A delightfully rib-tickling true story this, a farce in which half a dozen religions are involved.
The setting is a grand place sacred to Christians – a cathedral in Scotland.
The date of the farce is January 6, the twelfth night of the Christmas season. It is traditionally a night for joking, at least in the Anglophone world. Shakespeare has a bunch of naughty characters playing practical jokes in his play Twelfth Night. (Forbidden reading though – “boko haram” – in the English departments of American universities, because Shakespeare is dead, white, and male, and could you think of any better reasons than those?)
Christians call January 6 “Epiphany”. The Roman church decided sometime in the 4th century that “Jesus” was baptized by John the Baptist on that date.
It was also, Christians say, the date on which Three Magi (Zoroastrian priests) came to pay homage to the newly born “Baby Jesus”. (Which just goes to show Zoroastrians that Christianity wins – so there!)
Now the cathedral wasn’t just any old cathedral. It was St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, and (says the Washington Times) “on its website the cathedral touts that it adheres to ‘liberal theology’ and engages in ‘ministry which is affirming, inclusive, open and non-judgemental’.”
So already we have four religions in play: Protestant Christianity of the British kind, the reigning sovereign being its head; Zoroastrianism, long since capitulated; and Marxism as coupled to Catholic Christianity in Latin America, under the name “liberation theology”.
Enter religion number five:
On that day holy to Christians, right there in the cathedral, a Muslim woman – on the invitation of the clergy – “read a passage from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ“.
It might be expected that the head of the faith in the United Kingdom of England and Scotland would and should raise an objection, call it an outrage, summon those responsible to explain why they did it and stand reproved if not condemned.
And, indeed, one of the Queen’s chaplains did object, in strong terms.
The Scottish cathedral that allowed a girl to read a passage from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ should apologise to Christians “suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims”, the Queen’s chaplain has said. …
A [Muslim] girl sang Surah 19, which specifically denies that Jesus was the Son of God and says He should not be worshipped, during a service to St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.
Now the Rev Gavin Ashenden, one of the chaplains to Queen Elizabeth II, has said the reading could be described as “blasphemy”. …
In a letter to The Times, Rev Ashenden says:
Quite apart from the wide distress (some would say blasphemy) caused by denigrating Jesus in Christian worship, apologies may be due to the Christians suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere. To have the core of a faith for which they have suffered deeply treated so casually by senior Western clergy such as the Provost of Glasgow is unlikely to have a positive outcome. There are other and considerably better ways to build “bridges of understanding”.
He also wrote in a post for the Archbishop Cranmer blog that it was highly unlikely a Christian would be invited to proclaim the divinity of Christ at Friday prayers in a mosque.
There was no dialogue in the Epiphany Eucharist; only a refutation of what Christians hold most dear and upon which salvation depends. In over 30 years of interfaith conversations, I have never yet come across a Muslim community which allowed those passages in the Gospels acclaiming the divinity of Christ to be read in Friday prayers.
As outrage grew over the reading, the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church [David Chillingworth] said he was “deeply distressed at the widespread offence”, saying Christians cannot offend their own religion in the name of inter-faith dialogue.
We approach others with open hearts but we stand in the truth of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
However, the cathedral’s provost, Kelvin Holdsworth, was unrepentant and even suggested that those who were offended were actually attacking him because he is gay.
So here now is the sixth religion: Political Correctness, affirming its doctrine of “anti-sexism”.
Kelvin Holdsworth wrote:
Having a recitation from the Qur’an in a Christian cathedral in worship is not a new thing. So it has indeed come as something of a surprise to find accounts of last week’s service appearing online and stirring up the most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered. This same Qur’anic reading has been given before in services and no outcry has happened. Is it because this is in a cathedral run by a gay man? Is it because the recitation was given by a young woman? Clearly those things are factors as they feature in some of the abuse.”
Oh yes, “clearly” that’s what this was all about! Not about Christianity, and not about the everlasting jihad of Islam against all who do not submit to its god. It was about being inclusive, open, and non-judgemental. Kelvin Holdsworth is not judging those who see a clash of doctrine in the event – which in any case should not be condemned for the decisive reason that it has happened before – merely reproaching them for blasphemy against his religion.
So did the Established Church judge, or reproach, or reprove, or even just gently correct Mr. Holdsworth?
Not on your nelly, as the British used to say.
The Established Church of the United Kingdom fired the Queen’s chaplain.
Though they didn’t put it quite like that. They put it like this:
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “Dr. Gavin Ashenden has tendered his resignation from the honorary position of Chaplain to The Queen. The Royal Household has accepted the resignation with immediate effect.”
You couldn’t make this stuff up. And you gotta laugh.
Dave Allen was a very funny comedian.
Is a very funny comedian.
