The Court Jester Stanczyk Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk (1514)
As I watch the slow decline and fall of the Episcopal church (in particular the Diocese of Western NY as evidenced at SF in this post by Sarah Hey), I have to pause and take a historical perspective and remember that failures, like victories, are transitory. I think of the fall of Rome and the ups and downs of that city over the centuries following the Goths, and the Visigoths etc. Did the jester Stanczyk seen in the painting above ever recover from the loss of Smolensk, and how about the people of Smolensk? Since 800 AD Smolensk has seen paganism, Christianity, Soviet style Atheism, and now a return to Christendom. After a defeat, we only see the desolation. Our tears blind us. Being short lived, self absorbed, and blind to the future, we cannot fully appreciate God's plan for us. The following poem came through my reading stack the other day, and images of the jester Stanczyk flashed through my mind.
"Not all who seem to fail, have failed indeed;
Not all who fail have therefore worked in vain:
For all our acts to many issues lead;
And out of earnest purpose, pure and plain,
Enforced by honest toil of hand or brain,
The Lord will fashion, in His own good time,
(Be this labourer's proudly-humble creed,)
Such ends as, to His wisdom, fitliest chime
With His vast love's eternal harmonies.
There is no failure for the good and wise:
What though thy seed should fall by the wayside
And the birds snatch it;-yet the birds are fed;
Or they may bear it far across the tide,
To give rich harvests after thou art dead."
The above poem is from "Politics For the People," 1848 which was a short lived publication that failed after a few years. The poem was quoted in "Character", by Samuel Smiles (1905).
Whatever became of the writer of the poem, and how did the failed "Politics For the People" drift its way into my blog 161 years later? I thought that there might be a trail of failures to follow, so off on the web I went.
In "The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy," Ruth Richardson says that the first two lines of the poem were attributed on the Internet in 2008 to Archbishop Trench. (p. 280 footnote #25).
From my searches, it is clear that the Archbishop did write a fair amount of poetry back in the mid 1800's, and judging from his style, I agree that he might have written the poem for "Politics For the People" whose contributors happened to include several future "Christian Socialists."
Smelling a defeated principle, I wasted some time on the Internet reading about Christian Socialism, and found some good material at Britannica.com, I have come to the conclusion that since many of the social and economic conditions that stimulated its conceptualizations when the term was coined back in 1849 no longer exist, those Christian Socialists of that time would be very puzzled by the current issues of 2009. In fact, I am not sure anyone today really knows what Christian Socialism means now or how it is supposed to work. What is clear is that 160 years later, the idea seems to have been a failure, but there are still some die-hards left (as further sniffing around on the web can easily demonstrate).
Looking for a Christian Socialist blogger, I found the inevitable Episcopalian connection (there always is one, if an issue is controversial enough). The Rev. Dennis Wienk, Rector of St. Thomas' Church, Bath NY, has a modern outline of Christian Socialism where he writes:
"I. Christian Socialism
Its fixed principle:
The community shall ultimately own the means of production (that is, the land and capital) collectively and use them co-operatively for the good of all."
I thought that had been tried and had failed (anyone remember late U.S.S.R.?). Oh well, some guys just won't admit defeat.
Looking around the web we find the Rev. Dennis Wienk's connections include "Integrity" a radical pro gay group of Episcopalians. As a contributor to volume 11, #2 the summer/fall edition of "Voice of Integrity" (see page 8) his place on "the issue" seems clear. Maybe he has finally latched himself onto a winner.
Currently, Integrity believes it has triumphed in the sexuality battles in the Episcopal church. History has yet to weigh in with a judgment. I suspect that the Rev. Wienk has made another poor choice of bedfellows.
I was hoping to be able to ignore Christian Socialism because history has judged that it has not accomplished its goals after 160 years of talk. Unfortunately the United States Congress and the Executive branch is picking up where Christian Socialism failed by pushing through a secular socialist agenda, and doing it in substantially less time than 160 years.
Perhaps the current "Health Insurance Reform" legislation only seems to be an "all is lost" moment for some while appearing to be a great accomplishment to others. Perhaps it will be only a minor footnote for future historians when writing of the rise and fall of capitalism. How long before socialism American style sees its defeat at Smolensk?
I dread the boasting when the President signs the health-care package.
But when I see the pictures, I will imagine the caption reading, "Sic transit Gloria mundi."
Blind to the future, we stumble forward, groping, trying to determine what's next.
We should not fear the defeats of the present. Peering through the tears, we should rest assured that there will be a resurrection, and a new Kingdom awaits. What this Kingdom will look like we may not live to see, but if we believe it when we pray, "Thy Kingdom come," then it will be something far greater than we can even imagine.