John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey
& the New Rules of the Game
"It is good to know that both the faithful
and the faithless can still be playing from
the same chessboard."
So wrote the late John Mortimer—barrister, author, dramatist, screenwriter, bon vivant, and a charming name-dropper—in his Where There's a Will, shortly before his death. He was referring to the fact that, over the course of his life, he, as a non-believer, had been able to share similar values and intellectual pursuits with contemporaries who were Christians. Probably he was right for much of his twentieth-century life in the English-speaking West, but I rather doubt that his dictum is still true or can own any veracity much longer. As a cultural norm for all, Christendom's historical influence is dissipating. Sir John lived his life (1923–2009) when true faith in the West was diminishing, just as was the British Empire, but that faith yet held a tenuous grip and residual fragrance, and could infuse corporate memory and personal behavior.
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Raymond J. Brown is Secretary of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain, and a security consultant living in New Hampshire. He and his wife Susan, a librarian, have three grown children.
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