There is a character in C.S. Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength who was sometimes referred to as the “Mad Parson.” He was an insider in the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), which was a kind of Orwellian organization whose new-speak propaganda presented the organization as the great friend of mankind that would take human society into a utopian future, but which in fact was doing nothing other than delivering man to the devil and an irrevocable destruction.
The Mad Parson spoke like a parson. He talked of Jesus and the Kingdom and resurrection. But he twisted things around enough—made them fit his particular cultural and intellectual milieu, as is fashionable today—so that his words were actually nothing more than N.I.C.E. propaganda. “The
Mad indeed. But the world (and even the Church, to some extent) is full of mad parsons, preaching a “gospel” with familiar words yet with altered meaning. They are not hard to find, those who would reinterpret the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Holy Eucharist, emptying the rich (and divinely revealed) content and replacing it with vapid samplings from psychology, sociology, and the philosophies or politics of the day. They use the words of Jesus to support their own crooked agendas. But they are leading people astray and ultimately to destruction.
I read recently about an Easter homily given by a Catholic priest. He explained the resurrection as a “spiritual” thing that helps “lift our spirits.” Lift our spirits? If our religion is that bland, cheap, and vacuous, then we are fools to remain in it a moment longer. You can “lift your spirits” with any new-age self-help book, but only Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, can raise you from the dead!
We have to be spiritually and intellectually well-grounded in the Faith, in the teachings of the Church, if we are not to be misled by spurious propagandizing parsons who are trying to insinuate “another gospel” (see Galatians 1:6-9) into the beliefs and practices of the people of God. We must not hesitate to exclaim with the Apostle: Let their false teachings be condemned!—but at the same time being concerned enough to pray for their enlightenment and salvation, and to try charitably to correct them if it is possible.
I believe that we are going to see more and more of the Orwellian new-speak among theologians and teachers in the Church. We’re already seeing much of it in the media, politics, and the educational system (not only about religion, but about morality and truth itself). They are only trying to be N.I.C.E., of course, but there will be Hell to pay for distorting the word of God and turning the message of Christ into something it was never meant to be. The official Magisterium of the Church is our safeguard for the truth about Christian faith and morals. There’s no mad parson sitting in St Peter’s chair.