and selling? Is this all for the long-term well-being of our people, or are we being farmed and consumed here?

Jesus sees that the elite that runs the capital is consuming the people, the regime itself is destroying the temple, the nation of Israel. He drives them out. He does not give up on the temple though, but preaches and teaches there, and at the same time he establishes the neighbouring hill, the Mount of Olives, on which is the Garden of Gethsemane, as an additional courtyard of the temple in which he teaches his disciples. When arrested in Gethsemane, he points out that he was also publicly available in the courtyards of temple, teaching there daily. Perhaps our obedience to him demands that we condemn those who have seized power over our nation, and drive out those who are consuming our people.

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…

The Lord we see the Lord throwing the animal-sellers and money-changers out of the temple courtyard. He cleaned the temple so that it could perform its proper function of keeping Israel pure and holy. He realises that he is himself the true high priest who must re-establish the true worship and true temple, even if this is at some other site (Mount of Olives) within or just outside Jerusalem’s walls.

The cycle has worked in reverse to make the people unholy. The Lord puts it into forward gear, so that it makes holy the people, instead of making them poorer.

In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 

These various elements of Israel’s theology and worship had been hived off and captured and turned into the programme of competing religious parties are the parts that Jesus assembled and put back into employment.  Israel was not in charge of its own national affairs. But it has a certain amount of political and religious autonomy. Jesus saw that if Israel attempted to throw off the rule of Rome, Rome would retaliate by taking away this semi-autonomy. It would do so by destroying the temple and bringing to an end the worship that took place there.

Jesus taught that the true calling of Israel is to bear and put up with gentiles, and this means to put up with the political domination of gentile empires. In this way, Jews had succeeded in travelling across the empire of Rome and making a substantial difference to it.  Jesus warned that this coming destruction would be the act of God. God would act against Israel. This terrible outcome could be avoided if Israel recovered its true destiny as the holy people who held themselves above the violence of all other, gentile, nations. Israel was the innocent lamb. It could only flourish by recovering its holiness. The proper functioning of the temple was essential to this recovery the national mission. The political elite that that had installed itself in the temple was preventing the nation from recovering its identity and mission. 

The common and debased currency of Judaea was not pure enough to be acceptable within the temple, so coins had to be changed at extortionate rates into the coinage that was acceptable for offerings. In theory each member of Israel would take his own animal to the temple, in order to demonstrate his own husbandry. The state of the animal would reveal the condition of his household. In practice, no one took their own animals with them to Jerusalem; everyone simply bought a prime animal from the livestock market at the temple, and this made these sacrifices, necessary to anyone who wanted to come to the temple, financially ruinous. The system of sacrifices which were designed to promote the good condition of the people of Israel, and so demonstrate their aspiration to holiness and their progress towards it. But in the first century, the system designed to promote holiness has gone into reverse, and was creating poverty and keeping people out of the temple.  

Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple….

Driving the traders out of the temple, is just like driving the demons and alien spirits out of Israel. Access to Christ is free, not for sale. The whole creation is God’s free gift to all; no one should reduce access or charge for access to it. The Lord cuts down all the middle men who have inveigled themselves in and make a living charging the people of Israel for what the Lord makes available of them for free. What is always needed, now as then, is a Reformation, in which all the self-appointed agents, intermediaries and their hierarchies are chopped out.

In the trial and examination of Jesus, his interrogators, the Pharisees and Scribes will repeatedly ask – How? For if anyone one of us were to try such a thing, knowing it will not happen simply because we command it to, we have to seek power by gathering together the resources of manpower and material.  We have to take from one place in order to use in another. So how will Jesus do this?

This is the question. By what authority does Jesus make things happen? Will he make a clean sweep of the multitude of tax farmers and their ideological supporters, and will he inaugurate the direct rule of God, by which Israel will triumph over the gentiles and ungodly, driving them out and then take up her task, long promised to her, of subduing and ruling over the Gentiles?

