26 December 2007

This is the reality of churches in middle England today.

My partner's parents are devout Christians. This has caused problems on occasion in the past. However, things have got easier, and these days, the relationship between my (athiest) partner and his parents is generally good. We agreed to go to a carol service with them at their local church on the 23rd. The church itself was lovely, very simple inside, but lit by Christmas lights and candles, which made for a good atmosphere. The service was well-attended, and the carols were good.

Now on to the negatives. I had never realised that there were so many pro-life paternalistic, and patriarchal overtones in the Christmas story. During the readings, I became very uncomfortable with the messages which were being conveyed. Mary, for example, is given no choice in whether or not to carry God's child. Furthermore, when Joseph finds out that she is pregnant, he no longer wants to marry her, but is persuaded by an angel sent by God who assures him that Mary is 'unsullied' and therefore is fit for marriage. There were many other examples, and at some point I intend to read these Bible passages in detail, and then write a critique of the ideologies expressed.

The worst thing was however yet to come. The vicar at this church felt that it was appropriate to start his sermon by making jokes about the name "Mohammed", and encouraging the congregation to laugh (which they did). My partner and I were so paralysed by horror that all we were able to do was to stare at each other in disgust. If this is the sort of 'tolerance' of other religions which the Church of England practices today, then it makes me want to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. I cannot believe that he is able to get away with that sort of reprehensible behaviour. The Church of England should be deeply ashamed of itself. I am certainly ashamed for it.

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