In this Sunday meditation, the pond contemplates Phillip Jensen brooding about, and being appalled by the knees up thigh slapping by some at the departure of Margaret Thatcher, as he expounds in Ding Dong the Witch is Dead:
... suddenly the sense of my hypocrisy came home. I recalled the moment when I heard that Pol Pot died. I was alone at my desk when the announcement came over the radio. Immediately, as if in a knee-jerk reaction, I called out in a loud voice: "Good!" As soon as the word left my mouth, I wondered at my reaction. Yes, I had Cambodian friends who had suffered terribly at the hands of that atheistic monster. Yes, I had a developed attitude and strong feelings about his evil rule. But is it right to rejoice in the death of a sinner?
Oh surely it's okay to dance on the grave of an atheistic monster.
A Christian monster might be a little tricky, but atheists should rot in the grave in lime pits without a headstone or any sort of memorial.
It's the Christian way. You see, step out on the wrong side of the line, and you won't find any room at the local consecrated cemetery:
A burial ground must not be used for any purpose other than the burial of the dead according to the rites and ceremonies of the Anglican Church of Australia. (SDS guidelines)
You see, there's the Anglican club, and then there's the riff raff, and Christians are such solid haters that if you happen to be a child things can get quite tricky, especially if the Catholic church has any sway:
Children who have died before baptism, we may notice, should be interred apart in ground which has not been consecrated; and it is usual even in the consecrated portion to assign a separate place for infants that have been baptized. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
There's no grander or greater subject for mystification and confusion than the rituals of a Christian Burial, especially a Catholic one, but let's return to the brooding Jensen, who performs one of the great conflationary acts of all time, confusing defiling and desecrating bodies, and public executions with singing a song from The Wizard of Oz:
Charles II had Oliver Cromwell, John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton, posthumously executed, publicly hung until late afternoon and then put their heads on a spike above Westminster Hall; the bodies of Mussilini, his associates and mistress were abused before being hung upside down to public display and contempt. The Bible speaks of the horror of defiling corpses (Deuteronomy 28:26, 1 Samuel 17:44-46). David rewarded Rizpah for protecting the bodies of her executed sons (2 Samuel 21:7ff), just as God condemned the Moabites for burning to lime the bones of the King of Edom (Amos 2:1-3).
I doubt if anybody is planning to desecrate the body of Margaret Thatcher ...
Hmm, wonder where people get such nasty ideas?
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth....
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. (Deuteronomy 7)
Ah that feels better, hate, hate, hate, kill, kill, kill, smash and destroy ...
It hadn't occurred to the pond up to this time, but seeing Jensen brood this way does make one wonder what sort of Bruegelian landscape ferments in his mind most of the time, populated with a vengeful Charles II and the maltreatment of poor, hapless fascist Mussolini (notice how we let that typo go by with christian charity?)
... but to rejoice in another person's death stems from the same disregard of the commandment: “you shall not murder.”
No it doesn't. There's no disregard in being happy that Stalin or Hitler or Mao or Pol Pot, or - let us select a Christian tyrant or two for balance, like Franco, Torquemada, Justinian and a gaggle of Russian emperors - but let's see where this conflaton leads us.
It’s very natural for people who have suffered grave injustice to wish the capital punishment of the perpetrators.
Which is, in the case of Margaret Thatcher, a complete nonsense and the purest of piffle. Thatcher didn't suffer any capital punishment - she led a long, though perhaps towards the end demented and confused existence, much more pleasant than some who suffered under her reign, and she died naturally and presumably in her bed.
Which means having a glass of wine at her passing is not to wish capital punishment on her. Or to murder her. Or to defile and desecrate her body and put her head on a pikestaff. Come to think of it, in a decent Irish wake there'd be a right old party, with the grog flowing for hours on end ...
Why is it that Sydney Anglicans are such relentless stitched-up wowsers and mother grundies, always frowning, always such kill-joy ninnies?
Margaret Thatcher got her comeuppance a long time ago. She got replaced by her own party, who elected John Major in her place.
Oh the inhumanity, the complete cruelty, the vengeful injustice.
Of course what Jensen, party pooper, really wants to do, is squelch on someone's parade and deliver yet another interminable sermon
We want vengeance, but “Vengeance is mine. I will repay; says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Our sinfulness compromises our ability to sit in judgement on others. God alone can be trusted with death, for he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the sinner would repent and find forgiveness (Ezekiel 18:23).
