Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Literally anti-establishment

We in the Anglo-American world are constantly being pestered by over-privileged self-publicists waving their fake "anti-establishment" credentials in our faces, so top marks to the Norwegian parliament for literally socking it* to the establishment, by disestablishing the Church of Norway. I doubt whether this move will have many practical consequences, but it is at least a real thing, as opposed to a pseudo-event funded by tycoons and realised through media manipulation.

I'm not expecting anything quite so real to happen to our established church in Brexit-addled England any time soon, although some, more thoughtful, Anglicans, including the Archbishop of Canterbury,** admit that disestablishment might not be such a terrible thing.

One of the advantages of disestablishment would be to make thoughtless Anglicans seem slightly less embarrassing. I came across a good example of thoughtless Anglicanism this Christmas, when children from my son's school held a Christmas show with carols, songs and assorted readings at the local parish church. Just a normal primary school production for kids a bit too old for a nativity play.

It only got kind of embarrassing right at the end, when the new rector came forward to say how good the kids had been (which they had been - nothing wrong with that), then started gushing about how wonderful it was that they'd actually dared to mention Jesus, because too many schools these days, he alleged, are terrified to mention The Real Meaning of Christmas for fear of offending somebody.

It takes a extreme lack of self-awareness to come out with this sort of War on Christmas whinge when you're a cleric in the established church, presiding over a retelling of a specifically Christian story, which children and families of all faiths and none are expected to participate in as a matter of course. Sorry, Reverend, but Christians, and especially members of the Church of England, are not a persecuted minority in England. The head of your church is the head of state, your clerics get an automatic block of seats in the upper house of parliament, you have an extensive network of publicly-funded faith schools with which to indoctrinate young minds - that's not what a persecuted minority looks like.

What you are is a privileged minority and what you experience as oppression by political correctness is really just the steady erosion of your privileges. People don't leave Jesus out of Christmas because they're terrified of causing offence and falling foul of some humanist Gestapo. It's way simpler than that - most people just aren't that into Him. In fact, there's evidence to suggest that a lot of people never were.

If anybody's afraid of causing offence, it's non-believers like me. I could object to your incessant proselytising, I could decide not to sing carols containing words I don't believe in, or sit through a church service that doesn't reflect my beliefs, or object to attempts to indoctrinate my child. But I don't, partly because I'm generally too damn polite to go around upsetting people who do believe in this stuff (except when provoked beyond reason) and partly because I'm not so doctrinaire that I can't appreciate some of the trimmings of religion, like the music, the architecture and the words of the scripture and liturgy (at least when they're not being mangled in some tone-deaf primary school-language happy-clappy iteration).

There's nothing very dignified about pretending to be a persecuted victim when you're nothing of the sort, but at least if the C of E renounced its existing privileges, this sort of pretence would look slightly less ridiculous.

Although maybe a better solution would be for those clerics with a major persecution complex to leave the Church of England and take Jesus with them. They could then be left free to lecture anybody who cared to listen about how they'd totally be preaching to packed pews if only it wasn't for all this politically-correct fear of causing offence. Meanwhile, a network of buildings cleared of all those off-puttingly paranoid God-botherers might be a more attractive and welcoming place for people keen on the "religious, not spiritual" benefits of getting together with other members of their community and having a good old sing-song once a week. Who knows, it might even reverse the C of E's Incredible Shrinking Congregation problem.

If the Archbishop of Canterbury wants me to flesh out my radical plan for reviving the Church of England, he can contact me via the comments section of this blog...


* OK, not literally hitting an establishment, but you know what I mean. Shut up.

** Ironic, considering that it's almost impossible to imagine a more establishment figure than Justin Welby, in every sense of the word.

PS - apologies for the incoherent fragment of this post which got inadvertently posted last night when I pressed "publish" instead of "save."