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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In the Name of God, go! (a message to our MP's)

After Charles I, king of England, was executed in 1649, the Rump Parliament prevented Oliver Cromwell from convening an interim council to formulate a new constitution. Cromwell was the dominant figure in the victory over Charles I, but the Rump Parliament was a more conservative assembly than the body that had agreed to execute the king and abolish the monarchy. In 1653, after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, Cromwell's patience ran out. He dismissed the assembled members with this speech. The "shining bauble" referred to is the parliamentary staff, which must be present, by convention, in order for Parliament to sit.

April 20, 1653 - Oliver Cromwell, Republican usurper but in this matter a "good egg."

"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money; is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? is there one vice you do not possess? ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do; I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Frankenstein or Christ?

The story of Frankenstein touches something deep inside us. The longing for immortality so cruelly expressed in this enlivened cadaver and in all the other failed human resurrections from Tutankhamen to Lenin persists. The tragic aspect concerns what we know of all such human attempts at immortality from cryogenic freezing to elixirs of life, from transhuman cyborgs to Frankenstein zombies: they are all doomed to fail. Yet humans still strive to make themselves immortal and each fatal setback does not seem to put them off. What they and we resist is the notion that THIS life does not bear within it any seed of immortality, either accessible by science or religious experience. This life always has limits from life spans to the distant but nonetheless finite trajectory of the universe. All turns to dust in the end. We still of course labour and exult in the wonder of this creation for all that, and rightly so. A creation with limits still has inestimable value and our place and calling within it reflects that. In Christian terms though this creation is dying and any attempt at amelioration is conditioned by that perspective. If then we attempt to build a human centred utopia from the raw materials of this world we shall only see corruption. This is the inexorable logic of the Frankenstein myth. Eternal life cannot be moulded from the stench of human corruption. Immortality is from God or it is from nowhere.

Of course this is the point where Christians part company with humanistic fellow travelling idealists of all sorts. On this we insist that the resurrection of Christ is our ONLY grounds for hope in eternal life; His, that is God’s, victory over death which He has imparted to our humanity in the Incarnation and sacramentally through Holy Baptism and the Eucharist. As we die to ourselves in His death, his resurrection life breaks through into our own. As we drown the old Adam in the waters of baptism so the Risen Christ is manifest in our members within the Church, the Body of Christ, (no Frankenstein body here!). As we eat of the Body of Christ and drink of his Blood in Holy Communion we taste of the goodness of the Lord in the Food of Immortality. As we embrace Christ in His embrace, as we drink freely of the Spirit outpoured for us we find, as it were, a fount of living water bubbling up inside of us to eternal life. As we die to ourselves we are born again (or from above) to a life in God that has smashed death and rendered it senseless. As we surrender this creation to God we receive in its stead a New Creation where the waters of God’s regenerative and healing Love remake and renew all things.
So Frankenstein or Christ? No contest.

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