“It’s about walking with them on the journey. That’s where we meet God.”
Bishop Michael Bird is quoted in the December issue of the Anglican Journal. I opened the Journal just as in a kind of retreat I had heard Bishop Gordon Light describe how Advent is a time of being in the astonishing darkness, the void in Genesis, upon which the breath of God moves. We learned to cherish the darkness, as being where we are placed in our vocation, yet in confidence that
darkness is not dark to You
the night is as bright as the day:
darkness and light to you are both alike. (Psalm 139)
After I sat and stood and sung in that retreat, I learned that in Toronto some 2600 people had gathered to witness debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens. Two thirds of those present and who knows how many of those witnessing the broadcast, had declared that Hitchens won. Poor Tony Blair, doing penance for the iniquities of his regime, advancing boldly into his next career with his spiritual pants down. His vulnerability is well placed for a start to his new spiritual career. He cannot expect sympathy from the hard-nosed rationalists of so-called humanism.
I have deep respect for these “humanists.”As a category, they are better acquainted with the details and records of faith, than the average believers. With evangelical fervour they cling valiantly to their bad news. In part, their bad news comes from bad gospelling on the part of Christians who have not practiced to think. Philip Appleman has a good little poem at the end of which he prays
before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.
The humanists of that sort are not the barbarians as the Christian gate: they are ours, our very own, our scientists in the Perimeter at Waterloo (whose Waterloo will it be?); they are our children and our parents and our friends; they know How the world works, but they doubt Why.
had it been an adversary that taunted me,
then I could have borne it;
or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me,
then I could have hidden it from him.
But it was you, one after my own heart,
my companion, my own familiar friend.
We took sweet counsel together
and walked with the throng in the house of God. (Psalm 55)
After our own hearts the thinking but disbelieving throng are looking too for their heart’s desire, and they too are shaken by the very treason of the intellectuals(Le trahison des Clercs, Julien Benda, 1926,1946) which inspires them. Until we sit beside them in the counsels of doom, feel their agony of disbelief, and see the glory they find in a rationally ordered, (but NOT designed!) universe; till we are ourselves seen to be wounded and vulnerable as they indeed are in the chaos of faithlessness: only then can we discern God in their journey.