A Crisis of Faith
While Netflix certainly produces programs of questionable artistic merit (although I do look forward to seeing The Two Popes), one series that from the standpoint of using historical events as an inspiration to create compelling theater—and frequently brilliant theater—is playwright Peter Morgan’s The Crown. While co-produced by Sony’s Columbia studios, the latest series is only available at the time of this writing via Netflix itself, the primary financier, although as in the past Blu-ray and DVD physical media will in time become available, while Amazon evidently does not have the prior series episodes on its Prime platform available for streaming. The new third season of The Crown features some of the serie’s best writing, and one episode to me especially stands out: “Moondust”, which follows and is a companion piece to another superb episode, “Bubbikins”, which features a brilliant portrayal of Prince Phillip’s mother, the extraordinary Princess Alice of Greece, who exemplified what I would describe as traditional Christian faith.
In fact, the episode begins with the “Regime of the Generals,” which as Roger Stone noted here, was likely yet another CIA government overthrow “Op.” Given how Princess Alice is almost forgotten, this episode is to be praised for its accurate and sympathetic portrait of Princess Alice, a woman who not only endured great suffering but prevailed, and embodied the very spirit of Christian love and self-sacrifice:
Although she had little means and was basically starving herself, she managed to set up a food truck for the sake of helping young children who had no food at all. When her own money ran out completely, she traveled to Sweden to raise the necessary funds.
After the outbreak of World War II, she bravely continued her charity work with the same intensity.
During the German Occupation of Greece she faced the irony of having two sons-in-law fighting on the German side and one son (Philip) fighting in the British Royal Navy. It is said that, when visited by a German general who asked her, “Is there anything I can do for you?” she replied, “You can take your troops out of my country.”
During that time Princess Alice sheltered a woman of Jewish descent, Rachel Cohen, with her five children in her own home. Several years later, when a member of the Cohen family happened to meet her in Rome and thanked her, she responded: “I was just doing my job.”
However, in the companion piece of this episode “Bubbikins”, “Moondust,” Morgan created an entirely fictional episode in which not long after his mother’s death Prince Phillip suffers a crisis of faith, as portrayed in the scene in which he meets with Windsor Castle’s new in-house bishop, Dean Robin Woods (brilliantly portrayed by Tim McMullan), who is in the process of creating a religious academy for “personal and spiritual growth” (that shall become in the future Saint George’s House) and he invites Prince Phillip to attend one of the early meetings.
One of the priests attending says, “The public has turned away from us. From the Church. It’s clear we’re failing to connect with people. More and more people are finding their spiritual needs met elsewhere.”
Woods asks, “Where for example?”
Prince Phillip replies, “The moon.”
Woods responds, “The moon. Yes, sir. Five hundred million people watched the lunar landing. Five hundred million people getting from television what they used to get from the church: a sense of coming together, of community, of awe and wonder. Whether that’s part of a wider shift…from religion to science…” And then the conversation continues.
One of the priests comments that the greater the mysteries that are answered by science, the more questions are answered, the less need there is in a God to provide answers, a perspective that dates at least as early as Aristophanes. That sentiment results in Dean Woods stating, “I am reminded of Keats. ‘What is there in thee, Moon! that thou shouldst move My heart so potently?’ Now we know what the moon is. Just dust. Silence. A monochromatic void. We see no God behind those rocks and space dust, simply an unknowable vastness. ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
When after speaking these words Dean Woods asks Prince Phillip for his thoughts, he responds testily that he’s “never heard such pretentious, self-piteous nonsense” and that the men should in fact take action in the world, as the Apollo astronauts did. They are the people Prince Philip admires.
While the Apollo astronauts did visit Windsor Castle and meet the Queen, an entirely fictitious encounter between the Prince and the lunar astronauts Aldrin, Collins, and Armstrong was written for this episode, where Prince Phillip’s hope in finding kindred spirits is dashed. None of the men are anything like pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr., tragically killed at the age of nineteen, who would write in his poem “High Flight” something that Prince Phillip tried to experience in a scene (again fictional) depicted in the episode, reaching out to the moon (an excerpt below of “High Flight”):
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds,–and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of–Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew–
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
It is clear that while the Prince Philip as created by Morgan is a kindred spirit of John Gillespie Magee Jr., such sentiment, that is the sense of the numinous, is beyond the stolid (as they were written in the episode) American astronauts’ comprehension. I won’t reveal any more of the plot, suffice it to say that it deals with Prince Phillip’s seeking faith and reconciling the conflict within himself.
