To be perfectly honest I was going to give my annual Easter message a miss this year. They never seem to do much good. However, last weekend I found my hand being filled by a small leaflet explaining, with the help of a multitude of biblical evidence that “GOD IS SPEAKING through HIS SON Jesus Christ our Lord”. Is he now, I thought to myself. Is he, does he, is he? I’m never short on doubt about this but if I’m going to be won round I’ll need more evidence than a hastily written pamphlet that insists “GOD IS SPEAKING PERSONALLY TO YOU IN THIS MESSAGE” and (perhaps suggesting that God should proof read his work more carefully) “BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BE SAVED FOR TIME AND FOR ETERNITY”. If it were that simple we’d all be doing it.
Moving on, we’ve just got back from a brief stay in Salisbury, a place I cannot recommend enough and enhanced by this un-seasonally stupendous weather, weather that is just another sign we’re heading for trouble. But also weather that means I need to get this post finished before I hit the first of the summer Pimms. I wonder on which day God created Pimms? We went to Salisbury to visit my embattled brother who has had a bit of a rough time lately. Doubtless so have his wife and 3 kids. I was quite apprehensive about going but it turned out to be brilliant in every respect but one – you see my younger nephew is a choir boy at Salisbury Cathedral and so we dutifully agreed to attend a service and see him belt out a couple of Easter favourites. That was a mistake.
But it was a worthwhile mistake because if anything it justified everything derogatory I have ever said or written about Christianity. Thinking we’d be in there for 30 minutes we actually ended up stuck for nearly 2 hours. We were greeted by a hatchet faced, meat tenderiser of a woman who displayed almost no Christian virtues whatsoever (this is a notably common trait amongst Christians and is a constantly ringing alarm bell for anyone even faintly tempted to join the church). Wearing a daft t-shirt and with my brother looking like he’d just washed up on a desert island, Little Miss Prim Knickers could barely disguise her contempt for us, but then neither did we for her or the gravity of the service we were about to attend. And when she brusquely swept back in and urged us to SIT DOWN, YOU MUST SIT DOWN NOW, big brother’s response was a barbed whisper in my ear of “does it fucking matter?”. No, dear brother, of course it doesn’t fucking matter and it surely never will.
Once we’d caught (not a good catch, more like the time when we caught Ebola) the end of the previous service we’d stumbled so ungraciously into we then shuffled up through the nave to the wooden bit where the choir sits (can’t be bothered to look it up and my ‘D’ at A-Level RS is clearly of no use) and sat down for the main event. The church is worried that they’re out of date and that they can’t bring in fresh bodies to fill their empty spaces. They should be worried. We sat for a whole 90 minutes through The Liturgy Of Good Friday and it was a fucking bore from start to finish. I can’t imagine anyone under the age of 45 that hasn’t had a lobotomy finding any of it interesting. It was nice to see my nephew sing and watch his cheeky little face light up when he saw his Mum and Dad, and that was it. That was probably the most joy that Salisbury Cathedral had seen all day. It was so boring I found myself flicking through a copy of the Bible. Fancy that.
I know that Good Friday is meant to be sombre but how could any youth think that putting themselves through all that would be preferable to almost any alternative? God’s up against drugs and FaceBook these days, not just the Devil. This is supposed to be one of the centrepieces of Christian worship, the one where they parade a big cross up through the church and throw a load of symbols about and then pop a few bits into a badly made replica tomb for everyone to stand in front of and look serious. And I know I’ve already said it but it was so fucking boring. There was not a single second where I felt moved or suitably empathetic or really caught a glimpse into the deep mystery of Christianity or indeed actually started to think any of it was real. It’s a big old load of made up shit, invented centuries ago to scare the life out of poor people and comfort the brows of the ruling classes. I should also like to say that the bleak back and forth solo singing, between two men who should clearly get out more, added up to arguably the most unbearably tedious 15 minutes of my life thus far. My nephew was clearly bored out of his skull and that tells you all you need to know.
They say that Easter Sunday is supposed to be a much happier affair but I doubt that would necessarily make it any more interesting for the average 12 year old. If you took away chocolate eggs then Easter would be utterly fucked into submission. Most of the people sitting in the wooden bit were safely over 60 and the stewards all appeared as ghostly, prudish octogenarians, skinny as rolls of wrapping paper with bulbous veins and sashes. I reckon the nave had seats out for at least 400 arses and only about 50 of those were serving their purpose; and let’s remember this was a service to remember the death of Christ; this was big news. If things carry on this way the church will be as good as dead in this country 20 years from now – the vultures are already circling. And d’you know what, in an odd way I think that would be a shame because when you stand in the middle of Salisbury Cathedral and look around in awe at one of the pinnacles of human endeavour it does make you realise that Christianity, in fact any religion, may be a load of hokum and storytelling horse manure but some good really has come out of it. If only they could appreciate that the frailties of humankind are there whether you have religion or not then they might understand why so few people can be bothered to believe in it any more. In the end it’s not about Christ and it’s not about God, it’s about whether you’re capable of being a decent person most of the time
Lots of love to big brother and family. We should make the effort more often.