From Mrs Mary P. Roe
Sir, — We do well to heed the Revd Douglas Hollis’s recommendations for the Church today (Comment, 13 August). I think, however, that he has too rosy a view of countryfolk’s faith before industrialisation.
I knew one old lady who never forgot her village childhood, when four-year-old children playing on the green who failed to notice the Rector (the squarson) walk past, and stop their game to curtsey to him, would, on arriving home, be sent to bed to await the thrashing with their father’s belt which the Rector had ordered, to teach them a proper respect for the Church.
This was hardly a reflection of our Lord’s attitude to children, and that woman went into a church only three times after she left the village, one of which was for her funeral.
The Church’s failure to connect with working people is no new thing. Neither, sadly, is the willingness to accommodate the life and aspirations of professing Christians to those of the kingdoms of this world, despite our daily prayers for “a world inspired by the creative love of God”, as the article puts it.
There is one aspect of that world which Mr Hollis does not mention. Since the days of Constantine, Christians have declined to be bound by Christ’s commandment to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, etc. The result has been that zeal for mission has been expressed in the slaughter of the infidels during crusades and countless subsequent wars.
Today, we of the Christian West are still trying “to win hearts and minds” in Iraq and Afghanistan not by acts of mercy, but by killing and maiming thousands of civilians, bombing wedding parties, and poisoning children’s play areas with depleted uranium. Before such operations, the soldiers of these Christian countries are sent out with a blessing from a Christian minister. Ironically, such military actions are often referred to as “missions”.
Christians in politics need to use their skills of rhetoric and verbal persuasion to win the hearts and minds of those who disagree with them. Let us not forget the Resolution of the Lambeth Conference, seven times reaffirmed since 1938, that “war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and life of Jesus Christ.”
MARY P. ROE
Chairman, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
1 The North Lodge, Kings End
Oxon OX26 6NT
From Mr Gerald Atkinson
Sir, — So many good points on missionary calling from the Revd Douglas Hollis — but one glaring omission that for many outside the Church makes all the difference. In short, they deny, have forgotten, or have allowed themselves to be seduced into thinking that there is no God. So why bother with Jesus Christ, his teaching, or his Church? And if there is a creative force that you may choose to call God, prove it in this scientific age, or they won’t take you seriously.
Well, of course, God is not like that. He cannot be defined; so even the first step to proof is impossible. But, after 300 years of scientific inquiry, the evidence becomes ever more compelling. The incredible precision of the Big Bang, entailing just six numbers, which as the Astronomer Royal demonstrates, had to be right for the universe and us within it to exist; the immense complexity of plant and animal life and all that supports it; the elegance and sheer technical brilliance of DNA, RNA, and the double helix — are these and virtually everything that we know to be scientifically correct the product of blind chance?
No. The fact is that every line of scientific discovery shouts order, not chaos, elegance, not clumsiness, design, not chance. Yet do we use this fact? Do we work at equpping ourselves to convince others of it? Is it part of “our missionary calling” to do so? We tend to ignore it — and the Dawkins bandwagon gathers pace.
Laburnum Cottage, Heads Lane
Inkpen Common, Hungerford
Berkshire RG17 9QS