‘There is a cruelty in all’: Challenges to Faith
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‘There is a cruelty in all’: Challenges to Faith book
This book has demonstrated the context of Clare’s claims to be an adherent of Christianity. Yet any Christianity must be predicated on a theodicy, and throughout my research into Clare’s faith, I continually have wondered how he reconciles Christian faith with the presence of evil in the world. That there is ‘evil’ in Clare’s world, which would have to be justified in order to balance experience with faith in a just, loving God, is incontrovertible. Precisely what this evil might be, however, is less straightforward. There is of course the ‘evil’ of enclosure, and this, with its obvious connection to a thought pattern admitting of a theological displacement occurring through a fall, is undoubtedly seen as such by Clare. (It is important to remember that ‘evil’ does not invoke one coherent theological phenomenon: in a climate still drenched with the terminology of decades of Dissenting religion, the rhetoric was confusing at the very least, and the gravest evils were understood to come from within ‘Christianity’ itself. Clare was certainly aware of such debates. Furthermore, such ideas attached to the ‘them and us’ formulations of political radicalism. In some contemporary rhetoric, for example, Paine was quite clearly satanic.) However, in assuming man’s culpability in the Fall, Clare is not concerned with evolving an hypothesis for the origin of cosmic evil. As I have discussed, several aspects of his life effectively function as perceptual ‘falls’, but it is not clear that Clare ever deliberately weaves these ideas into an extended theory, and the absence of a true diabolo from Clare’s work is notable.