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The Present Crisis
  The Rev. Phil Lee is a retired PCC minister living in New Brunswick. In the early 1980s, the Rev. Phil Lee wrote a much-praised book, Against the Protestant Gnostics, a dense but clear and searing assessment of some distorted expressions of Protestantism and the church in North America. In the book, he calls out individu- alism, creation-denying and es- capism (among other themes of modern Protestantism) so com- mon in the operational theology of many churches and ministries today for the shams that they are. American literary critic Harold Bloom wrote that Lee “deserves all praise for seeing clearly what is indeed there to be seen, though concealed in the multiple masks of supposed Protestantism.” Lee’s book, while deeply theo- logical, is by no means abstract, and it contains prescriptions for preaching, prayer, liturgy and the renewal of all aspects of congre- gational ministry. Trendy “How- to” books come and (thankfully) go, but Lee’s book has been a constant resource of wisdom on many ministers’ bookshelves.
Phil continues to call the church to sane responses amid the mad- ness of the rise of demagoguery, perverse political movements and the church’s support for the de- structive elements in North Ameri- can society. He and others have initiated a blog called This Present
Crisis to share ideas and discuss the church’s role today, available to check out online at medium. com/@pjlee_39329. The follow- ing is an extract from Lee’s blog.
Maybe I’m beginning to get the hang of the Religious Right’s ar- gument. At least, I’m closer to understanding the chief anxieties of their more rational spokesper- sons. In a recent article in FIRST THINGS, a conservative journal of Roman Catholic and Evangelical persuasion, Prof. George Weigel poured out his concerns. Weigel is a prominent Roman Catholic who represents what is called the neo-conservative branch of Catholic discourse. The title of his essay is, “The Pope We All Need.” The implied subtitle is: “Instead of the Pope We Actually Have.”
The ar ticle got my attention by quoting one of my ecclesiasti- cal heroes, John Henry Newman. Weigel quoted Cardinal Newman’s declaration that priests in his day were facing a unique crisis: “... ours [our generation] has a dark- ness different in kind from any that has gone before it...[for] Christi- anity has never yet had the experi- ence of a world simply irreligious.”
According to Weigel, that dark- ness which occupied J. H. New- man is still with us today, but in a more frightening form. Now, he says, under the domination of a liberal elite, mainstream media,
and the “woke” generation, we are all living in “a world without readily available transcendent reference points.” Our culture, he argues, is shaped by an “individualism in which goodness, truth and beauty are dumbed down...” Weigel goes on to point out that what is hap- pening in Western nations at pre- sent is: “the loss of confidence in democracy, irrational conspiracy theories, across the spectrum of political opinion; ...the disdain for our history and traditions; ...the implosion of reasonable debate.”
As I hear Prof. Weigel’s words, most of them ring true in my old, essentially conservative, ears. My quarrel is not with his concerns but rather with what he perceives to be the source of all these con- cerns. Whereas he tends to locate all our woes in a “woke” genera- tion and on our cultural “irreligion,” I see the present crisis originating quite elsewhere.
Yes, our “woke” generation can be irritating. At times they can of- fend us by being “know-it-alls.” Yes, our new “cultural despisers” of religion can hur t our feelings by pointing out all our Christian failures and not recognizing any of our historic contributions. Given all that, it was not a “woke” crowd that stormed the United States Capitol Building. And it was not the “irreligious” that, in the name of Trump and Jesus, tried to pre-
election and the peaceful transfer of power. It was not secular critics who showed such colossal “dis- dain for our history and traditions.”
Where George Weigel loses his intellectual grip in my opinion, is in his initial premise, namely, that our problem is the same as Cardinal Newman’s. One hundred seventy years have passed since New- man delivered that address, and the church has been living with “irreligion” for at least that long. We Christians may not enjoy this climate, but many of us have be- come acclimated. No, we Chris- tians no longer abide in Christen- dom; no, churches are no longer in charge of culture and politics; no, the wall separating church and state has not been breached or scaled. Since Newman’s day, this brave new world has been our environment. Maybe, in fact, the good Cardinal was instructing the young priests of his day, not how to overcome the new condition, but how to minister within it. At any rate, here we are, still trying. It has its difficulties, but it may also
A prayer for peace, please.
I’m a person of faith.
I’ll put my religion aside, so we can talk about impor tant things. The important things are: Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.
If these are important to you, we can be One in Spirit.
Even if you are not a person of faith,
If these are important to you, we can walk together.
I promise I won’t try to convert you.
I vow I’ll never be judgemental. It does not matter who you are, Or where you are from.
I just want us to share and learn. You be you and I’ll be me. Know this:
I’m reaching out for you.
I’m not far away.
I’ll wait for you.
There is Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.
On earth.
have advantages.
The problem of our day, the real
and present danger, is not “irreli- gion.” Rather it is false religion, heresy. It comes in the form of a Religious Right, Evangelical and Roman Catholic, which will sac- rifice anything to regain power. In the name of Jesus, they will sur- render their integrity and their faith to an autocrat. In order to achieve a facade of religious triumph—a President holding up a Bible he does not read in front of an Episco- pal Church he does not attend— they are willing to submit to a pro- gram of racism, violence, “might makes right” and a disrespect for common human decency.
So, in opposition to this pow- erful heresy, let us ordinary Christians—Protestant, Roman Catholic, Or thodox—continue in dialogue with each other and also with those of other religions and of no religion. My hope is that through such dialogue we can agree on something like a Barmen Declaration for our time, which we can agree to and act upon.
A friend and I made a music vid- eo of this peace plea and shared it online on YouTube (the song used is “Saturn” by “Sleeping at Last”):
vent a
cer tification
of the
  Peace Plea’s
 By the Rev. Drew Jacques, St. David’s Presbyterian Church in Campbell- ville, Ont.
“I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim, no more war horses in Jerusalem, no more swords and spears, bows and arrows. He will offer peace to the nations, a peaceful rule world- wide, from the four winds to the seven seas” (Zechariah 9:10, MSG).
It seems a long time since we celebrated Palm Sunday, the day commemorating when the Prince of Peace entered Jerusalem in peace, riding on the back of a don- key.
We know that Jesus is the Peacemaker, yet none of us can look around the world today, from
the “four winds to the seven seas,” without asking, “where is the peace on ear th?”
There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that there is a dire lack of peace on ear th.
I don’t know about you, but late- ly, I have been having a hard time sleeping. I have to wonder if this is a result of the collective fear, anxi- ety and grief in the world today.
Did Jesus fail?
Or have we failed Jesus? And by “we,” I’m not talking about you, me or anybody personally. We all know our shor tcomings. I’m fo- cusing on the collective “we” in the post-resurrection world.
“We,” of course, must confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and try again to do what was com- manded of us: love each other.
“We” also must realize that peace will not come from the top down. There is too much money up there in war. Peace on earth will only grow from the ground up— from us.
It will begin when we step out- side ourselves and initiate a con- versation with others.
Here is a template for star ting the conversation:

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