Islam, Totalitarianism, and the ‘catastrophic spiritual ruin ahead of us’
Rod Dreher has posted an interview with Rev. Peter Sanlon, a young CofE pastor, over at his blog at The American Conservative, which is startling for its unflinching honesty and penetrating insights concerning the frightening rate of the post-and ever more stridently anti-Christian sentiment sweeping the West, and the immanent collapse of establishment Christianity as a result.
Rev. Sanlon identifies three movements, which he states are “certain to sink the ship”: “Radical sexual gender ideologies, Islam, and governments’ totalitarian instincts.” How he describes the dynamics of these three forces shows he has thought deeply on contemporary trends, and is not spinning hastily composed conspiracy theories.
It may well be the case that the Orthodox Church, due to our smaller numbers, may fare better than mainline Protestant denominations, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholicism. On the other hand, because Orthodoxy is by its nature more traditional and less subject to change with the times, it may be especially singled out and targeted by the forces of the spirit of Antichrist, as described in the most significant Christian book of the 21st century so far.
I cannot do justice to Rev. Sanlon’s incisive and prophetic analysis, and urgently recommend you read the entire interview. Key excerpts below. I have made a few comments, which are bracketed and not indented.
Christian Life In Exile
by Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, March 5, 2018:
DREHER: Dr. Sanlon, you’ve mentioned to me that the situation for faithful small-o orthodox Christians in the West today is a lot like passengers on the Titanic refusing to believe that the ship is sinking. What do you mean?
SANLON: The Titanic was believed to be the ‘unsinkable ship’ – yet 1,503 souls perished in the icy Atlantic waters. The designers, financiers, media, crew and passengers held that the ship was unsinkable — and therefore were unable to consider or prepare adequately for her sinking. People are shaped and formed by their beliefs: if you believe something cannot occur, you will not think about it or prepare for it. This is all the more true if the thing you believe cannot happen is something that would be deeply unpleasant to you.
|“I do not believe the Church itself will be sunk. What I do mean is that the public, easy, culturally acceptable way we do church is sunk.” — Rev. Peter Sanlon|
The human heart has an astonishing capacity for self-deception, and together with those who are similarly disposed we have almost infinite abilities to participate in mass delusion. Consider how the shudders of the Titanic liner impacting the iceberg were dismissed as insignificant. Those down in the hull of the ship could see water pouring in — but those in the restaurants and cabins above them would not believe warnings. Those bringing the warnings were uncouth, less cultured, not as intelligent — and crucially theywere bringing warnings of tragedy that were unpalatable. The mind rationalizes what the heart desires.
What then do I mean when I say that orthodox Christians in the West are like passengers on the Titanic?
I mean that the Church in our Western nations has already hit the iceberg. Water is flooding into the hull — the ship will sink. The grinding judders of our ship impacting the iceberg have been felt — but the majority of Christians will do what the Titanic passengers and crew did — explain the evidence away and refuse to help one another prepare to save one another’s spiritual lives.
The iceberg that has has ripped open the Church is composed of not frozen water, but three things. Radical sexual gender ideologies, Islam and governments’ totalitarian instincts.
Why is it that these three movements are so certain to sink the ship? The reason is that the mainline churches in the West are deeply compromised. Over many decades our leaders have fostered the hope that by political action, legal efforts or even by embracing the cultures’ ideologies in these three areas, that it can prosper or survive. This has severely weakened the Churches and leaves us unprepared for the future.
[Numerous examples of Orthodox hierarchs, pastors, and educators being so compromised in the above manner can easily be cited. The excessive deference to — and even embrace of — Islam is chronic in academia and among some clergy. One Orthodox hierarch (recently reposed) told a clergy assembly that Islam was “90% the same as Christianity”, this despite the fact that the Koran is filled with statements from Allah denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, denying that he was crucified, denying the Holy Trinity, and commanding violence against Christians unless they either embrace Islam or submit to its rule and pay the jizya (poll tax). Orthodox professors at prestigious universities routinely defend Islam against criticism, obfuscating its 1400-year history of bloody jihad warfare against Christians and the world, asserting that “Muslims and Christians worship the same God”, again, in direct contradiction of the anti-Christian statements in the Koran. Thankfully, there are in North America some brave voices, both clergy and laity, writing and speaking and warning against Islam, and equally thankfully, their Orthodox bishops have afforded them the space and grace to do so.]
DREHER: Help American readers understand what the situation looks like for UK Christians. It is hard for many of us to imagine that the country that gave us C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien could have turned so hostile to the faith.
|Rev. Peter Sanlon, Church of England, is warning us. Will we listen?|
SANLON: It is important to explain that I do not believe the Church itself — in the sense of God’s people — will be sunk. What I do mean is that the public, easy, culturally acceptable way we do church is sunk. We face a situation where, short of supernatural intervention, the Church is moving into exile…
“The mainline Churches have so compromised that they are no longer willing to teach things that run counter to the culture’s deeply held views.”
It is always the case that societies have many people who reject the beliefs of Christians. This is different. British people in their sixties recall that when they were twenty, many thought Christians were ignorant due to their ‘unscientific’ beliefs.