The Implicit Agenda of “Moondust”
As in Netflix’s “The White Helmets”film, most likely, I believe there is a twofold agenda served by “Moondust.” The first is obvious; as an organ of the neo-liberal global oligarchy, Netflix and its partners use the episode to present, as can be gleaned from both legacy media and ordinary viewer reactions, a sympathetic portrayal of the monarchy in general and in particular, Prince Phillip himself. The less obvious agenda is to continue promoting the narrative of America’s Apollo program. While I recall Tucker Carlson in an opening monologue apropos of an entirely different subject likening skeptics of the reality of astronauts reaching the moon to crazy tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorists (and in the past since the Moon is a body at its nearest point is only 356,400 kilometers from the Earth I myself never thought an insurmountable obstacle to extant 1960s technology until overwhelmed by so many lies promulgated by government I became skeptical), recently Dmitry Orlov, a Russian engineer, in two chapters in his thought provoking book, The Meat Generation, effectively debunked the mission’s likelihood of success using his expertise as an engineer and the mathematics of probability. He doesn’t wade into the weeds the way “The Moon Landings: A Giant Hoax for Mankind?” allows mendacious obfuscation and propaganda to debunk dubious challenges. To summarize, Orlov explains NASA used the Russian scientist Kondratyuk’s method to get to the moon, a method which employs multi-stage rockets and numerous steps, lacking the ability to send a single stage rocket to the moon; concomitant with each step introduced, multiple points of potential failure are necessarily introduced. As Orlov writes:
Let’s enumerate the steps of Kondratyuk’s method. A multiple-stage rocket lifts the payload to near-Earth orbit. The orbital module separates from the last stage of the rocket, turns around and docks to the lunar module. Then the last stage of the rocket fires again, accelerating to Earth boost velocity and driving it toward the Moon. Then the rocket stage disconnects and crashes into the Moon along a ballistic trajectory. Then the lunar modules brake and enter lunar orbit. Then the lander undocks from the orbital module, descends and lands on the Moon. Then, once the mission on the surface is completed, the ascent module disconnects from the lander, fires its rocket to enter lunar orbit and docks to the orbital module. After the crew is transferred to the orbital module, the ascent module is disconnected. Then the orbital module fires its rocket to fly back to Earth. Before reentry, the crew is transferred to the descent module, the service module separates and the descent module plummets through the atmosphere.
Count the steps: there are 13 of them. Now, suppose that each step is 99% reliable. [Emphasis added.]
Then the probability of the overall mission being successful is 0.9913 or 88%. Problem is, practical experience of failures during space missions during the 60s and 70s puts the chance of success at each step at around 60%. Now, 0.613 gives us the chances of success of any given Apollo mission that lands on the moon at 0.13%. There were purportedly six Apollo missions that landed on the moon. 0.00136 gives us a truly astronomically small probability of success: 5×10–18. That’s one chance of success for every 200,000,000,000,000,000 attempts. [Emphasis added.]
Suppose you don’t like the 60% reliability number. Maybe those NASA scientists were just extraordinarily good and managed to make each step 90% reliable—a tall order, considering that they had to get it right on first try. Then the chance of all six Apollo missions being successful is one in 3,707. But then the 90% number is itself highly unlikely. [Emphasis added.]
As far “highly unlikely” goes, the Apollo missions pretty much set the gold standard. It leads us to conclude that it is highly unlikely that any Americans ever set foot on the Moon. Now, a lot of people are understandably flabbergasted at the possibility that it has been possible to pull off a hoax of this magnitude for 50 years. Sure, that’s highly unlikely too. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the readers to calculate the probability of pulling it off, but my hunch is that it is many orders of magnitude higher than one in 200,000,000,000,000,000 because I think it highly unlikely that an overwhelming percentage of highly compensated professionals wouldn’t keep their mouths shut in order to save their jobs, protect their reputations and, if the stakes are high enough, stay alive.
In addition, in the second part of his American lunar landing debunking thesis, while providing additional technical and historical facts (including Soviets being blackmailed and corrupt) bolstering his contention, in his conclusion Orlov asks an obvious question:
…NASA’s response, over the past five decades, has been to stonewall any attempt at clarification and to demand that the doubters prove their allegations while withholding or destroying information that would make such proof possible.
But the point can still be proven by asking just one question: Where’s the rocket engine that would have made the Apollo missions possible? If the US ever had such a rocket engine, it would be counted as a major, world-class asset and it would still exist and be in use today. But instead the US keeps having to buy the Russian RD-180 rocket engine. If the US ever had the means to reliably launch its astronauts into orbit, it would still be able to do so today.