The version preferred by the temple authorities is that Jesus is the front man of some very sinister demonic power. The alternative is that Jesus is identical with the true Israel of the prophets, he is God’s front man and thus he is God himself, acting for Israel to free her from all other divinities, desperate and pernicious.  They wriggle like eels on a line on the only answer that is possible. Things happen around Jesus by the authority of God. He is the power of God at work before us. It is in order that we are not confronted by a brute fact, but may be free, to follow or not, and so we may act only in faith, not forced to do so by any  irrefutable manifestations of power.

By what authority does Jesus act? By what authority does he refuse to act as a king and take charge, but instead, to the distress of disciples, Peter and Judas, presents himself as the candidate for punishment and then on the cross makes himself the epitome of sin and guilt?  By what authority does he insist on going through this discipline and punishment, this passion which any other created being would avoid? How can this one, publicly raised as a vile object of national revulsion, be God’s representative and God’s message? Has the God of Israel set himself against Israel? Has God set himself against man?

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…

How will he bring down this regime? Here in the temple he knots a whip and drives them out.  And in its place will appear the new regime of the rule of the Lord. By ‘this temple’ Jesus means that regime and that set of economic arrangements, which then in predatory fashion lived off the backs of the people of Israel. The people of Israel are preyed on by tax farmers, and left impoverished. In the Gospel of Mark this year we will see the Lord driving out many ambiguous forces, infirmities and forms of alienation. Here he drives out these parasites on the body politic.   

Here in the Temple there is a public showdown. Christ is going to engage these vicious masters, defeat them and wrest us out of their power. How is he going to do this? Not by fighting them as the world understands fighting. He does not raise an army, and this is the only occasion in which he even seems to raise his fists.  But so we may understand what is doing on he acts out in miniature the battle waged on the cosmic level. He makes a whip and goes in and uses it, driving the pests out, in the same way he drives out all the various pests and contaminations, unidentified and unconfessed, that hold down the people of Israel.  

Christ cleans the human body politic. This cleansing purge of the temple is the rapid cleaning of the body. The crucifixion is the throwing out of the parasites, the unclean spirits. Each of us is this temple, in which God dwells, and dwells with us. Yet each of us is filled with other needy, greedy spirits.  They are mediators who have interposed themselves between us, so that, as they insist and we believe, we can only deal with one another through their agency. Each of us is filled with these desperate and hostile spirits. And the Lord drives them out of us.

The life of Israel has become centralised on the temple, so all politics is a battle for control of the temple, to control the taxes and tithes brought to it, the tangible expressions of Israel’s worship. Having bought the loyalty of the political leadership, these money-changers insist that you have to pay taxes in the currency they issue, and which you are obliged to borrow from them. All economic business can only be done in the debased coinage, and this debasement has pushed Israel back into debt servitude, a new captivity. Israel’s future is hostage to their cult of centralisation and debt, the very opposite of grace.   Since Israel’s leadership has not been effectively worshipping some other Moloch rather than their own God, the people of Israel are in appalling condition in which we see them in the Gospel of Mark.  

Jesus doesn’t intend to throw out the puppet government or the occupation power behind it and doesn’t intend to set up a rival government. He believes that Israel must continue to submit itself to the hard school of foreign power. Having a master is not the worst thing. While the gentiles are in power Israel can be a good student and how to rule itself. Israel is not in a position to be master because Israel has not learned self-mastery. It has followed the law of the Lord which makes you free – regardless of whether or not you have a master over you, and regardless of how good or bad, or domestic or foreign that master is. Israel is in no position to rule the gentiles, for she cannot rule herself. Like Israel, we have to stick at our long and painful apprenticeship and there is no release for us before our schooling and our sanctification is complete. 

The Lord says that he can and will knock this entirely financial and fiscal regime down. This tower of Babel will come down, all at once, in a day. Then there will be silence for a day. Then, on the third day, he will build, a new in which the people themselves are the true economic product, in which the whole people of Israel, and all the peoples of the world with them, are able to grow tall in the garden of God. 

