Chris Huhne will convert to Roman Catholicism
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Some sin more; others fall further. Or at least that's how we console ourselves in our personal quests for salvation. "I'm not as bad as he is," we whisper to our souls. "I have served you like a slave, never once disobeying your commandments," pleaded the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Heaven is a place for the righteous and moderate sinners, but not him. Good God, not him.
Lord Taylor of Warwick gives Chris Huhne some sound advice as he begins his eight-month prison sentence today: "I do not know if Huhne is a religious man, but I would advise him to seek out the prison chaplaincy. I will always be grateful to the chaplains at Wandsworth and Standford Hill prisons, who showed me such kindness and prayer support."
Human beings have always been in quest of salvation - the making whole of what is a broken existence. This salvation is multifaceted, from personal healing to conserving the natural world. Chris Huhne has spent much of his professional life obsessed with the salvation of the natural world, battling against the evil of 'climate change'; now it is time for him to be authentic, or to seek authenticity. It is time for him to atone; to restore his relationship with his fellow men; to reconcile himself to God.
The profound experience of forgiveness yields divine acceptance: it is not merely the issuing of a legal pardon, as in much popular evangelistic preaching; it is a painful, relational process, which touches a person deeply. It may be an event, but for many it is a process. No-one is good enough; no-one deserves eternal life. It is God and God alone who liberates us from the curse of chaos; it is His own suffering through the crucified Christ which disturbs us, draws us, demands the response of laying down all the securities by which we live and all the achievements by which we justify ourselves and the status which gives us esteem. God 'puts down the mighty from their seats,' Mary sings. Salvation is not a contract: it is a traumatic transformation which re-orders the whole of our existence.
Today, Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce will be lonely, disorientated, perhaps even contemplating suicide. Some are crowing about this turn of affairs; a few will be praying for them. Huhne's failure is displayed for all to see; his fall is great indeed. Certainly, he has no-one to blame but himself, but who has not 'lied and lied again' in order to save face? Who has not schemed and deceived in order to advance a pesonal cause? Who has not hurt those they love in the selfish pursuit of duplicitous justification?
The people of God are commanded to love: we are commanded to be compassionate, kind and caring. His Grace will not be praying for Huhne's salvation, but neither will he be gloating over his downfall. At least Chris Huhne tried to do something to ameliorate the lives of the poor and push the borders of freedom. We may differ profoundly with his philosophy, but political action can be a vehicle through which the liberating and reconciling work of God can be made manifest in our world. Prison should not end Huhne's zeal; it could, like Saul to Paul, transform it into an inexhaustible life of good works.
Why Roman Catholicism? Well.. Myra Hindley, Oscar Wilde, Tony Blair.. Public revulsion and widespread shame seem to evoke the need for a 'great salvation' and sometimes a very public show of it. It is not some shady Protestant cult or soteriologically-ineffectual obscure sect: it calls itself Catholic and claims to hold the keys of heaven. The ritual of penance deals with the guilt; asceticism, self-flagellation - spiritual or literal - are perpetual demonstrations of piety. The focus on the crucifix prompts reflection of all those elements of imitatio Christi; disclosure, community and divine experience. Roman Catholicism brings order, pattern, sequence and meaning to the lost, lonely, destitute and directionless.
So, to those who think him an odious, ambition-crazed backstabber. For those who loathe his Olympian self-regard, his utterly unscrupulous lies, or his malign and slimy policy agenda. Please meditate upon the potential of his conversion; of the rejoicing in heaven as you turn to him, look into his eyes with love, and share the Peace of Christ with your brother who was lost and is now found.