The fine art of flippancy

Published November 1, 2000

100 years ago: November 1900

Canadian Churchman reported that France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries went through a stage of profound irreverence. Courtiers, ecclesiastics, writers, all agreed to make a jest of life.

They reduced flippancy to a fine art; they used irreverence to point their wit. Their epigrams, sparkling but profane, took on as time passed a tone ever more and more cynical, the sure sign of the lost power of loving God and man. And we know what followed; how the deluge came, and all the levity and wit was quenched in a sea of blood. It is very noticeable among ourselves that, as the idea of worship loses its hold upon the mind, society has become less and less serious, more and more irreverent, and its mental and moral state is reflected in its literature, its drama, and the flippant talk of men, women and even children. If we think of it we cannot fail to perceive that the levity all about us, which affects to be mere lightness of heart, is atheism in the germ.

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50 years ago: November 1950

Canadian Churchman asked, can it be possible that the ancient, moss covered idea still prevails among church people that a Rector knows, without being told, that a certain parishioner is ill and should be called on? Just a few days ago an old lady gave a young curate a terrific blast because none of the clergy had called on her. “But, Miss Blank,” said the curate, “haven’t you a telephone?” “Of course I have,” was the reply, “but it shouldn’t be necessary to telephone.” Perhaps there should be courses in mental telepathy or mind-reading – or something!

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25 years ago: November 1975

Canadian Churchman reported that Malcolm Muggeridge, British journalist, author and television personality, told an overflowing crowd at Wycliffe College that western civilization is falling to pieces. He said there are “ominous similarities” to the collapse of the Roman Empire, that our institutions are not working, and that relationships between human beings are not satisfying or functioning. “Rome didn’t crack up any more than our western world is cracking up because it is weak. The Roman Empire cracked up because the moral shape that lies behind all other shapes was no longer working. Unless men have a sense of moral order to their world and in their universe, they will not be able to construct any other kind of order – economic, political, or social.” In conclusion, Mr. Muggeridge said that the need for Christian communities and Christian brotherhood has “never been greater.” Asked to define Christian community, he said, “It is a community of those who love our Lord.”


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