The Two Christianities
My endorsement of these two episodes of The Crown as powerful, thought provoking drama is not an endorsement for the Christianity that governs the series and Matthew J.L. Ehret in his “The Coming Collapse of the House of Windsor and the Clash of ‘Two Christianities’” made me think about Prince Phillip, the real man, for as Ehret describes him using facts, he clearly is not the same one as portrayed in the dramatization:
It is an open secret that the modern environmentalist movement’s longest living founder and patron is none other than Prince Philip himself, who co-founded the World Wildlife Fund for Nature in 1961 along with his bosom buddy Prince Bernhardt of Bilderberger fame. Married to the head of the Anglican Church, Prince Philip expressed this misanthropic anti-Christian view of man on multiple occasions over the years and has even publically stated his wish to be “reincarnated as a deadly virus” to solve overpopulation. In a December 1981 People Magazine interview, His royal virus laid it all out when he said:
“Human population growth is probably the single most serious long-term threat to survival. We’re in for a major disaster if it isn’t curbed… The more people there are, the more resources they’ll consume, the more pollution they’ll create, the more fighting they will do. We have no option. If it isn’t controlled voluntarily, it will be controlled involuntarily.”
In addition, Ehret noted:
Earlier last year an international pedophilia ring patronized by royalty with tentacles across the elite of the western world came to light in extreme detail with the effect that Royal Prince Andrew has found himself “fired” from all positions of authority in order to live in a state of early retirement. To the horror of the royals, Andrew’s connection to Epstein has renewed interest in the earlier Jimmy Saville scandal which blew up after the TV show host’s death in 2011. At that moment hundreds pedophilia (and necrophilia) cases spanning decades was made public. The fact that Saville was a lifelong friend of both Princes Charles and Andrew alike was even more detrimental a fact than the Epstein connection.
Ehret concludes that the British Royal form of Christianity is this—oligarchical:
This battle is found in the opposing concepts of Man, God and Nature’s law from which all definitions of “Justice”, “Goodness”, “Beauty”, “Truth” and “Love” emanate. In the case of what we will call “oligarchical Christianity” preferred by slave owners and imperialists, we will classify that perverted version which denies the validly of such passages as 1 Corinthians 13 preferring instead to emphasize the submissiveness of slaves to masters, masses to priesthoods and serfs to Caesar.
Obedience without love or knowledge which slave owners used to keep their human property in bondage for centuries is the Christianity that modern critics like Marx and Engels have attacked as “opium for the masses”.
Parallel to the British Imperial version of Christianity, there is the “Judaeo-Christian” variant in America that, as Alistaire Crooke has recently written, compels America (and allies such as the United Kingdom) towards perpetual war. This understanding of Jesus Christ, I would argue, is contrary to what most individual Christians, whether of Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox faith, believe and it is irreconcilable to how we understand Scripture. In “Israel in the Middle East — A Civilisational and Metaphysical War” Crooke writes:
An ‘empire’ – as in Isaiah, which describes the messianic times as a Pax Judaica, when “all the nations” will pay tribute “to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the god of Jacob”; when “the Law will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem,” so that Yahweh will “judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples.”
Further on in the same book, we read: “The riches of the sea will flow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you” (60:5); “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly destroyed” (60:12); “You will suck the milk of nations, you will suck the wealth of kings” (60:16); “You will feed on the wealth of nations, you will supplant them in their glory” (61:5-6). Pretty clear: this is not just run of the mill nationalism.
Aren’t such quotes just too historically arcane? What has this to do with last Tuesday? Well, a lot. Because these notions of election, of an exceptional mission and destiny are literally believed by many Americans, as well as by Jews…
These old prophesies may not be uppermost in the daily consciousness of many contemporaries. But they are alive, and present in the Hebraic world. And they are wholly present in one key US constituency: Trump’s Evangelical base (one in every four Americans say they are Evangelists). They see the actualisation of Israel’s destiny as an eschatological necessity: It was they who insisted on the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem; they supported the Trump’s assertion of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan; they support the annexation of Israeli settlements; and they were behind the demand that the US scrap the JCPOA.
The First Christianity
If Prince Phillip’s Christianity and the martial Christianity that Crooke discusses are a second, later form, what we might call the First Christianity is apparent in the traditional interpretation (a translation of Isaiah Sixty) that is discussed in The Orthodox Study Bible. Regarding 60:6-9, “Eusebius sees these nations, along with the camels, sheep and rams, and wealth, as metaphors for the spiritual gifts and sacrifices which will be offered on God’s altar. In this way, His House of Prayer, Christ’s church, will be glorified. Gregory of Nyssa comments that ‘virtue is a light and buoyant thing’ and those that who live virtuous lives fly like clouds.”
