Saturday, July 18, 2015

Darkness Visible: an Evensong reflection

19 July 2015
Reading: Hebrews 2: 5-18

“Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”  (Hebrews 2:18)

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.” (C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters)

I was recently watching the History Channel which featured the Holocaust in Poland and it was (very properly) quite hard to watch.  On the one hand I was appalled that such things could happen and I kept comparing Europe just before WW2 with the Europe of the Eurozone crisis today. The ruthless subjugation of Poland with what has just been done to Greece.  In one sense such parallels seem absurd - of course.  Yet at the back of the mind lurks the intuitive knowledge – dark things have been done before; may they happen again?

On the other hand there was the banal ordinariness of how much of this happened.  Plans were prepared by very ordinary civil people.  It looked, in part ordinary, respectable, reliable – not uncivilized at all.  Yet, as we know, from such meetings emerged such killing factories as Treblinka, Belsen  and Auschwitz.  Or, more recently, even the horrible things that have been done to Greece in the European Union this week; to be yet again buried in utterly unsustainable debt, these dark things have been “moved, seconded, carried and minuted” by European leaders, pillars of the establishment.  It has on the surface seemed very ordinary, respectable if regrettable.  Fears and reservations may have been in the background but the European façade seems to have suppressed them.

Far closer to home a similar point can be made.  Church meetings are not exempt from bad things happening.  There seems to be something about the apparatus of a meeting that can seem to give permission or to legitimise ill-intentioned behaviour.  The fact that those around the table may be mostly wearing dog collars does not guarantee virtue, let alone love and compassion.  Dark political games and self-serving or malevolent agendas may still be played out behind a pious or at least respectable façade.

Invariably one comes back to the Christ who, as the author of Hebrews understood, is the Holy One, the God in our flesh, who endured the dark side of our human nature and understands our capacity for hiding dark things behind a banal and respectable façade. Lord, help us. Amen.

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