There is a weekly newspaper from an organisation named The Salvation Army, and it is called The War Cry. As anyone reasonably conversant with British history will understand; the name of the organisation and of the weekly are both indicative of their origins; and that they were created here in the UK first during the times of British Empire.
The British Empire did make it possible for missionaries to flow out from Britain across the world and to work to convert native peoples to Christian belief and faith. The historical claims which decry this enablement of missionaries by the fact of Empire are for the most part unjust; usually resting their cases on how The Church in UK would often justify Empire via referring to her missionaries and their work and success.
The fact remains that today much of Africa and The far East is Christian, and solidly Christian because of these men and women missionaries doing God’s work, some of whom suffered and died far from home. The achievement is decried often by persons unsympathetic to religion and in particular often to Christianity. Yet when one is a Christian oneself, for good or ill, but in my own mind no doubt for ultimate good; the die was cast by these missions of The British Empire.
The Salvation Army and The War Cry as titles reflect that vein of Christianity named ‘muscular’ and which flourished duringthe latter years of Victoria’s reign and up to the start of The First World War. It was that vein of Christianity which gave us hymns like ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and ‘Fight the Good Fight’ and so on. The heirs of its influence today might be The Spiritual Warfare people in Christianity.
The inextricable link of ‘muscular’ Christianity to British Empire thus was manifested in the names of and the kinds of Church appurtenances which arose to help it on its way; hymns, books, organisations; movements; tracts etc.
Now amongst the poorer classes on Britain, and still going on when I was a lad, The Salvation Army had always been well-respected, loved even, as a defender of their welfares. It had and still has an illustrious history and even when not actively helped great support in and from people’s outlooks upon it. My own mother would bright home from a night out once a week both The War Cry magazine and its sister paper for children The Young Soldier for me to read. (The Young Soldier I believe is no longer published and has been superseded by a different title.)
Whether I was very young and not interested in the contents of these newspapers much I don’t remember or know; but some few things I looked up and read regularly; and then I discarded them. I was not then a Christian and perhaps much of it was lost on me.
There has always been in my time here in my home city a Salvation Army presence here. A drop-in centre and other charitable services are provided; hot meals; and a brass band which plays in public particularly during the Festival Days of the church; and recently has appeared more regularly individual members in their quasi-military looking uniforms treading the main street offering for sale The War Cry paper. And recently I have taken up readership of it once again.
Today I bought a copy onsale which holds in it an article about an alleged conflict between the subjects and domains of science and religion; the allegation being that in recent times has developed a mutual antagonism and some dismissive sentiment between the men and women of religion and the men and women of science. I say alleged because the person authoring this article is a professorial head of department of sociology and she is also a Christian.
For some years now she has been interested in and has carried out field research in this area of science versus religion; with an aim of hers being to try to establish a better look at how solid and sound the evidence for this phenomenon actually is.
The professor found different results in different nations; although she did point out that the sciences are fields of occupation which allow and even demand a larger migration and work in other nations; which means that she was in say Britain, asking Muslim scientists and Jewish scientists and scientists from The East and from Israel of no religion; in fact allsorts and a great miscellany of backgrounds and ethnicities. However in Britain, a nation like the USA in which there has been in the past twenty or thirty years a great stir made amongst scientists from the community science, an onslaught almost. Against faith; and in particular against the faith in Christ.
In Britain if I remember she found from conducting well-run surveys and sampling that about 35% of scientists her felt there was a conflict of some kind between the study of science and the study of religion. She calls this figure correctly a significant minority; but yet still distinctively a minority. Other nations on the whole showed that fewer % of scientists on the whole felt there to be any conflicts. She mentioned in-passing that in places like India the idea of conflict when raised with scientists there stimulated initially some puzzlement about the inquiry. Indeed she tells of a scientist who has mapped himself a prayer schedule he keeps to daily and which he finds helps him in his scientific works. He prays five times daily at set times.
The lady professor’s conclusion was that in Britain the public as a whole considered that there was a conflict going on between scientists and religious people; and that both parties to the conflict felt that theirs was a view of truth which was mutually exclusive of the other’s view of truth.
She went on to say quite rightly I think that since there had been several very high-profile science-biased figureheads to the New Atheist Movement here (people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and lately on TV we have seen amongst others the ubiquitous Professor Brian Cox evangelising for his world view of atheism); and that these people had been so successful in their onslaughts on religion in so far that they had left the British public with a false impression that all scientists were like them and that all scientists are in conflict with or against religion on the whole.
The situation she says, I do not believe I am getting her wholly wrong in saying this, is much the same in the USA; and I say that in as far as public attitudes go, once again, as we have noted regarding several others topics I have written about, it is perception that is all here in this case also.
Just as justice needs not only to be done; but to be seen to be done; so to but without the doing quite so much, the conflict, the beef, the New Atheist scientists have with in particular Christianity, has to be seen to be widespread and across the board, even though the lady professor’s work has given rise to serious doubts about the real situation between scientists and the religious.
