IWENT TO see Jeff Bernard the other day. It was the first fine day of spring and the sun was high, pouring into his 14th floor flat above Soho. I had hunted for a cheese with some character to take as a little present and, much to my astonishment, had found one (in these ecumenical, homogeneous times it's hard to tell one denatured cheese from another). It was whiffing quite nicely when I got there and I feared that unless he ate it quickly the unexpected and unusual sun would have caused it to become something of a liability. How annoying it is when our good intentions go awry.
It is one of my contentions that j Bernard is a sort of saint: silly people do not understand what I mean by this, but a little thought will make it clear. He is courageous, honest and entirely free of cant. I have never known him to whinge or moan no matter what his state of health or finance. He is candid, amusing and modest and one of our best writers in English. (He does snap at people sometimes, but only with good reason). How splendidly his work compares with the pompous piety whereby certain persons attempt to persuade us of their own worth, their loving kindness and their closeness to the Godhead.
When accosted by these God-botherers, as they used to be known, one sees why Our Lord with His divine intelligence and wit chose to spend dine with sinners.
The conscious assumption of virtue, especially when it manifests itself in proselytising, is one of the more detestable aspects of human nature and at the moment there's a lot of it about; I suppose there always has been, but it's getting more noticeable.
This is presumably because the structures of religion have been undermined, and people shaken off the crumbling edifice feel they must demonstrate their commitment by going on and on about how much they love everyone.
What really turns them on is their image of themselves as goodies in a world full of baddies: they fear that unless they make it obvious no one will recognise their excellence, but if you fail to show
proper reverence for one of them then he, or even more commonly she will become bad-temperedd sulk.
Humility i well out of fashion in religious circles, as is humour. The bien pensant are incapable of laughing at thesnselves and, In the end, there's nothing else worth laughing at. The current insistence that God exists only w thin us has knocked humoar out of the ring.
Few people remember that humility is the basic component of holiness and the ubiquitous smile is evidence only of self-coneeit. I see that Matthew Fox hits elected to
join the Episcopalians. I wonder if he's takes Starhawk and Ghosthorse and his spiritual director, Tristan the 16-year-old Spitz dog. I wonder how he'll get on with Bishop Spong.
These people go down well In places like St James', Piccadilly, but I'll lay money they wouldn't cut much ice in the Coach and Horses.
I find the command, "love they neighbour" much cosier to obey when I'm next to Jeffrey Bernard than when I'm being lectured by some militant feminist on the "progressive theologian". Now they really do tax one's Christian charity. t