Welcome

Welcome to Martin’s Fifth Column, a collection of writings by the Rev. Martin Hattersley Q.C., an Edmonton lawyer and Anglican minister.

To learn more about Martin, please visit the About page.

The postings on this site are arranged in parallel with a forthcoming book, so the hyperlinked Table of Contents and article categories are the ideal ways to browse. There are one hundred articles, sermons, and lectures spanning a wide range of topics, so do take your time.

Enjoy!

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By Way of Introduction

“Gemini”, organ of Greater Edmonton Mensa, boasts an exclusive audience, but not a very large one—around one hundred copies a month, depending on who has remembered to renew his or her membership. Edmonton’s “Anglican Messenger”, while increasing the readership from one hundred to around ten thousand, still is of limited interest to the general public. Yet over the past few years, the columns of these papers have been privileged to host some provocative commentaries I have made on a wide diversity of social issues.

Having won an award for the Editorship of “Gemini”, and an honourable mention in church publishing circles for the columns in the “Anglican Messenger”, I have taken it upon myself to offer these to a wider audience.

Somewhere in the middle of all these essays, there is an explanation of why the title “Fifth Column” was chosen. It hints at the subtle belief I have that life itself is subversive. Life upsets things, kills them, yet makes them new. Really to live well is to choose a meaningful form of suicide. The price of life, the pain, the uncertainty, the obligations to life’s Author, are sometimes not very much to our liking, and most of us would far rather take refuge in dead and controllable ‘systems’.

My credentials for writing what I do are a little obscure. Brought up in the heretical monetary tradition of the Social Credit movement, I have spent many years marvelling at the chaos, injustice and inefficiency that masquerade today as an economic system. Educated in the field of Constitutional Law at the feet of Sir Ivor Jennings, I squirm at the impracticalities and misunderstandings that never seem to leave the question of Canada’s constitutional process. Having absorbed religion simultaneously from the evangelicals and from Bishop John Robinson, of “Honest to God” fame, I have an eclectic theological background that somehow has brought me into the unique and surprising occupation of “priest in secular employment,” and contributor to the new Anglican Book of Alternative Services. I have climbed to the heights of Vice Chairmanship of Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce, and served as a somewhat unwilling President of the Alberta Human Rights and Civil Liberties Association. The totally unplanned, unwanted, and painful distinction of being the father of one of Edmonton’s more notorious victims of homicide in 1988, my daughter Catherine Rose Greeve, is an experience that has coloured my theological thinking from that day to this. God plays hardball—love and forgiveness hurt.

Don’t take these little pieces too seriously. They’re one man’s commentary on the passing scene. Surprisingly often, they are prophetic—but I am past the point where I will get on my political high horse, to save a world that would rather die than think. Let’s just sow some seeds of common sense. The time may yet come when they will blossom.

– Gemini, 1992

“The Fifth Column”

I began to feel my age when my children asked me “Why do you call your column ‘The Fifth Column’?”, and I realized that they were not alive at the time of the Spanish Civil War. Fortunately, I was able to turn to the encyclopedia:

FIFTH COLUMN, supporters and sympathizers of an enemy, engaged in espionage and sabotage behind the home lines of defence. The term originated during the Spanish Civil War to describe the rebel sympathizers of Franco who were behind the Loyalist lines in Madrid and working in cooperation with the four military columns that were advancing on the city …

Far be it from me to confess that I try in these columns to undermine the organized structures of society, but nevertheless, I do have an angle. In the later chapters of Revelation, we see a picture of Christ confronted by three oppressive powers—the Beast, Babylon, and the False Prophet. They are strikingly similar to the three temptations of Jesus in the desert. In these symbols we see the three controlling powers of the world we live in: Government, Commerce, and Belief. All of them, under God, have a due and proper place in the structure of the civilized world. Any or all of them, made into an idol, can be God’s greatest enemy—and that can include the actions of the organized church.

In many places now we are seeing the collapse of the authority of governments, in physical defiance or incipient tax revolt, as an era when governments played God comes to an end. Before long, however, the Church will need to protest the intolerable social conditions brought on by uncontrolled ‘free market’ economics. As a matter of fact, I believe the church still underestimates its own resurgent political strength. The churches have had a vast influence over recent years in the reduction of racism: they have greatly influenced the recent liberal tend in the policies of the government of South Africa, and I believe have received less than their due credit for the remarkable and peaceable liberation of Eastern Europe. Not simply Christianity, either. The impact of Islam on world politics is already significant, and likely not yet at its peak.

So, at the beginning of our ‘decade of evangelism’, Christianity has already succeeded in striking a blow for humanity against totalitarian governments everywhere. Before long it will be asked to speak out much more stridently, for the sake of humanity, against the evils created by an economic system dominated by irresponsible moneychangers. That is its prophetic role, and if it does not fulfil it, then it becomes indeed a ‘false prophet’.

In the days before desegregation in the southern U.S., the story is told of an African American who tried to attend a ‘whites only’ church, and was unceremoniously asked to leave. As he stood dejected by the side of the road outside the church, a stranger came up to him. It was Jesus. “Don’t worry, my friend,” said Jesus. “It’s fifty years since that church was built, and I haven’t been able to get into it yet!”

– Anglican Messenger, April 1990