Regarding Isaiah 61:1,2 as opposed to the Evangelical interpretation Crooke cites, the commentary states, “It is to this passage which Jesus referred in Lk 4:16 when he stood in the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah. He told the people, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ Jesus made very clear that He is the Lord God of whom Isaiah wrote. The Bretton translation of 61.1, 2 (and 3) is:
1 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; 2 to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompence; to comfort all that mourn; 3 that there should be given to them that mourn in Sion glory instead of ashes, the oil of joy to the mourners, the garment of glory for the spirit of heaviness: and they shall be called generations of righteousness, the planting of the Lord for glory.
Saint Augustine writes in Contra Faustum Manichaeum Book 22:
76. If it is supposed that God could not enjoin warfare, because in after times it was said by the Lord Jesus Christ, “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but if any one strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the left also,” Matthew 5:39 the answer is, that what is here required is not a bodily action, but an inward disposition. The sacred seat of virtue is the heart, and such were the hearts of our fathers, the righteous men of old. But order required such a regulation of events, and such a distinction of times, as to show first of all that even earthly blessings (for so temporal kingdoms and victory over enemies are considered to be, and these are the things which the community of the ungodly all over the world are continually begging from idols and devils) are entirely under the control and at the disposal of the one true God. Thus, under the Old Testament, the secret of the kingdom of heaven, which was to be disclosed in due time, was veiled, and so far obscured, in the disguise of earthly promises. But when the fullness of time came for the revelation of the New Testament, which was hidden under the types of the Old, clear testimony was to be borne to the truth, that there is another life for which this life ought to be disregarded, and another kingdom for which the opposition of all earthly kingdoms should be patiently borne. Thus the name martyrs, which means witnesses, was given to those who, by the will of God, bore this testimony, by their confessions, their sufferings, and their death. The number of such witnesses is so great, that if it pleased Christ—who called Saul by a voice from heaven, and having changed him from a wolf to a sheep, sent him into the midst of wolves—to unite them all in one army, and to give them success in battle, as He gave to the Hebrews, what nation could withstand them? What kingdom would remain unsubdued? But as the doctrine of the New Testament is, that we must serve God not for temporal happiness in this life, but for eternal felicity hereafter, this truth was most strikingly confirmed by the patient endurance of what is commonly called adversity for the sake of that felicity.
Thus, the Christian Evangelical or Judaeo-Christian interpretation that Crooke discusses is at variance from earlier Christian tradition and the two cannot be reconciled.
Where Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Agree
Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration can be summarized in his own words:
“…the great question that will be with us throughout this entire book: But what has Jesus really brought, then, if he has not brought world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God! He has brought the God who once gradually unveiled his countenance first to Abraham, then to Moses and the prophets, and then in the wisdom literature–the God who showed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the peoples of the earth. He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about where we are going and where we come from: faith, hope, and love.”
For an understanding of the Orthodox faith and its differences with the Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrines, the book, Surprised by Christ by Father James Bernstein offers I believe an excellent overview, and I also believe that learning about the different forms of Christianity is worthwhile. Yet in these difficult, and truly dangerous times, I also hope that Christians, whether Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, or any other denomination, will find that their core understanding of Jesus Christ is more similar than different.
I believe the commonality of traditional Christian faith is evident in the prayers offered to God by the various denominations and the conception therein of Jesus Christ not only as someone who helps the individual believer in the constant struggle against the temptations and powers in the world, but also in providing the moral and spiritual strength to better believers as human beings, to enable us to strive for the purposes God intended for us as His creations, purposes which I also believe are in offering selfless love, in sacrifice, in service, as Princess Alice herself demonstrated. Below are examples of prayers that to me reflect this commonality in understanding, despite the differences of the subordinate dogmas the various denominations hold.
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
The English translation of the Act of Contrition from Rite of Penance © 1974, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. (ICEL). All rights reserved.
A Peace Prayer
Lord, give me grace to hold righteousness in all things
that I may lead a clean and blessed life and prudently flee evil
and that I may understand the treacherous and deceitful falseness of the devil.
Make me mild, peaceable, courteous, and temperate.
And make me steadfast and strong.
Also, Lord, give Thou to me that I be quiet in words
and that I speak what is appropriate.