The Gospel of Mark

In 2021 the Church follows the Gospel of Mark. Let us look at the themes that appear in the earlier chapters of Mark

  1. The beginning of everything that God sent his Son into the world. This Son, and his sending, was prior to the world and created the world and now sustains the world, for the world is just all the people in it. The world is not only all the people in it now, but all the people who ever have been and ever will be. The world is made up of people. The world is this great assembly of persons. They are persons, because God considers them so and treats them so. And he insists that we do the same. The material world, nature, is just the means by which we are present to one another, it is the way we are together, here, present, touchable, visible and audible. We are present and tangible to one another because we have bodies, because the natural world makes and sustains these bodies. It is the natural world that makes us present to each other and sets us before one another. We are embodied persons. We are persons, and we are present to one another, because our bodies enable us to be so. Our bodies are good, and flesh and materiality and nature are good. Food and plant life and meat and compost and soil are good. Each is always being transformed into the other, each a stage on a cycle, and our existence and presence are the outcome of this cycle. The Son of God was sent because God always intends to gather this assembly, bring these many persons together into life and so the bring each other us into this good company, that we call the whole company of heaven. Our Lord makes this company known to us, person by person, both through the apostles Jesus gathers and so through Israel, from which he calls them, and then through the people who bring us to Jesus, our own friends and family, whom he has also made his witnesses. In Jesus Christ God intends us to be with him, and intends that we be together, happily and freely, and he intends that we both know him, and come to know them, willingly and freely. He intends to be with us, as we are with one another, and yet more convincingly, uninterruptedly, unlimitedly, without the interruption of death or of the evil that come from our fear of death.
  2. In this first chapter of the Gospel of Mark Jesus calls his people. He selects his team. This is the team that is going to take the good news of salvation out across the world. But it is not merely going to bring is news, but it will cut through and free us and save us from the entrapment into which we have all been driven, and driven one another.
  3. Jesus came proclaiming the good news. Good news for the poor, according to Isaiah 61, is freedom for the captives, release from darkness for the prisoners… and this is because (Isaiah 40) her hard service has been completed, her sin has been paid off… Israel has done her time, her deficit has been paid off, and she is out of debt, and no longer owned by anyone. The Lord proclaims a general release. He is commanding all tyrants to let go of the people they have enslaved. No contract of debt bondage is binding, they are null and void. Our masters don’t have the power to hold you any longer. You are no longer under arrest. You cannot be held. The authorities have to admit who they are holding – this is ‘Habeas Corpus’ – and release them. No more detention is over. No fines need be paid. We have paid them enough, since we have been paying interest that has been compounding faster than you can pay it down.  This is not merely news, but an announcement to all masters that we are no longer their slaves. The locks turn, the doors fly open, the warders have gone, the gate swings wide, our way out is clear before us. 
  4. The Lord calls them fishers of men. A fishman is a hunter who hunts fish. Christ is going to make them hunters of men, but of a particular sort of hunter. All men are hunted and have become prey, and all have been preying on others. These disciples are going out to find those who have been hunted and caught and are trapped in order to release them. All men have become prey and are hunted, and all have been caught in the trap. All of them are struggling, unable to free themselves, and by struggling have only ever become more entangled. The whole environment in which they live has become a kind of darkness and paralysis, a thick, clinging medium in which everyone is held down, and in which everyone is responsible for holding everyone down. In this world, everyone has only one aim, to get you back, to lash out, to wound whoever we can find to blame. In our distress we attribute guilt to anyone and everyone. All of us are thrashing around, caught, and yet lashing out, and so all of us making this mire worse.

This entire morass is the consequence of man’s being hunted by man. This hunting and being hunted has become chaotic and destructive that it is difficult to say where blame lies, so we sum this up by the name Satan, the personification of the pursuit, catching and tying up of mankind, which is the of man’s unreadiness and inability to live with his fellows. Man is afraid, and afraid of them. He is panicked and lashes out. He is stampeded into retribution, trying to get his own back, to inflict pain on whoever inflicted pain on him. The limitlessness of the violence that unrolls one who just wants to see all mankind tied down and thrashing around forever, each only ever able to harm, and to hurt those nearest to them and so endlessly and helplessly to pass on the evil on, in a kind of living destruction. All Israel is sloshing around in the waters of chaos, over their heads in trouble, and with every moment making this worse for themselves.

