Sunday, 23 December 2012

Rowan on Celtic Christianity

The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury has remarked that there was nothing particularly special about the "Celtic" church to make Celtic Christianity anything unusual in its time.

And he may well gave a point. The Celtic church, i.e. the Church in those places that spoke Celtic languages, is just a term that we use to clump together a group of folk for convenience. The church in what is now the highlands of Scotland would have had a terrible time trying to understand their fellow Celtic Christians from Cornwall. And neither group was involved in some kind of rejection of the Pope's heavy-handed authoritarian Catholicism, preferring a free-thinking, open-minded, hippy faith, where the skirl of the pipes and the thud of the bhodran could be heard on the moorland breeze as it wandered over the heather.

No. Some "Celtic" christians today do good work, with a social conscience. But when a middle-class, middle-England congregation starts adopting "Celtic" music and ways, what it's really doing is rejecting its own heritage. It's adopting "Celtic" as a badge, not to be more rooted - but to take on a fake persona, a misunderstanding, a mask.

That's why I set up the Beaker Folk, of course. We needed something more authentic. Whatever else you can say about the Beaker People, they were never under the authority of the Pope - because there was no Pope. They didn't need to accommodate the Constantinian settlement with Christianity - because they were before Constantine.

I know a few hair-splitters will point out that the Beaker Folk were before Jesus as well. True, but we believe they glimpsed through a campfire, dimly, the Truth that was to come. That's why they were such peaceful, loving folk - at one with nature, at peace with each other, and knowing the joy of being in their place, rooted in the Earth, at ease with themselves.

Of course, this could all be rubbish. But it works for us. And that's the main thing, isn't it?

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