The Bishop’s Special
(A blast from the past, from the April 1916 Socialist Standard)
In the January issue of this journal were recorded the statements of the Rev. Father Vaughan anent the reason God did not intervene to stop the war. The unmarried father showed us very clearly that only his – pardon, His – great love prevented Him from doing so. God, like the munition manufacturer and the ship-owner, was drawing good out of the war, and in such circumstances it was not to be expected that the merry mill which the bulk of the world finds so amusing, and which some (not excluding even Bishops, who in this respect are luckier than beershops) find so profitable, would be interfered with by the Divine hand. No, God, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to be nailed up on a stick, as the only way in which he could prevail upon himself to refrain from strafing the world with fire and brimstone, was certainly not the bloke to prevent his children stirring up one another’s vitals with bayonets and other eminently suitable implements. The reverend father led us to that conclusion by ways so logically sound that to most of us he spoke absolutely the last word on the subject.
But after the Roman Catholic Church comes the Catholic Church of England. The Bishop of Chelmsford, speaking at Queen’s Hall on the 7th February, in the Day of United Intercession arranged by the World’s Evangelical Alliance, stoutly combated (without mentioning names) the claim of the rival show to know all about God and his whys and wherefores.
The Essex bishop, far from ascribing the non-interference of God in this game of butcher my neighbour to boundless love, declares that it is a question of politics. ‘God has his politics,’ the bishop assures us, ‘and would never be an ally of any nation that was not clean.’ So the fiat has gone forth. The reason England has not wiped the floor with Germany is that the English are so damned dirty – a bishop has said it.
As between the Romish father and the Anglican bishop, the present writer does not presume to judge. The theory that God so loves the world that he wouldn’t for anything save it from self-annihilation, has attractions for the reverent mind ; on the other hand, the idea of God as a politician, making known through his agents that cleanliness is one of the planks of his platform, and that, no matter what the demerits of the Germans, he will not ally himself with the itchy and the crumby – that idea is irresistible to those who dabble in the singularly clean and spotless game of politics.
But after all, these reflections do but touch the fringe of the question. Though Father Vaughan opines that it will take all eternity to thank God for the war, he will agree that it would be a mistake to carry the thing so far that there was no one left alive to thank God for having killed off all the others. He cannot, then, object to the All-loving being persuaded to temper his love with so much of Spartan sternness as will put a stopper on our murderous indulgences. So much for Father Vaughan.
Now the Bishop of Chelmsford tells us that ‘God is sitting on the fence,’ and plaintively asks, ‘how can we get Him to come down on our side and give us a mighty victory?‘
Much smaller bugs than bishops are may be permitted to offer suggestions on a subject of such universal interest as getting God to come down off his perch. An old bird-catcher whom I consulted on the off-chance declared ‘if yer can’t call him down yer must feed him down, and if yer can’t feed him down yer must call him down, and if yer can’t neither feed him down nor call him down ye’d better try a ‘en angel, and if that ain’t no good why yer won’t never take him up to Club Row.’
But we may reject that advice with scorn. Obviously the first step is to get ourselves clean. ‘We must cleanse England,’ says the bishop, and he is right. Let’s wash our shirts and our shifts; let’s scrape ourselves, pumice-atone ourselves, boil ourselves if necessary. Let’s co-operate for the job – my Lord Bishop, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours: I’m ready for any dirty job so long as we get the muck off. Then, when we have got through with that we might pursue the course which has proved so efficacious in the past. We might plaster the fence whereon God is sitting with such announcements as ‘Your King and Country Need You’; ‘Isn’t This Worth Fighting For?’ ‘What Did You Do, Daddy?’ ‘Go ! Don’t be Pushed!” ‘I wasn’t among the first to go, but I went, thank God, I went.’ And if this was followed up by a visit from the recruiting sergeant, or, to stretch a point in view of the greatness of the occasion, from Lord Derby himself, murmuring the magic ‘What about it?’ we should surely ‘get God out of this dilemma,’ and ‘get him down on our side’ (as the bishop ‘reverently’ and gracefully put it) – unless the irreverent but far-sighted Germans have taken the precaution to lime His perch, in which case, perish me pink, there is a dilemma indeed.