5. This is where our society is now going, back to a world of envy, viciousness and revenge. As long as our nation honoured Christ and understood that its own flourishing was the result of following him, it remained a civil society. People were not the helpless victims of the cycle of revenge within which all are helpless. Over generations it built up its record of experience about how to be responsible to one another, how to trust one another. But now, over many decades of despising and directing their aggression against Christ, this vast cultural capital has dwindled away, all spent, nothing to show for it.  Now it is sinking back into that mire in which everyone is stuck, in which all life is simply lashing out at other people who lash out at you, in which an entirely society is stuck in this vicious environment of turmoil. 

The Lord wades in. Christ goes into the water until it goes over his head. This is the meaning of this immersion the river, this baptism with John. He hauls those he catches out onto dry land, one at a time, as it were hauling in a net, with people caught in it or clinging to it as though it were a long rope-ladder. Through all the events of the gospel of Mark we see Jesus hauling the people of Israel out of the water, the underworld domain of death. He pushes through the flood and storm into which the land and people of Israel have fallen, pulling people out, and dragging them to solid ground, out of this violence and turmoil. He cuts us loose from the folds of the endless vengeance, and so extricating us. The more we cling to this rope ladder he has thrown us or this net he is dragging behind him, the more we are pulled free of all the other coils of entanglement which have been holding down.

6. The Lord calls these first men into this first military unit. They are selected. This is their recruitment and conscription. They don’t hesitate. They are now his troops. He will appoint twelve, one for each division, making up the full complement of the army of Israel. These men will go out into the predatory nations of the world and call out of them those who are going to be the troops of this army, a great company of witnesses. The Lord appoints twelve, one for each division, making up the full complement of the army of Israel. These men will go out into the predatory nations of the world and call out of them those who are going to be the troops of this army, a great company of witnesses.  They are going to be hunters of men.

Since they are at Capernaum, on the shore of this inland sea of Galilee the Lord likens this hunting to fishing. The fisherman hunts an underwater creature and hauls it up to the surface. Fish don’t want to remain down there, in the dark. They want to be creatures that live in the open, in the air and light as we do. But at the moment, men live in dark dank environment, swimming through the slimy, treacly, glutenous environment created by their own vicious acts. They live in a world of revenge, in which everyone is permanently set against everyone else and so fear another.

These men, the apostles, are now going to be the rescue service, that drag us one by one out of this suffocating mesh of entanglements in which we are drowning. The waves caused by our own acts and our own irresponsibility are swamping us and whipping up a storm. Yet we still have the power to subdue the water, simply by calling out, ‘Lord, have mercy, Lord, save us’.

APPEAL FOR THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD to Catholics and all people of good will

In this time of great crisis, we Pastors of the Catholic Church, by virtue of our mandate, consider it our sacred duty to make an Appeal to our Brothers in the Episcopate, to the Clergy, to Religious, to the holy People of God and to all men and women of good will. This Appeal has also been undersigned by intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, journalists and professionals who agree with its content, and may be undersigned by those who wish to make it their own.

The facts have shown that, under the pretext of the Covid-19 epidemic, the inalienable rights of citizens have in many cases been violated and their fundamental freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of worship, expression and movement, have been disproportionately and unjustifiably restricted. Public health must not, and cannot, become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world, let alone for depriving the civil authority of its duty to act wisely for the common good. This is particularly true as growing doubts emerge from several quarters about the actual contagiousness, danger and resistance of the virus. Many authoritative voices in the world of science and medicine confirm that the medias alarmism about Covid-19 appears to be absolutely unjustified….

Finally, as Pastors responsible for the flock of Christ, let us remember that the Church firmly asserts her autonomy to govern, worship, and teach. This autonomy and freedom are an innate right that Our Lord Jesus Christ has given her for the pursuit of her proper ends. For this reason, as Pastors we firmly assert the right to decide autonomously on the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, just as we claim absolute autonomy in matters falling within our immediate jurisdiction, such as liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments. The State has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church. Ecclesiastical authorities have never refused to collaborate with the State, but such collaboration does not authorize civil authorities to impose any sort of ban or restriction on public worship or the exercise of priestly ministry. The rights of God and of the faithful are the supreme law of the Church, which she neither intends to, nor can, abdicate. We ask that restrictions on the celebration of public ceremonies be removed.

