Sunday, October 8, 2017

taking control of the narrative

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today presents us with a case of a false narrative that is promoted by the powerful and which is commonly accepted versus the truth which is denied and rejected. The false narrative in question – fake news to use a phrase which has entered into common usage – is that the religious leaders of Jesus’ time are Holy Men who are doing God’s work in the world. The truth, as our Lord lays out in the parable of the Wicked Tenants, is that they are in fact doers of evil, and very great evil at that, and are very much opposed to doing God’s will – so opposed, as Jesus prophetically tells them, that they will even kill the Son of God himself if they think it is to their advantage to do so.

It has always been the way of the powerful to try and control the narrative, the story, and present things in such as a way as to justify their actions – and, of course, demonise those who oppose them. We may look to the Roman Empire of our Lord's own time for an example of this. There excuse for endlessly extending their territory was what they called the 'Pax Romanun' – Roman Peace. They did not act for the sake of power or wealth; no, their aim was much nobler, to bring peace and civilisation to the barbarian lands around them. The fact that they did so at the point of a sword, that the lands they conquered had often been quite peaceful lands before their arrival with civilisations far more ancient than their own, did not seem at all ironic to them; and that wealth and power came with their occupation was a mere accident of trying to help their less fortunate neighbours.

The false narrative of the European Colonial powers as they carved up the Americas, Africa, and Asia among themselves was in a similar vein. They did what they did for the benefit of the people whose lands they invaded, and whose natural resources they appropriated. We are not taking, they told themselves and the world; we are giving – giving civilisation and education, giving heath care and sanitation, giving roads and railways, giving unity and stability and peace. Naturally this comes at a cost … the cost of the crops of your land and the minerals under it and the labour of your people. But we make great sacrifices ourselves to bring you all this – we must live in your foreign lands to oversee all this … or at least our soldiers, drawn from our own lower classes must do so, and some few of our own elite classes to keep watch over them and you … and if some wealth makes it way back to own our own shores as a result, well then we deserve it, we have earned it, it is a small price for you to pay for something you never asked for in the first place.

These examples are, of course, historical: one from ancient days; and one from the more recent past. But what of our own age? Well one false narrative of the time we live in, one that should be of particular concern to us as Christians, is the myth that is heavily promoted by secular forces that our faith is not of Divine origin, but rather it is something that has been invented by men.

This, of course, is something that they are inclined to believe because most of them do not believe in God in the first place. To them God and religion is simply something by made up by some men in order to try and oppress others. And naturally since it is only a product of the human mind, it is something that can be changed at the whim of man.
Anything that they do not like, particularly anything that acts to put restraints on their sexual activities, can be cast aside.

And sadly there are many within the Church, who even though they do believe in God effectively act as if the teachings of the Church, the Church we must remember that was founded by Christ, are something that were invented by man and can therefore be changed. They find it difficult to face down the challenges that secular atheism brings with it; and so even if they will not deny God, they will deny the teachings he has given us as laid out in Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Traditions of God's Church. They are seduced by the culture around them; and they become more concerned, as St Paul puts it in his letter to the Galatians, with pleasing men rather than God.

It is easy to understand why. The forces at play in the world around us are powerful. And while we in the Western world do not face the open persecution and even martyrdom that Christians do in so many other parts of the world, we do face what might be termed soft persecution from the secular culture: our values mocked and called old-fashioned; things sacred to us ridiculed and even treated sacrilegiously; our opinions scorned and told they are something we must keep private and in no way allowed to affect how we speak in public debate and especially how we may vote.

However, we can not allow this to intimidate us. It is not the Christian way. And I can say this because we know this is not how Christ acted. When he was faced with the false narratives of his day he spoke out against them. And he did not fear to do so even though he knew it would cost him greatly. He laid down his life for us; and we in return can endure the mockery, the anger, and the dislike of those who hate God and religion for his sake and the sake of making his Truth known in the world. And I pray that all here will do until the end of their days: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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