Monday, March 27, 2006

Divine Inspiration

I tend to go to church for births, deaths and marriages. This weekend was a Christening, and I've done the lot now: Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, and now high-church Anglican. As you'd expect the devil makes more of an appearance the closer you get to Rome. The church was impressive, and the service had a gravitas which seemed incongruous with the (mainly non-religious) church goers. We began with "All Creatures Great and Small", which remains a lovely hymn, reminiscent of childhood, and it was good to hear it, and sing it again. The other hymns were more obscure, and without a choir, we murmured our way into silence. It made me think that churches aren't about religion but about the "absence of religion" - that's what they're railing against. You have to understand something of the fall, the expulsion from Eden, and the significance of the cross - and see how that had such a resonance for so many years, as humankind struggled with the impossible contradiction of consciousness in a world they didn't understand. Religion in that sense becomes a necessary comfort, and more than that, a promise that this world - our lives - can be understood and have meaning. Most people in that church yesterday would only have small tragedies in their lives - no less vital for that - loved ones dying in their fifties and sixties, jobs lost, marriages broken up, perhaps worse - and they'd come to religion at those points perhaps. But the rest of life? The unbroken mini-struggles of our day-to-day living? I got the feeling that this religion couldn't do much for that; that it's absence would not be as sorely felt as, say, an absence of work, or television or shopping centres. I'm not being banal here, but seeing things as they are. Renounce the devil? Easy for us all to do - our "sins" minimal in the scheme of things. Everyone there probably wants a slightly easier life; but other than that, we've reached a point where "absence of religion" is no longer a problem for most of us. And when we don't miss it...then what is it's value? In contrast, tonight, Verberate are staging a night of refugee poetry, partly as a benefit for a woman who could be deported. The devil may well be a recurring theme in the stories we hear. Religion, I fear, is poorly equipped to deal with him.

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