The Covid Coup 2

The Covid-19 panic of 2020 is a coup. The ease with which has taken place shows us how far our political culture has crumbled away in recent years. The determination to sustain our financial system have required the prolonged concealment of truth and profound corruption of public discourse and political life.

Our governments have taken advantage of the global panic in order to enact authoritarian measures to cover up for the fact that the financial assumptions about growth which have sustained Western living standards are now collapsing. The Covid-19 panic measures have allowed governments to conceal the real crisis, the financial crisis, beneath, and so prevented populations from understanding the extent of the collapse and from understanding their own responsibility, as well as the responsibility of the financial sector and governments, for this collapse.

First, in this coup the medical industry and pharmaceutical corporations have taken control of government. The stock prices of pharmaceuticals, and Big Data, have been holding up stock markets, and the bizarrely over-valued stock market has been sustaining the belief that all is well with us and we can continue to borrow and spend. Their vaccination and tracing projects are intended to regulate which of us will have access to employment and public life.

Then this is also a coup by the public sector, directed against the private sector. Government no longer wishes to acknowledge that it is dependent on the national working population. Governments have divided the population into essential workers and non-essential and acts as though only government employment is essential. They think that they can do without us. They believe they can take economic activity and employment away from a large proportion of the population and yet expect their own prospects to remain the same. But government is dependent on a free-functioning economy. When government thinks it is more essential than the economy that supports it, the parasite is endangering its own host.

An economy is the most complex integrated man-made organism on the planet with billions of inter-dependencies. Its complexity is understood by no single human. That’s the beauty of it. Politicians can’t fathom it or understand any part of it, usually because they’ve never produced anything of value that needed to be marketed and sold. Trying to make adjustments to it will continue to cause unimaginable problems. Governments find it impossible to allow us all to manage our own risk. They cannot do because they cannot resist the demands made by those who do not want, or do not know how, to provide for themselves and who have no concern for their own freedom or dignity.

The West is failing because it lacks sound money. Unlimited currency means unlimited government, unlimited debt and servitude and eventually limitless collapse. Secondly it has replaced markets, in which everyone shares some level of risk (and so has their own dignity) with massive central planning and crony socialism. Markets reveal the truth of values. Central planning attempts to repress the truth of values.

Globalism is the belief that we in the West do not have to work for ourselves to produce what we consume, for it believes that we can give that task to distant Asian populations that are driven by their masters as a slave society. We can benefit from their labour without having to acknowledge their servitude. The result of our willingness to buy from them and export our industries to them is a long-term loss of economic power. We have given away and so lost the skills by which we once supported ourselves, and so we have made ourselves vulnerable. The consequences are becoming clear now. Globalisation has left us without industries and so without skilled work and good wages. The world has turned into a globally-coordinated command economy. One inevitable result of the centralisation and collectivisation of our economy is that there will now be shortages and failures of supply, and reducing demand, no goods for customers and no customers for goods. The global financial system suffered a new financial heart attack in autumn 2019 when it suddenly turned out that US government debt was no longer valid as collateral for the loans by which they could meet the interest payments on all previous loans. There just isn’t enough real economic growth to be able to make these interest payments.

Governments cannot stop this depression and deflation. Money printing transfers wealth from savers, the holders of existing money, to the holders of the new money. It is a form of theft. Quantitative easing is, in the real world, deflationary because it signals to markets that the central banks are so scared of the future that it cannot be trusted to market forces. This feeds the fear and causes people to hoard money, thereby exacerbating the cycle.

The government response to the waves of fear (Coronavirus, BLM and other manifestations of cultural revolution) has revealed our social fragility and low morale. There has been no public resistance to these new restrictive powers that are now driving us further into isolation from one another. If we allow our governments to control our life and ability to assemble, we will be unable to talk and debate with one another, to be informed or reassured by one another or decide on any course of collective action.

