2 April 2018

Headlam and the Wendy House (1)

I wasn't around during the Thirties, but the anecdotally-driven impression I get is that European culture was divided. There were those who believed in stark, virile, Nordic culture, combined with 'race' and 'blood' imperatives. This involved Improving the Race by Eugenic methods which included sterilisation, abortion, and 'euthanasia', and the supersession or even elimination of lesser races. And there were those who strongly opposed these deadly superstitions. Nazism, of course, grabbed these ideas and ran with them, but they had been around in Northern Europe and North America long before the advent of Nazism. With varying levels of extremism, such ideas found within the churches a degree of support. German Protestantism split; those who would not run with the Zeitgeist formed a 'Confessing' Church which repudiated the mainstream and more conformist parts of German Protestantism.

Englishmen who were inclined to Satire, had enormous scope. I have forgotten who it was who observed that Aryans were as tall as Goebels, as slim as Goering, as blond as Hitler. Mgr R A Knox saw the ridiculous side of the Nordic, Teutonic, fashion; so did G K Chesterton ... and Dom Gregory Dix lost the friendship of 'Nipper' Williams by mocking it throughout the 1930s in the Anglican Benedictine journal Laudate.

One of Dix's least favourite bishops was Headlam of Gloucester. Headlam was a disdainful upper-class Wykehamist; he saw things from an 'Establishment', 'Management' standpoint. So he profoundly disliked the 'Confessing' Church for their anti-government approach. He had made himself interested in 'Church Unity'; so he disapproved of the split in German Protestantism caused (as he saw it) by the opponents of Hitlerism. As late as 1938, he was criticising those who insisted upon an incompatibility between Christianity and National Socialism. Dix, with his contempt for Nordophilia, his suspicion of 'ecumenical' initiatives which amounted to pan-Protestantism, and his radical, magnificent antipathy to grand people who took themselves seriously, couldn't have been more different from Headlam.

No, not at all hilarious so far. I'll get on to the Wendy House soon. I thought you would like to have some background.

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