– John Wycliffe
Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer by Antiochos, a monk of Pandectis. [Excerpt]
Grant us, Master, as we depart for sleep, rest for body and soul. Protect us from the gloom of sinful sleep and from all dark pleasures of the night. Calm the impulses of passion, and quench the fiery darts of evil which are treacherously cast against us. Check the turbulence of our flesh and lull all our earthly and mundane thoughts. Grant us, O God, a watchful mind, prudent reason, a vigilant heart, and tranquil sleep, free from all evil dreams. Raise us up at the hour of prayer, strengthen us in your commandments, and keep unshaken within us the remembrance of your judgments. Grant us to glorify you all night long that we may praise and bless and glorify your all-honorable and magnificent name, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Most glorious, ever virgin, blessed Theotokos [Theotokos (in Greek, Θεοτόκος) is a Greek word that means "God-bearer” or "Birth-giver to God.”] present our prayers to your Son and our God, and plead with him, that through you he may save our souls.
My hope is the Father, my refuge, the Son, my protection, the Holy Spirit. Holy Trinity, glory to you.
My every hope I place in you, Mother of God, keep me under your protection.
Because of you, O full of grace, all creation rejoices, the ranks of the Angels and the human race. Hallowed Temple and spiritual Paradise, pride of Virgins, from you God became flesh and he, who is our God before the ages, became a little child.
For he made your womb a throne and caused it to become wider than the heavens. Because of you, O full of grace, all creation rejoices, glory to you.
Holy angel, attendant of my wretched soul and miserable life, do not abandon me a sinner, neither desert me because of my incontinency.
Give no place to the evil demon to subdue me with the oppression of this mortal body, but take me by my wretched and outstretched hand, and lead me in the way of salvation. Yes, Holy Angel of God, the guardian and protector of my hapless soul and body, forgive me all things whatsoever wherewith I have troubled you, all the days of my life, and if I have sinned in anything this day. Shelter me in this present night, and keep me from every abuse of the adversary [the[the devil]at I may not anger God by any sin, and intercede with the Lord in my behalf, that he might strengthen me in the fear of Him, and make me a worthy servant of His goodness. Amen.
Virgin, Mother of God,
Hail, Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, for you gave birth to the Savior of our souls. (Repeat three times).
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.
One of the greatest sopranos of the twentieth century is Teresa Stratas; she was born to Cretan parents so I suspect but do not know that she is of the Orthodox faith. However, she stopped her career at its height, as Wikipedia notes, and “in the 1980s Stratas traveled to Calcutta and worked with the Roman Catholic Mother Teresa in an orphanage and at the Kalighat Home for the Dying. In the 1990s she again took time from her career to move into a Romanian hospital to clean cots and wash and care for the sick and dying orphans.” I find in my personal life the religious denomination of an individual is not a barrier to friendship, affection and compassion, and this human interaction to me is more important than my writing, although I hope my words can be of small help to my readers.
Saint John Chrysostom, whose work and life is beautifully introduced in the book On Living Simply: The Golden Voice of John Chrysostom, was much beloved by the people but martyred by the corrupt church authorities. (For this and other reasons even now I have more faith in Christian individuals than the current churches’ worldly leadership, be they Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.) From the book are Saint John Chrysostom’s thoughts about war, perhaps a perspective that will be helpful to all Christians, a perspective I pray the Evangelicals consider:
War is an abomination. It is quite wrong that one nation or tribe should attack another in pursuit of land, power, or wealth. It is doubly wrong that the victors should proclaim the glory of their battles, while their victims lie maimed and dying. The glory of war is illusory; war brings only misery. Yet this does not mean that military service is a dishonorable profession, nor that carrying arms impedes salvation. Every emperor, king, and prince must have soldiers to protect his realm from attack, and his people from robbery and murder. An army is necessary to keep peace with other nations, and to keep peace within a nation.
What, then, if the king orders his army to perform an evil act, such as invading a neighboring nation? Should the Christian soldier disobey his orders, even at the risk of being executed for his disobedience? In such a situation he must weigh one evil against another: the evil of participating in the invasion, against the evil of leaving his family without material support. None of us can presume to judge the soldier’s decision, but rather we must pray that the [Hol[Holy]rit guides his conscience.
More now than ever, I pray the words of Saint John resonate with those who consider serving in America’s military.
As an imperfect Christian, I also pray Prince Philip has his own “Road to Damascus” moment and repents, to become a son in the image of his mother. I bear him no ill will; he harms himself more than others by his beliefs and conduct, this I believe from a Christian perspective. I’m sure Princess Alice is praying for her son.
However, my hope is that in a world that will increasingly persecute and punish traditional Christians, no matter what our denomination, we shall work together to find what binds us, we shall work to support and help one another, we shall work to strive to promote peace, and goodwill to all men and to be compassionate, humble and gracious in our interactions with one another.