Of course, you and I will live on in Christian freedom, always holding out the gospel and encouraging people to walk away from the gods of the present age. We will treat the present regime always in the light of the limited authority of its true mandate. We will decline to give it the worship and obedience it demands, and will continue to meet together in public to worship the one true God.

The Covid Coup 1

This is going to be a very difficult year. The coronavirus and the return of the credit crisis are two immediate reasons for this.

Last year it was obvious that the financial markets were in crisis again. The reality of our financial situation ? for individuals, for businesses and for the nation ? has become more vulnerable as the debt situation has got worse.

Our national debt has increased beyond all expectation that there could be enough economic growth to be able to make the payments on this debt. All advanced nations have sunk deep into utterly unsustainable levels of debt. No one believes that this debt load can be managed, that interest payments can be met. The markets have lost the ability to challenge governments and central banks by selling currencies or stocks. Stockmarkets, on which our pensions and unemployment benefits depend, are up only because central banks have been pouring new credit into them in order to prevent them from crashing. These banks have been creating new debt, to function as new money, at an unprecedented rate. Nonetheless this money is vanishing as debt is paid down, so there is a liquidity crisis – no one has any cash.

The emergency measures have gone on longer and vaster than ever before. Central banks have prevented markets from establishing real values and letting the truth of our situation from emerging. We have avoided recognising how impossible our situation has become. This long emergency intervention by governments and central banks has concealed our situation from us. We have been borrowing, but since we have not achieved any growth, we are unable to repay but have simply been taking from future generations. Our borrowing has funded our present consumption, not gone into useful investment. No new source of energy has emerged.

No government, media or population wants to hear this. Those in authority understand that their remit is simply to conceal from us the truth of our economic situation.

But we Christians are determined that truth must always be revealed. The long suppression of truth is one reason for the crisis. A reckoning is not only unavoidable but it is good. Christians offer truth by asking questions of governments and media, and so letting the contradictions in their claims become clear. We do not set out policies or one political approach. We ask questions to all the assertions and assumptions that express the worldview of our leaders and media. We do not try to have the last word on any subject. But we do not let anyone assert their view without challenge. We do not believe that the way things are is the way they must always be. Christians do not silence one another or refuse to allow questions to be asked. There are no forbidden subject areas. We are responsible for calling the mighty to account and for pointing out to our own generation the consequences of its long self-deception.

It would be a relief to see our situation with greater honesty, if our nation could begin to recover its sight and is able to admit to itself that endless economic expansion is over. Our single greatest deception has been our assumption that economic growth will continue forever, that growth is the norm and that we will soon return to it. But there has been no real economic growth for many years. Debt-fuelled ?growth? is not real growth, when the burden of interests payments grows ahead of real productivity. We should consider whether the economy and standard of living we have known are now gone for good. England has slipped into a long Lent, a time of passion, fasting and decline, but it has been undiagnosed, because we have not named it as such. Truth is the only medicine and truth can only emerge through public debate and judgment. ?

Candlemas

Luke 2.22-40

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.  When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him

Presentation in the Temple

They brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord.

They offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord., a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons

The Lord wants to see us, and so he commands us to come. We go to his temple, the meeting place at which has agreed to make himself available to his people. As often as we turn up, he grants us an audience, listens to us and looks us over. He wants to see how we are getting on, so he invites us to come and make our report. We take to the Lord some sign of what we have achieved since we were last before him. We take a representative sample of our livestock, because this is evidence that we are good stockmen and managers. We bring some representative part of what the Lord has given us so he can see how it has grown since last time. If it has flourished, he can see that we are good stewards, capable of handling what is entrusted to us well, and now perhaps worthy of more responsibility. The health of this single animal represents the health of our entire holding.

The animals brought into the temple represent sons and all the other members of our household. Our own sons and servants may accompany us, and perhaps the Lord can see that we treat our servants as though they are our own sons. Animals dispatched back to heaven are messengers from the present generation of this household to ask for another generation for this household, so that it has a future.