Many scientists in Britain whom she interviewed were devout and faithful servants of Deity; a good number else were easy about religion and science rubbing along together. But the important points are these; and they arise out of this work done by the Sociology professor:
1. What does her work say about public perceptions of other ‘hot potato’ topics of recent years? Of the Brexit Campaign and debate and even the result of the Referendum? Of the great scandal of baiting immigrants here in UK coming from Europe to start new lives and many setting to with hard and honset work to establish themselves as good citizens; many others doing the jobs for a pittance which many of we British feel ourselves above stooping to do them.
2. What does her work say about media campaigns and pressure groups such as that of The New Atheist Movement; those pressure groups who are constantly seeking places whereabouts to knock hard again and again at the door for entry of their particular views or desires? The people on either side of the questions of the new runway – now for Heathrow; or of the new super rail link planned to link up the North; or of the newly commissioned Nuclear Power plant; all of which absorb so much airtime on the media and in the papers?
3. What does the lady professor’s work say about the new shifts in focus politically we have been seeing where we are decisions being made by popular vote which are major and sometimes life-changing decisions; about the general wisdom of relying on the popular will to make the right choices?
It seems to be quite clear in my mind that just as a regular guy or gal in the street is able to give when stopped and asked, at best a pretty poor account of The General Theory of Relativity, or of what Post Modernism is; so the general public has become familiar with the labels of our new century and of our new science, and with the labels for many big issues in general; that we feel because have heard their phrases recited so often to us as justifications or as persuasions, that we know what we do not about them.
We as a public in general are happy with knowing what things arise for us and for our use and to our benefit or detriment out of The General Theory of Relativity and out of Post Modernism; that somehow the programmes we know of space exploration are related in some way to Einstein’s work; and that ‘post-truth’ has in some way to do with Post Modernism; that is if we can get so far in connecting one of these things to the other?
We are not all scholars; we are not all buffs or nerds; many of us just rub along getting by and it’s altogether pretty hit and miss what we absorb as significant or as of interest or concern to be known.
When we pick up any item of news or discussion we tend to label views we hear and some of which we adopt or oppose we use our labels to communicate our meanings and feelings. Thus many labels never get unpacked to any great degree but become untutored justifications in themselves for our positions on issues which we feel something about. This is the general modus operandi of that vast general public who in the main take at best a passing interest in news and views and sadly too often for the sakes of scandals and of gossip, and so as to be able to indulge preformed untutored and unclear positions on issues.
The levels of education so many of us are offered and achieve leave too many of us unfit and unable to carry on a reasonable debate on an issue. As I have pointed out before in other places, all our practical educations coming from our parents; from our companions; from our workplaces; from our politicians; from our media; and from our businesses – to a man unanimously the lesson put forward and so willingly learned is to look after one’s own interests, and I am afraid to say, to have little regard to the interests of others.
Thus our political debate, on media shows and in newspapers is a sorry sad affair, wherein it is considered the right thing to do ever and always to trot out those arguments which support our various personal interests on any topic at issue, and without fail adopting those cart before the horse attitudes that urge us: ‘I shall defend my position and fit the arguments around that position.’
Thus one hears a toff with a plum in his mouth defending Private School education and its UK charitable status and VAT (Tax) free standing; whilst a working man, a Trade Union leader threatens to withdraw his members’ support of a political party leader because the Union man feels he and his people are not getting sufficient leverage in the party etc; all this just going along as usual as if it were just dandy that everyone should stick his or her oar into any discussion or issue and fight their corners relentlessly, so that he or she who fights hardest and so ‘wins’ gets the biggest slice of the cake.
This starting point from presumed confrontation is our model for doing near all the business of our lives; so much so that it rarely if ever move son or develops into an dialogue or any earnest seeking for a best solution; as if the best solution were always a fudge or else a dominant winner; and consolations all round for second places and also rans.
Given that so few of us take the trouble to inform ourselves of the issues we are often so passionate about (I myself I include here, I find nothing so soul destroying as digging into the backgrounds and reasonings on political or social issues; in the main because of this innate and ingrained free-for all tag match we go through every time.
I am not advocating no debates. Nor am I denigrating debate. I am denigrating the auto-pilot standard of always fighting one’s own corner; and never fighting another’s corner which is the better corner or the honest or good corner and admitting to oneself and to the participants that our corner is somewhat not quite acceptable as it presently stands.
Do this and people will look at you as some kind of village idiot; and many will quickly begin attempting taking advantage of you, to screw you and to screw out of you all you might concede and more if they can get it – so ingrained and perverse is our education on the topics of doing the right things and making the best decisions. Only when persons feel they have no stake in an issue they have been asked to decide upon is there any chance that they might begin to allow for others and so let in compassion and goodwill and attempting fair play to be a moderator of their rapacities and of their almost instinctual self-defence. Even then quite often not always.
