Peter Hitchens’ lament for a lost world

Peter Hitchens writes a poignant lament in First Things Magazine about the loss of the richness of faith–in all its expressions of beauty, truth and goodness–in the Church of England and the consequent loss to the culture at large.

In That was the Church that Was he writes:

I have never understood why people jeer at this form of belief. “Oh,” they say dismissively, “You just like the old buildings and the music, and the ­Shakespearean language.” They say this as if “liking” these things were a meaningless self-indulgence, an aesthetic fancy, like preferring China tea to Indian (which I don’t). My own view, then and ever since, is that the languages of architecture, music, and poetry work mightily on us when we are not aware of it, slip past our everyday defenses and so convey the unspeakable grandeur of God to us better than any other means. The haunting rhythms and shadowy shapes of the eternal disturb the banalities of the temporal, and no properly conscious human being comes out of a cathedral or ancient parish church the same as he or she went in. You might have thought that these were gifts we should take care to treasure and use aright. By themselves, simply by being there, they must have quietly wafted the spirit of God into millions of lives.


When I experienced that cathedral and city as a child, I saw an ordered, peaceful, gentle England in which two things were entirely taken for granted among all classes: that the courts were just and that we were free people.

I do not think my feeling of almost complete security, in a country where every road ended at the sea and even the worst enemy in the world had not managed to reach us or seriously damage us, was merely personal. I think it was true.

It is to weep.

But he writes he will remain an Anglican, even though describes his church this way.

The shriveling of the majestic Anglicanism of my childhood into the unending quarrel about sex which it has become is a symbol of its decay. That Was the Church That Was (I think I can reveal without causing any grave difficulties to anyone) is dominated by factional differences between evangelical ­conservatives and liberal Catholics, by office politics, by money troubles, and by struggles over homosexuality and over the ordination of women. It is hardly at all about trying to maintain the Christian faith in an age of secularism. Nowhere does it discuss the mysterious but willful destruction of the mighty poetic force of the Bible and Prayer Book, which has turned the thunder and trumpets of Anglican worship into a series of squeaks and squawks, accompanied by tambourines and guitars. This rejection of solemnity and mystery helped to make possible the shrinking of a great Church into a series of squabbles. Both events are consequences of the general inability of a once important people to take themselves ­seriously anymore.

May Peter Hitchens discover in the Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans in the Catholic Church all those treasures of his childhood –and more–home in the Church that Christ established.

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