While death is the wages that sin pays (Romans 6:23), the desecration of the dead and the joy in somebody’s demise, indicate the desire for more justice than simply death. Some Australians opposed the Indonesian execution of the Bali Bombers, not because of opposition to capital punishment but because death was insufficient punishment. The same disappointment was expressed when Pol Pot died without ever being brought to trial or punished for his crimes. If all that such murderers get is the death e all get, where is the punishment for their crimes or the justice for their victims?
However, nobody ‘gets away with it’ with God. There is a judgement beyond the grave; as the Scriptures says “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement” (Hebrews 9:27), and “we must all appear before the judgement seat” of God and Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Well the pond did warn you it would be interminable, and ponderous and judgmental to boot. It seems the entire secular legal and justice system must now be off-loaded to St Peter fronting the pearly gates.
So should we rejoice in another’s death? It certainly is understandable in the extreme cases of evil or when we have been personally abused by somebody’s sinfulness. Yet it ill behooves sinners, such as ourselves, to clamour too loudly for justice. Our great need is not judgement but mercy. The great news of the gospel is that by his death and resurrection, Jesus has brought us not only forgiveness and pardon but also new and eternal life - for while “the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).''
Oh dear, the old Elmer Gantry one two. Don't party sinners, repent. Or else it might turn out worse than a Saturday night drink at a Manly pub. You know, the Baal-ites:
In short, in the end, the Jensen piece reminded the pond of the hundreds of baleful sermons endured as a child, shamelessly using Margaret Thatcher's death, and the reaction of some to it, and a free trip to heaven as some kind of metaphysical club, to pound away at anyone finding a grain of pleasure in life.
If you followed Jensen's recipe, you wouldn't bother with war tribunals, or secular justice systems, or umpires or judges or even voting against Thatcher or enjoying a little sing along with Dorothy, you'd wait for the long absent lord to dish out justice in the never never ... and never mind that justice delayed until Peter Pan's never never land arrives is justice denied.
In contrast, it's interesting to read that difficult man Giles Fraser, here, noting that Thatcher knew nothing of doubt:
Thatcher's moralism knew little of this. For her it was about lining oneself up with the truth; being on the side of right; having the universe support your convictions. The transcendent wasn't a source of humility, just another opinion to be conscripted into the Thatcher project.
No doubt, this is why moralism is such a dangerous feature of religion generally. In John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, the eponymous everyman character is distracted on his way to salvation by the temptations of a village called Morality. One imagines it to be a place of uprightness and decency and thrift and churchgoing and respectable law-abiding citizens. Probably a place that feels a great deal like the sort of Britain Thatcher strived so forcefully to create ...
Yes, and absolutely no partying, especially in the village in which Sydney Anglicans live, with their talk of uprightness and the need to refuse a glass of champagne when death comes a-knocking, when surely that should be a reminder that doubt is a lot more to the point than certainty when you reach a certain age ...
Let's just rewind the rhetoric about desecration and defiling bodies and bloody murder a little.
Imagine the office bully is given the sack. There might not be dancing in the streets, but it's a sure bet that the Friday night drinks will be a lively and cheerful affair. Yet the office bully might have two wee bubs forced to live in a caravan in sackcloth and ashes on Despair street ...
What happens come September when, and if the Liberals win the federal election? Should they refuse to hold any parties and go into a quiet period of mourning at the fate of all those displaced Labor party members and their office workers?
What happens if by a miracle Labor manages to hold on, and wretched offal, hacks and baleful creatures like Sophie Mirabella are side-lined? You want the pond not to dance in the street?
You can multiply the examples by hundreds and thousands - from an elephant stamp in kindie denied to the losers, to winning a gold medal, and destroying your rivals, or indulging in a little post-netball ritual group-hugging and cheering at enemies demolished, but it all comes down to a simple truth.
Sydney Anglicans hate to party, they hate to enjoy themselves. Lordy, they can't even vent a quiet word of satisfaction when a tyrant like Pol Pot bites the dust, without getting their knickers in a theological knot.
It's pathetic, it's tragic, but there's an upside. Each Sunday the usually solemn and forlorn pond, when reading the thoughts of Sydney Anglicans, feels inclined to party, dance in the streets, or at least sing along with Dorothy.
Like they did at the end of World War II, celebrating the demise of Hitler and the Nazis.
Come on dancing man, dance one more time:
And if you want to watch dancing man dance at 24fps, dance with him here.
Frankly all this jibber jabber was enough to send the pond off to the thoughts of Cardinal George Pell in his week-old column for the Sunday Terror.
But they hadn't updated the pages. Perhaps there is a god after all, and She's fed up with these men carrying on, and refusing to dance - even at the death of a Pol Pot or a Hitler or a Mao or a Stalin - and She decided to make a stand.
Which leaves just a little more time for some more dancing, in any flavour you like.