THE persistence of Christian Concern is really shocking. Its chief executive, Andrea Williams, put out a press release last week addressing “12 myths circulating about Archie Battersbee’s case” (Press, 5 August, 12 August).
The first “myth” was that “Archie was brain dead, according to his doctors.” But this is exactly what all the doctors believed, as the various court judgments make clear. To say that “no doctor ever diagnosed Archie as brain dead” relies on the fact that his brain was so badly damaged that the normal, baseline tests which even a brain-dead body could pass were impossible.
The next paragraph says: “Some doctors said Archie was ‘likely’ to be brain dead based on MRI and CT scans, but the same doctors said in the same breath that he had a 1-5% chance of making some recovery.” I have written to Christian Concern asking which doctors thought that that he had any chance of recovery, and when. At the time of writing, I have had no reply.
The press release then goes on to refer to Professor Alan Shewmon, an American flown in by Christian Concern, whom it describes as “the top expert in diagnosing death”, and who, it says, disagreed with the diagnosis of brain death.
A quick look at Mr Justice Arbuthnot’s judgment shows that Professor Shewmon hadn’t actually looked at the relevant scans: “Overall, I found his evidence interesting but where as in Archie’s case, the brain stem death test had not been able to be administered or relied upon, his evidence was not quite so relevant. Examples of ‘miracle’ recoveries again were not helpful. I noted that unsurprisingly he had not seen the scans in Archie’s case which showed a deterioration in the condition of his brain between 15th April 2022 and 31st May 2022. In all the circumstances, his evidence did not undermine the evidence I heard from the Archie’s treating clinicians.”
All that from just the first “myth” cited by Mrs Williams. But the last one of the 12 might be the most relevant. She says that it is “a myth” that Christian Concern makes money off these high-profile cases. “A case like this could easily cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. The family, Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre have in no way made money from this legal case. Nor have we received major funding from external groups or donors.”
How, then, was it all paid for? And who would have heard of Christian Concern without their assiduous publicising of their own lawsuits?
THE CRITIC magazine had an interesting meditation by Esmé Partridge on the witches of TikTok. “Look up #WitchTok and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of tutorials — mostly by young women — teaching you how to cast spells or summon pagan deities, interspersed with healing crystal hauls and vlogs about their latest otherworldly encounters,” she writes.
But suppose, in an age almost defined by its refusal to admit the supernatural, these children meet something nasty behind their screens: “In perhaps the most disturbing video within the genre, one young woman films herself with the caption ‘you were so into spirituality[,] what happened?’ followed by a series of images depicting humanoid shadow entities lurking in various rooms. Now haunted by uninvited paranormal guests, the young woman — who stares into her camera with menacing facial expressions to the growl of distorted electronic music — has subsequently given up on being ‘into spirituality’.”
The article continues: “Whilst supposed encounters with demons on TikTok can seem performative or even outright fabricated, we should still take them seriously as examples of what can happen when spirituality, bitterly divorced from religion, becomes trivialised and effectively profaned. . . It is only natural for young people to seek re-enchantment in a secular age which continues, if covertly, to separate the immanent from the transcendent. Without spiritual safeguarding, these impulses are all too easily misdirected.”
PERHAPS the answer is simply to visit a cathedral. The Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie, on the website of The Spectator, had a characteristically thoughtful piece denouncing tourist attractions in cathedrals. I know that they need the money — and, given the heating bills that they will soon face, they are going to need it badly. “It may be that deans and chapters have no economic choice other than to view these great edifices as simply a competing asset in a wider tourist market,” Fr Butler-Gallie writes.
But, he goes on to say, the purpose of a tourist attraction is antithetical to that of a cathedral. It becomes a tourist distraction: a way to occupy the mind and senses so that nothing else can get through — whereas cathedrals without tourists offer the opposite: a chance to listen to the silence, and to inhabit emptiness. “Cathedrals, at their best, can provide . . . well worn, healing, anonymised space, where men and women have sought a similar peace to me for centuries.”
This is, I think, a surprisingly common experience. A church without Christians has many attractions. But I doubt that there are any cathedrals outside London which have been so occupied by tourists that they offer in their recesses no shelter and no solitude for pilgrims.