Blessings are conditional. However we think of them, and wherever we think they originate, blessings are gifts – special graces – which we can accept and discard. That is in our gift. We have the right of refusal. Blessed with love, we cannot take our lovers and loved ones for granted. We cannot take without giving in return. The gift of love is not a certificate of ownership. Likewise, the blessing and gift of life is conditional. Its continuation and renewal always and everywhere depend on our generous acceptance of the gift and our loving care for the blessing.
But how does one go about translating the theological equivalent of Donne’s “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” to an angsty teenager in 2019? How is this shared with a youngster, the product of capitalistic and atomised personal nihilism and pervasive cultural pessimism? Nothing makes me fear for the future of faith more than the thought that an uncrossable chasm has opened between the generations of our grandparents and that of their grandchildren.
Yet, we feel that we can’t ban these marches – that we can’t ban the organisation – because to do this would be illiberal, it wouldn’t be tolerant. Rubbish! If the Orange Order insisted on marching through the more affluent streets of Glasgow, insisting that they too were “the Queen’s highway,” they would have been banned decades ago. If their songs and their open hostility were directed against Jews or people of colour instead of Catholics, the government would have no option but to ban the organisation. So, why is this not the case when they are marching down working-class streets?
What is evident is that no apology or action on the part of the Church will be accepted by this secularist protest movement. It is apparent from much of the discussion on Irish social media over the weekend that what many within this movement demand is nothing short of the complete destruction of the Catholic Church. Many are quite explicit in this demand, and it is not limited to the clerical institution of the Church but extends to la Comunidad Católica in its widest sense; evinced in the wholesale targeting and abuse of “ordinary Catholics” online.
This living on the threshold has taken a toll on us. Since the late 1990s, when the scales were first taken from our eyes, we have had to come to terms with new realities and battle for our faith in new and unfamiliar territories. My own journey, like that of many other Catholics, was one that made it impossible for me to consider myself a 'Roman' Catholic. The hierarchy had been – perhaps forever – tainted. It no longer held the moral authority, no matter what the Church taught, to hold my allegiance. The papacy was no longer the infallible and unassailable Rock it had once been.
In 2018 Brexit and the disaster capitalism of the British establishment is also all about thieft. This is the latest development in a class war project designed to transfer the wealth of our society to the very top. The reduction in rights, the deregulation, and the tax benefits for the wealthy that will come from Britain’s departure from the European Union will make the wealthiest people in the UK even wealthier – and more powerful. The last thing these robbers want is a class based solidarity emerging in the class they are despoiling. A distraction has to be found.
There is no legitimate reason for banning the veil, leaving us only with the illegitimate reason no one calling for the ban wants to reveal – racism. No sooner is this said than some idiot leaps into the discussion with that pearl of wisdom: “Islam isn’t a race.” No it’s not, but no one dispensing this nugget of knowledge and no one attacking the “burka” can tell us much about Islam the religion. Shahadah, Salah, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj – the Pillars of Islam – are mysteries to them. Their assault is not an assault on Islam qua Islam, but on Muslims qua racialised others.
In this broken democracy – which is no democracy at all – seats are won and power secured in a loop; the media manufactures fears and blames powerless, invariably foreign, scapegoats and the careerists bang the drum of security and ethno-nationalism. This is the state of politics in the United Kingdom today. It is much the same across Europe and even more so over the Atlantic in the United States. Democracy in any meaningful sense has died and we are right now in the rapid descent into the abyss of totalitarianism and fascism – both coming a-creeping like saviours.