OK, that headline will be a shock to some as I have always made it clear I am emphatically not Christian. I did tell my frien Jenny (ViEiRa) not long ago however that I had some fond memories of the village church in Shropshire where I was brought up. Not of services or anything, my family were never churchgoers, but of an aspect of the British church we seem to have almost lost.
Without the Church and the pub (an unholy alliance?) there would have been no social life, the Midsummer Fete, Harvest Festival, Bonfire Night, the Chistmas Panto which as represented in the Vicar of Dibley, was just an excuse for everyone to do their party piece and a couple of activities around Easter and Whitsun that I now know were very pagan in origin.
But there was another aspect of the Church that I was barely aware of as a child but was reminded of when I read a dire warning that the National Health Service cannot keep up with the demand for domestic care for the elderly. In the village the WI volunteers made sure old people were visited, taken meals where necessary, had somebody to talk to a couple of times a week at least, received help keeping their gardens tidy and their homes in good repair, (I was drafted into digging, weeding, whitewashing and painting teams several times) and that the right people were alerted if a crisis was looming. I guess it was care in the community by the community.
Twenty – five years of Thatcherism later, people are not so generous with their time of course. And forty years of bureaucratic interference later I’m not sure it could still be done even if people were willing.
From a heated debate at The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog following an attack on the anti-homosexuality torchlit protest outside Parliament earlier in the week I detected something rather unpleasant and very American seems to be creeping into our society. We all know that Evangelical Chistianity with all the bigotry and misrepresentation that involves has infiltrated the dear old C of E and the protest was made by an affiliation of Swivel -Eyed Fundamentalist Jews, Muslims and Christians. While posting and commenting at American web mags I see many quite irrational arguments often descending into pure hatred over what is the right way to worship Jesus. Religion seems to have become a monster that is tearing the nation apart. We must not allow the fanatics to divide our society in the same way.
Now although my personal view is that the world can never begin to solve its problems until all organised religion is banned, I would defend passionately the right of people to practice their chosen religion. That right however should not extend to telling the rest of us we will be damned to perdition (love that phrase!) if we do not fall into line with their looney prejudices. In other words I expect the same tolerance to be extended to me and my fellow non – believers as most of us are prepared to extend to religionists.
And so I ask the question of religious readers, would it not be more Christian to bury the differences, form joint Anglican, Catholic, Mehodist (and Muslim where appropriate though I know in areas with large Muslim communities there is a support structure,) community support groups and work with the agencies of state? A bit less Jesus loves you and a lot practical action is was the first British Christian Church was about. (Did you know that Chistianity in Britain dates back to about a century before the date given for Jesus’ birth? Fascinating stuff, ancient history.)
Such an initiative would get mainstream churches back into the community, relieve some of the burden on overstretched resources and distance the acceptable face of Christianity from the Homophobic, Racist, Woman Hating varieties of that belief system.
I know some Chistians read Machiavelli so why not refine this idea with people of your faith, get some media coverage, challenge the Government to get involved or…
here’s a biggie…
ask Prince Charles for his support, he complains about people thinking he’s irrelevant.
Go on, I dare you. You don’t have to tell anyone you got the idea from an unrepentant old pagan.
BTW sorry if this seems incomplete. It probably needs a longer article than I have been able to give it today.
Bed and Breakfast Bible Society