Although we are atheists, we’re happy to bring our readers John Cleese’s persuasive recruiting ad for his new Christian church, because we are also capitalists:
While we tensely await the outcome of the British referendum which will decide whether or not the country leaves the EU (we hope it leaves*), here’s some British comedy.
PowerLine posted this clip from the marvelous British series Yes, Prime Minister.
We also pinch from PowerLine the American version of the joke about the newspapers:
The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country; the New York Times is read by people who think they ought to run the country; the New York Daily News is read by people who actually do run the country; USA Today is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Wall Street Journal is read by people who own the country; the Los Angeles Times is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; the New York Post is read by people who think that it is.
There is, however, no American newspaper equivalent of The Sun. It’s the one thing where Rupert Murdoch has let us down.
- Declaration of interest: Our editor-in-chief, Jillian Becker, is a member of the Council of the Freedom Association, a British organization that has been campaigning for years to bring Britain out of the European Union.
For a little light relief, here’ s what Catholics believe about “Purgatory”.
Millions of adult, literate, otherwise sane people do actually believe this.
From “Religious Tolerance”:
Logistics of Purgatory:
The Roman Catholic church dogma states that:
- Purgatory exists for temporary purging of sin.
- Punishment and prayers by people on earth will help those in Purgatory.
There is a range of beliefs about Purgatory in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Most or all of their theologians reject the Roman Catholic belief system. However, some Church authorities have taught that the inhabitants in Purgatory are systematically tortured with fire.
Passages in the Bible describe many additional forms of torture used on the inhabitants of Hell for all eternity without hope of mercy or relief: worms, unbearable heat, unbearable thirst, etc. However, St. Thomas Aquinas taught that only one form of torture is used in Purgatory “to cleanse us from the remains of sin…the pain of fire only is ascribed to Purgatory.”
Where is Purgatory?
Some have puzzled whether Hell and Purgatory are actually in the same location. St. Thomas Aquinas quotes Gregory the Great as quoting St. Augustine who wrote: “Even as in the same fire gold glistens and straw smokes, so in the same fire the sinner burns and the elect is cleansed.” St. Augustine apparently believed that the same fire that tortures the sinful in Hell also is used to purify the saved in Purgatory. Some believe that this implies that Purgatory and Hell are either adjacent or in the same location. Aquinas wrote that there are probably two Purgatory locations: one is inside the earth and is close to hell so that they can share the same fire. The other location is above the earth, between us and God. Aquinas appears to be wrong: Space exploration has not yet uncovered any sign of Purgatory above the earth. Deep holes drilled into the earth have not discovered Purgatory either, although there have been some interesting Christian urban legends to the contrary.
Some have inquired whether the pain that people experience in Purgatory is greater than the pain that we experience in life. Some reasoned that it is not greater because punishment is a result of sin; since we do not accumulate more sins in Purgatory, then the punishment will not be greater than that which we have been used to experiencing. But St. Thomas Aquinas quotes St. Augustine as saying that “This fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world.“ Aquinas agrees with St. Augustine. There will be two types of pain in Purgatory. They feel a keen sense of loss because they will not be in the presence of God while they remain in Purgatory. They will also feel the “punishment by corporeal fire.” The former is an overwhelming pain because the souls there will deeply long to be with God. The thermally induced pain would also be severe because it would be inflicted on the soul itself – there are no bodies in Purgatory. “Therefore it follows that the pain of Purgatory, both of loss and of sense, surpasses all the pains of this life.” The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that St. Bonaventure thought: “that this punishment by fire is more severe than any punishment which comes to men in this life.“
Many unofficial beliefs have arisen among individual Catholics: One source quotes Mary as saying that there are many levels in Purgatory. Living Christians can pray on behalf of individuals in Purgatory in order to give the latter temporary relief from pain. Those in the lowest level of Purgatory can only receive respite from their torture through the prayers of the living on NOV-2. The greatest number of souls leave Purgatory on Christmas day.
One writer comments:
“Do penance, or you will burn long years in Purgatory, is a fact that there is no getting away from…Which of us does not tremble when he thinks of those who have been burnt to death in a slow fire? What fear would not be ours if we had to face a similar death? Yet their suffering was of relatively short duration. The incomparably fiercer fire of Purgatory, which we may have to face, may last 20, or 50 or 100 years!”
Another source lists a Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great, which M. Cardinal Pahiarca allegedly said (at Lisbon, Portugal, on 1936-MAR-4) would release 1000 souls from Purgatory each time it is recited:
“Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy Devine [sic] Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and with in my family. Amen.”
It is not beyond the realm of possibility for a person to repeat this prayer 1000 times a day, and thus release 1 million souls from Purgatory. A three person team, working for an entire year could release over one billion souls!
Are there such teams, we wonder, working at this project right now?
Well, someone has to do it, of course.