(These are my views as a woman living in England, on how the culture and spirit of my country has changed over 50 years. Why the country does not feel protected or strong any more, how it has lost, and is losing it values and decency, and how we are daily losing our free speech.)
Every now and then I take to escaping my urban environment to try and search for pastures new, and the other week I happened to drop in and visit Malvern Priory.
Set in the Malvern Hills it sits high above the surrounding landscape bordering the counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
Fortunately for me, when I entered the priory there were very few people inside. No men in frocks, no rituals taking place; just a few people casually walking round and looking at the memorials and the stained glass windows.
After a while I sat quietly away from everyone. Outside of the obvious show of religion I did sense some stability and comfort in the place. There was a certain peace from being set apart from the outside world of chaos. Here, people had come for many years to try and make a connection with something, someone, a deity, outside of themselves. Did they find their heaven?
Some say that the Christian author, C.S. Lewis based his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from experiences he had in Malvern.
There is a small plaque indicating that suggestion next to a door at the back of the priory which resembles the wardrobe door from his book. From where I sat, if left ajar, you would certainly be able to view one of the many lamps which line the streets, which also featured in his writing.
However, it is also reported that one night after leaving the local pub in Malvern he caught sight of a lamp shining in the newly fallen snow which caught his attention and it was this sight that took him to that other place; a land called Narnia – A world within a world where spiritual battles between good and evil existed. Was C S Lewis drunk on drowning his sorrows, or was he really gaining some insight and a glimpse into what happens when you truly search for meaning.
The door reminded me of one of my own experiences that took me away from organized religion, and why I have found my search for a world inside a world a very narrow path.
One day in a crowded church I noticed that the room got very dark but no-one else seemed to notice. As I turned to look at the back of the church I realized that the door was slightly open. There was a bright light in the door which conveyed to me without words to get out of there, otherwise the door would be shut forever. The experience was so powerful that I have always remembered it. What did it mean? There was an obvious message that existed in the light against the darkness which moved me.
The author J. R. R. Tolkien, a friend of C S Lewis and author of the Lord of the Rings, had also walked the hills of Malvern. In conjunction with his catholic faith he too, somehow conveyed the battle for Middle Earth, which could possibly represent England, as a fight between good and evil, light and dark, in his writings. Although both authors are considered fantasy writers, who focus on mythical creatures which include wizards, hobbits, and dragon slayers, their stories resonate quite strongly for many believers and also non believers who realize they are in a battle for their land and a spiritual battle for their sanity and their souls. There is an enemy which is ruthless.
Why isn’t the present day church as a whole in the United Kingdom preaching about the spiritual battles in our land? In general, so few will speak about Islam, (not Aslan) which may displace Christianity in the future, they do not talk about politics and laws being passed which affect culture, and they also do not talk about the consequences of sin or forgiveness.
It appears that some preachers believe our battle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against the spiritual wickedness in high places (authorities) are indeed either myths or parables from the past or best left to a few activists on the street who are much more able to take the strikes of saying it how it is.
Recently, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord George Carey was accused of failing to act on sexual abuse claims against another bishop, Peter Ball, who was jailed for abusing 18 young men over a period of 30 years.
It is alleged he said “the church is sometimes “behind the curve” when it comes to addressing allegations of abuse, and that nobody had access to child protection training during a “pre-Savile era” [Link]
Historical sex abuse that exists within religion is unfortunately widespread, and has been for many years, but why would an Archbishop who should realize the reality of the battle between good and evil ever be surprised or rely on child protection training when faced with allegations from parents and victims of their abuse?
It seems conditional that there is a certain loyalty to protect each other amongst the priesthood. However, some clergy will often resign or retire early through indiscretions. In recent years though there have been many public exits from staff who cannot and will not compromise upon their beliefs within the changing face of the Anglican Church.
Lorna Ashworth resigned from the Archbishops Council and General Synod in 2017. In her resignation letter according to Church Times she stated that she refused to be mistaken as one participating in the fanciful notion of “good disagreement’.
Evangelist Rico Tice resigned from the Archbishops Taskforce on Evangelism over the compromises being made under the leadership of Bishop Paul Bayes of Liverpool on same sex marriage. He stated:
‘I think it is a great wickedness to tell people who are on the road to destruction that they are not. To tell them that they are safe when it comes to God’s wrath when they are not.’
You can listen to his statement here.
Between Lambs and Lions
UK film producer, Mark Sutherland who was recently interviewed by Coach Dave Daubenmire of Pass the Salt Ministries was also asked what the church is like in the UK today. He was very aware of the obvious lack of strength and spiritual battles we face.
It was a revelation and a relief to hear him clearly echo the observations made by other people in the UK who have also lost faith in the Anglican Church and see it as a very weak establishment today which is not standing up for the truth.
During the interview, a 10 minute film entitled Between Lambs and Lions, which Mark produced is also shown, it is prophetic to America, although relevant to what we see happening in the world today and is described as being a vision of the future where leaders pay lip service to the democratic process. It was filmed in 2015. You can watch the film via either of the links below:
There are some excellent lines in this short film:
“Truth is treason in the empire of lies”
“If Liberty means anything it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”
“Vultures don’t circle around anything unless it is dead”
From the viewpoint of standing in a country where the truth is no longer respected, yet amidst a growing crowd of followers in the Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, many people have stated that really it is only a remnant of people across this country who are now still standing firm. I would hasten to add many of these are not outwardly religious people but they are standing in the gap and exposing some of the great injustices taking place within society.
Indeed a lady who wrote to me from Yorkshire in England told me that she had also left the church; and had once saw the whole of the UK as being covered by a large dark cloud. However, now she can see pinpoints of light emerging out of that darkness exposing the truth. Many of them are the most unlikely of people. I see it too. This is encouraging. The vultures are circling, but there is still some truth emerging in this empire of lies.
The Ring of Power
On a final note, the late author, Stratford Caldecott, was also someone who wrote about darkness and light and interpreted The Lord of the Ring in theological terms. He wrote:
“The Ring of Power exemplifies the dark magic of the corrupted will, the assertion of self in disobedience to God. It appears to give freedom, but its true function is to enslave the wearer to the Fallen Angel. It corrodes the human will of the wearer, rendering him increasingly ‘thin’ and unreal; indeed, its gift of invisibility symbolizes this ability to destroy all natural human relationships and identity. You could say the Ring is sin itself: tempting and seemingly harmless to begin with, increasingly hard to give up and corrupting in the long run.
That is a sad but realistic account of how a whole country can become enslaved and corroded whilst thinking it is free. Human relationships and identity are certainly under attack.
The light is still shining, it is but a flicker in the UK, but will we step out into the battle and confront evil, even though it sometimes feels like you are standing alone, whilst not losing faith?
© 2018 Shirley Edwards – All Rights Reserved
E-Mail Shirley Edwards: firstname.lastname@example.org