By Madeleine Bingham
Meekness is described in the prayer books as the opposite virtue of anger. The famous play was not called "Look Back in Meekness." Anger was held to be a virtue. It was and is taken to be right to be angry, to be destructive, to tear down, to burn, to destroy, and even to desecrate.
All this is pardonable because it is against what is known as "the System". It is all done in the cause of protecting the weak.
Meekness is equated with Uriah Heep rubbing his hands and saying: "We are so very 'umble, Mr. Copperfield." Meekness is thought to be equivalent to lying down under injustice, to be accepting of evil, and to be passive in face of cruelty.
It is nothing of the kind. Meekness is the strongest of virtues. It is taking up arms against lies. It is being armed
with patience, and it is
countering sound, fury and half-truths with the clear light of patience and understanding.
It is not easy to be meek, because it needs the dull courage of endurance, and the patience to undermine the sound and fury of the angry theorist. It needs steel hard strength to batter down the natural pride, and often righteous anger which lies in every one of us.
It needs quick thinking to wait until the angry and the unjust have condemned themselves out of their own mouths. Meekness is not an easy virtue.
Every day On television in what are laughingly called "discussions" the angry and
the unjust shout their opponents down. For the angry are the masters of unreason, and very often their very anger closes the programme not with a whimper, or even a bang, but with the semblance of a brawl.
To be meek is not to be submissive. It is not to be accepting of the current political and anti-religious clichés. How often is one pinned in a corner at a party, or a meeting, and confronted with a furious face saying "You are a Catholic" and then immediately you are accused of condoning anything from the latest bomb to go off in Belfast to the defection of a priest who has decided to get married.
It is in these confrontations that the sword of meekness, which is often irony and humour, can be used.
To be meek is not to allow opinions which are against ethics to go by default. Sir Thomas Malory said of Lancelot: "Thou wert the meekest man and the
gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest."
To be meek is not to refuse to take up the spear in the defence of what is right, clear and clean.
To be against por nography is not to be that censorship. To suggest that extra marital sex can lead to abortions, misery, fatherless children is not to be narrow minded, puritanical, and in favour of turning little Nelly out into the snow with her shameful bundle.
There is too much fudging of issues in modern argument. Watch the way the pundits on the television try to turn the arguments against those who are defending the simple virtues, and attempt to make them seem foolish.
Meekness should be positive. St. Thomas More was meek, and yet his name lives on as a symbol of a courageous man who stood up for his principles against tyranny.
St. Peter talked about the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, but he never spoke of not standing up to be counted when it came to truth and justice, even though he himself failed once, and heard the cock crow thrice.
When we come to today — who represents the triumph of meekness against tyranny in the most poignant and courageous way better than Solzhenitsyn?
He is perhaps the best Christian living in the world today. A man who with patience, meekness, and the simple tools of pen and paper has defied even the iron face of Communism. There are very few among us — if any — who could have done so much with so few weapons. Like St. Paul he has suffered prison, stripes
and tyrannies and yet he is
the living embodiment of the strength of meekness, and the value of patient endurance.
If one man can do so much surrounded by fear, cruelty, and death, then surely a few meek and quiet spirits can stand up to be counted against the anger of the evil opinions which are spread about in the media.
The Beatitude says: "Blessed are the meek — for they shall inherit the earth" — it does not say "Blessed are the meek for they shall allow truth to be trampled, and, lies to flourish like the green bay tree." Neither does it say "Blessed are the meek for they shall be crushed by the angry."