Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Lure of the Past and the Pull of the End Times

The past is a different country. We know how the story ends there.

I was wondering about UKIP. If their package was solely about our status in the European Union, I might have some time for them. But the leaflets I saw for them were kind of second-hand racism. Warning of the 25 million additional Eastern Europeans soon to be heading for our shores - like every Romanian was packing up the family vampire in a box of native earth and heading for Ampthill.

I can't put my finger on their attraction, unless they've somehow tapped into a theme of living in Britain in a kind of 1950s where everyone was decent, British and cheerful. The Empire was ours, we were ruled by chinless wonders who were really jolly good blokes, and you could leave your door open without having all your possessions stolen by an axe murderer. Kids hung around on street corners - because they had no choice - but they were charming Cockernees or Mancunians, non-threatening and white.

Now I'm not saying any of this is in any UKIP policy. But that's the image I get when I see a picture of Nigel Farage (which my spell-checker converts to "garage"). Of course, we're not going back to the 50s - time travel will never be invented (or we'd all know how to do it).

Then there's this whole "early Church" mythology among some church groups. It says the early Church shared all its money like Communists / had bishops/ had no bishops / had no women in charge/ broke bread all the time / had woman leaders / spoke Aramaic and therefore that's what we're gonna do. And again it's not really the early Church - it's always the early Church but interpreted by tradition or our prejudices or wishful thinking. We don't know what the New Testament Church was like, because we're not told enough about it. But it's a handy stick to beat the Present Church with.

Seems to me that Pentecost breaks up any chance of ever going back. The Apostle stands up and says, in the Last Days it's all different. It was about one nation and one gender - and now it's all nations, all people, all ages, people of all genders and none. The Spirit doesn't hark back to Joel's time, when those words were written - she drags us forward to the end times, when everything's new. It's the end times that lay before us - when the world is still renewed and creation still waits with bated breath and a destiny lays before us that is ours. We can't go back. We can only go forward from where we are now. Hang on to your hats, it could be a rollercoaster.

The End is another country. It's the place where we're going.


  1. My college chaplain (LMH 1976-79) used to say, "Don't talk about trying to become like the Early Church - we ARE the Early Church."

  2. A lot of what we know about the "Early Church" we know becuase they got stuff wrong - hence the epistles.


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