Friday, October 19, 2007

Le Mot Juste (UPDATED)

I came across this review of the new film Elizabeth: The Golden Age (sequel to the Elizabeth produced in 1998) and was struck by the following line:
If someone says something like “God has spoken to me,” it’s a sure bet that (a) the speaker is a Catholic, and (b) whatever God had to say spells trouble for non-Catholics. Ditto any reference to “true believers,” “God’s work,” “legions of Christ,” you name it. In this world, God-talk is troubling Catholic behavior; Protestants don’t talk to, or about, God. Their religion is little more than a slogan for conscience, religious freedom, and of course heroic resistance to Catholic oppression.
Note that the "this world" of which the reviewer is speaking is the pseudo-historical world the film depicts (or, if you like, the spottily historical world the film has cherry-picked). But what serendipity! He has captured the very essence of Protestantism--particularly Anglicanism--in the 21st century!

It puts me in mind of something Kevin Grace once said to me about Anglicanism; he said--invoking either Smollett or Sterne, he couldn't remember which--that "the Anglican Church is the best church because it interferes neither with a man's politics nor with his religion."

... Of course, by 21st century standards we should exchange the word "religion" with the more Oprah-ready "spirituality", else likely your average Anglican might protest that this still makes him sound too much like a fundamentalist.

(That's the same Kevin Grace, by the way, whose site has been malingering in darkness lo this last month or so. Why? He refuses to give me a persuasive answer. I strongly suggest that you email him and ask him yourself. Honestly: do! Just a couple of words of stern rebuke for his ongoing, callous neglect of his readership, and a request that he stop.)

ADDENDUM (October 22nd)

Further to the Revionist Liz, KMG emails to say:
Dear Ted,

As to your post on Queen Bess, I too am appalled by the myth that claims Elizabethan England as a paradise of religious tolerance (ask the Puritans about that).

I came upon this most recently watching "The England of Elizabeth," ( part of BFI's otherwise delightful See Britain By Train. (The historical adviser was AL Rowse, so one shouldn't be surprised.)

Under Elizabeth, Catholic priests were relentlessly hunted down, tortured and killed like beasts. One of the most famous was Saint Edmund Campion. You can read about him here ( An account of his martyrdom (largely from Waugh's biography) can be found here ( I particularly like this detail: "[While on the scaffold, members of the mob] called to him to pray in English, but he replied with great mildness that 'he would pray God in a language which they both well understood.'"

As to Campion's (and the Jesuits's) "treason," here is his immortal defence, composed while travelling the country administering the sacraments and awaiting imminent arrest and the rack (

To those who might interject that Mary Tudor persecuted Protestants with no less vim or vigour than Elizabeth I did Catholics and Puritans, I'll simply ask that you bear in mind that neither are there any films suggesting that she (Mary) was a paragon of religious tolerance.

... Nothing, you'll notice, from Mr. Grace explaining the condition of The Ambler.

And my old nemesis, Jay Currie, too writes in:
Hi Ted,

I have been bugging Kevin re his blog and his annoying phone message - bottle factory indeed.

I am throughly amused at the description of Anglicanism you quote KMG as quoting. The most annoying aspect of it being that the Anglican Church, having drunk the bien pensant Kool Aid, is far more likely to interfere in your politics. For several years I had a spiritual director with whom I debated the necessity of going to Church. My argument being that I didn't at all mind the religious bits but the politics from the pulpit annoyed the Hell out of me.

He suggested, and I think rightly, that the main event was the Communion in itself and that little of spiritual value was lost in missing the sermon or, indeed, what passes for the Collect these days,

Yours in irritation,

Touché, Jay! But you know my opinion on this: you have only yourself to blame! I should add too that, being that my particular church is of the Anglo-Catholic variety, and that I mostly only go to Low Mass, not only is the liturgy entirely Cranmer's, but I'm also spared the sermon. Ha!