Today, people in their twenties think Christians are not ignorant, but evil and dangerous due to their inability to commend the radical sexual ideologies, Islam and further government control of life’s details. People who are evil must be silenced, protected from themselves and prevented from infecting others with their beliefs…
It may well be that, as Os Guinness argued in his book The Gravedigger File, that cultures which were once deeply shaped by Christian beliefs turn upon them with a deeper ferocity than cultures that never had them. Perhaps. The UK has turned deeply and aggressively against public expressions of Christian faith because the mainline Churches have so compromised that they are no longer willing to teach things that run counter to the culture’s deeply held views…
“Extremism is defined [by governments] very vaguely, such that it can catch up not just Islamic terrorists, but also Christian parents, Jewish schools and even people who take certain views on global warming!”
It is important that orthodox believers analyse the reasons they are tempted to deny the nature of the challenge faced by the Church – we face powerful ideologies allied to governmental force and compromised mainline denominations.
The forces arrayed against real Christian belief are an echo chamber. So a civil servant told me how frustrating he finds it to see that LGBTI campaigning groups receive taxpayers’ money — and they are then consulted by the government on how to improve the issues they campaign upon, and then paid to deliver the training they say addresses them! One cannot get much more of an echo chamber than that.
“We need to relearn what it means to be a Christian community that suffers, is marginalised from the mainstream culture and shares a quality of supportive love together.”
The consequence is that the views are every more deeply ingrained. Doubtless the fruit of similar alliances will be seen in America in the coming years. One can analyse all this from a psychological and political standpoint – but in the end believers need to wrestle with the spiritual realities. We need to pray, ponder scripture and relearn what it means to be a Christian community that suffers, is marginalised from the mainstream culture and shares a quality of supportive love together.
[This sounds like something Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim Rose of Platina would say. His constant emphasis was on the importance of “suffering through” and being crucified with Christ in order to truly grow in the Christian Faith and the Life in Christ. See the excerpt at bottom for an extended quote from Father Seraphim.]
“Orthodox Christians are going to have to come to terms with the speed at which governments are beginning to legislate against Christian beliefs, and the way that is intertwined with views of Islam.”
Another key lesson is that orthodox Christians are going to have to work hard to come to terms with the speed at which governments are beginning to legislate against Christian beliefs, and the way that is intertwined with views of Islam.
In the UK we see this manifested in the PREVENT Strategy, a government project to address ‘extremist’ beliefs. Extremism is defined very vaguely, such that it can catch up not just Islamic terrorists, but also Christian parents, Jewish schools and even people who take certain views on global warming! Rod Liddle wrote about the insanity of this situation this week, but of course it has been detailed before, in George Orwell’s novel 1984.
Last week the head of Scotland Yard said that courts should remove children from extremist parents. That’s a terrifying thought given how unclear the government seems to be about what extremism is. The head of OFSTED (government schools inspection body) has accused a mainstream evangelical organisation of being extremist.
DREHER: What kind of future do committed Christians have in the British public square?
SANLON: For a few more years there is in England the opportunity for some brave individuals to speak publicly on matters of contentious Christian faith. But Exile has begun and it must get far worse before light can dawn again. In my view, faithfulness means not asking how many more years can we get a comment on TV about a Christian belief, but preparing people to keep loving Jesus and one another in the coming years when it will certainly not be possible to speak so publicly. The ‘love of many will grow cold’ (Mt. 24:12) and the question Jesus asks the Church in both England and America is ‘When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?’ (Lk. 18:8)
DREHER: My belief is that… Christians would be foolish to place hope in a political solution. Indeed, the great failing of Christian conservatives over the three decades has been to focus their efforts on winning political and legal influence, even as the culture shifted radically towards the left. What do you think?
SANLON: The challenge facing the Western church is far, far bigger than one of human politics… For us all this is utterly irrelevant and has not helped us because the forces arrayed against the church are spiritual and have already irretrievably poisoned institutions at the heart of schooling, college, health care, human resources, media, law and government.
The great enemy of the Church is the most skilled deceiver of all. He would be delighted if Christians trusted in a earthly political leader to rescue them from the coming crisis, because that will blind us to the need for spiritual solutions that are local, small, quiet and more shaped by the suffering of Christ’s cross than any government’s voting system. Psalm 146:3 warns, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.”
Blessed Father Seraphim Rose on being crucified for Christ
“Let us not, who would be Christians, expect anything else from it than to be crucified. For to be a Christian is to be crucified, in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time. His life is the example–and warning–to us all. We must be crucified personally, mystically; for through crucifixion is the only path to resurrection. If we would rise with Christ, we must first be humbled with Him–even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.
“And we must be crucified outwardly, in the eyes of the world; for Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and the world cannot bear it, even in a single representation of it, even for a single moment. The world can only accept Antichrist, now or at anytime.
“No wonder, then, that it is so hard to be Christian– it is not hard it is impossible. No one can knowingly accept a way of life which, the more truly it is lived, leads more surely to one’s own destruction. And that is way we constantly rebel, try to make life easier, try to be half-Christian, try to make the best of both worlds. We must ultimately choose–our felicity lies in one world or the other, not in both.
“God give us the strength to pursue the path of crucifixion; there is not other way to be Christian.”
Explore more writings and sayings of Father Seraphim Rose here…