This starting point from a position of presumed confrontation is a great evil in our lives; especially in the lives of those who believe in it and swear by it. It is a position which obviates any hope in these people themselves for the Kingdom of God to become their blessing and their deliverance; because no possibility for the Kingdom of God to prosper and to make progress is to be found wherever such a presumption principle is dominant amongst people attempting to settle a question at issue. By their preconceptions they are closing the doors of Grace upon themselves; and are stood firmly on the further side of such opportunity of Grace.
This is not me being bitter and spiteful with these people; such as me wishing such a closed out place to be upon them, it is I do earnestly believe a codicil in the natural law of God’s ordinance; inevitably so, since he asks us to ‘knock and the door shall be opened; ask and it shall be given to you’. All of us every one is invited; we have only to knock, to ask, and God makes no unsolicited intrusions into our lives, he is not a plastic brush cold call door to door salesman; ours remains a free choice to be or not to be, to ask or to remain bound up in our own self interests and fighting our corners day after day in a petty game of mutual futilities.
The rest of the verse is ‘ask and it shall be given to you, in full measure, running over.’ And elsewhere: ‘It shall be meted to you as you yourself have meted out’. God’s love is abundance; is superabundance; running over; and waiting behind the door for you to knock he stands in hope of providing it to you. But it is given as you yourself have meted it out; thus nothing or else ill meted out receives nothing or ill in return; whereas meted out in love multiplies itself exponentially – another ordinance embedded in the nature of existence – in oneself and in the persons given to; so that as we are giving we are receiving also running over, not wealth and position and power and voice and standing and ambitions and all the rest of the paraphernalia of the expected returns for adherence to a principle of presumed confrontation; but that sense of being alive and gratefully fulfilled, purposeful beyond daily routine – although daily routine is good – life is meaningful beyond life, and the worlds toys and trinkets seem just that – McDonald’s toys and trinkets from the pound shop from China – not even the creatures of a day in their endurance.
Thus The War Cry puts us right. Let us leave big political decisions to those whose paid employment is to get to the bottom of issues; even though they may in all likelihood fighting their own corners, and serving their own ends and so applying religiously their principle of presumed confrontation; they are severely limited in these evils by the knowledge they acquire by becoming familiar professionally with issues and questions to be decided. Knowledge is a provision from and of God’s, and it has the mollifying power to counter extremes of prejudice, self-interest and other vices; merely by its presence, and even in evil men and women.
It’s called Representative Government. It’s putting people on the spot to do (at least be seen to be doing) well for others. They want the responsibility. Let them bear it.
Our wishes are OK so long as they remain abstract goods; when we begin translating them into hard practical goods they can become as easily and as much evils and we are unawares of their potential for destruction among us. In this way we are not our own best friends nor others’. In a world which has so many presumptions of confrontation and so many legislated and ingrained lowest common denominator rules and preventions; such as our present world is; politics and public life is not picnic; and I have no idea why people choose to go in for it. It is corrupt and corrupting abrasive and corrosive of good character and of all values and virtues. This is how we have made it; even when we did not contribute towards its dreadful sickly state we have done nothing to prevent that sickly state which is now our norm.
Many big and noble words are talked on it in it and about it; but these words are cheap and butter no parsnips. Words for our politicians are weapons as much as means of communication; and I have little doubt that near every word spoken no extempore by all of the world’s politicians are premeditated very arduously and carefully to get, Odysseus-like, the best result for their factions and positions. This sharp practice is considered, like it was in benighted times of the Anglo Saxons or in Archaic Greece or in peasant subsistence lands today, wisdom and intelligence, when it is in fact crafty and deception, malevolent.
I read today something which appalled me on this topic. The book was about folk customs in one of the English shires: counties: Herefordshire. Fairies were considered by peasants to be evil doers – destroying crops, ruining houses etc. If a person said to a Herefordshire peasant that s/he had seen a fairy; the peasant would smile and ask kindly, solicitously, which eye of the observer had the seen it through. When the observer (encouraged thus) replied ;this one or that one; the peasant would poke that eye out with a sharp wooden wand he kept for the purpose.
This story was so horrible because a) of the deceit of the peasant; b) because of the futility of the pain and disability inflicted – even had the observer seen a fairy and fairies were dangerous; for the eye which saw the fairy to be poked out makes no sense even so. How might the eye blinded prevent fairies? c) the appalling sense that here is peasant wisdom in all its cunning and mistaken apprehensions; its cruelty and its sad absurdity; d) the terrible reversal of an easy pleasantry into a vicious intention committed and how it would have affected the victim so severely – regarding trust and goodwill towards fellow creatures.
The story has much of the dreadful character to be found in general daily use in high office politics as these politics are being played out in our present world. That is why I brought it up here – as an analogue – and an abysmal one at that.
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