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Monday, 28 March 2016

Why do Journalists Who Know Nothing Write About Religion?

And so to the latest in the occasional series "Why do Journalists who Know Nothing Write About Religion?" And on this occasion, step forward Tobias Jones.

The Church of England, Tobias Jones tells us, while explaining how they have a church buildings problem, has 15,700 churches. But each year it sells 20. This, to Tobias, is a crisis. And indeed we should take note. At this rate, in 785 years time, they will all be gone. Time is running out.

To be fair, Tobias gives us some other important facts. For instance, the Church of England has nearly five times more buildings than Tesco. He doesn't make it too clear why this is a relevant comparison, however. The Church does not mostly build out of town sites. The square footage of a Tesco superstore is vastly greater than that of even most cathedrals. And one of these was built to be the spiritual centre of its world, but has been left behind by modern trends and is now contracting quite rapidly. While the other is a church. This isn't comparing Egremont Russets with Ashmead's Kernels, is it?

The irony is that Tobias then lists a load of things that churches are doing to use their space effectively - things that churches in the right places have been doing. He doesn't mention that the building stock of the Church of England is overall in remarkably good shape - a tribute to those small congregations. He tells us Catholic churches are closing in Salford. He doesn't comment, as Private Eye might do, that the attitude of modern Catholic bishops to church buildings - even useful ones -  makes the Iconoclasts look reverent, and that Catholic church attendance in this country is stable.  But then Tobias tells us just how much he knows about religion:

"Christians believe Jesus tore down a temple and rebuilt it again in three days."

No. No they don't. You see, this was the charge they brought against Jesus at his kangaroo court. And even then, they only said he claimed he could. And even with a judge already putting on the black cap, they couldn't make it stick. Jesus's own temple (ie his body) was torn down and he brought it back in three days. But nowhere ever does anyone think Jesus tore down a temple. This is one of the most spectacular pieces of drivel that even the Guardian could write.

Here's my suggestion. If Guardian writers are this utterly incompetent, they should not be telling other organisations what to do with their building stock. They shouldn't be dabbling in politics, religion or economics. They should be made to sit at home, calculating the Grauniad's annual losses, until they come to the conclusion that they're not very good at what they do.

Instead, Tobias Young is probably off at this very minute, having his photo taken in the Guardian Commentator Pose. You know the one? Body at 30° to the camera, face forward, defiant, campaigning, smug look on face. The look of someone who believes they know how to run the world. And won't let facts get in the way of that belief.


  1. Not sure this fair to Tobias Jones, who is a Christian, and who ran ntil very recently, a community which took in those who were struggling with life. (Google Winsor Wood) I don't agree with all he says in his article, and I think we have to balance the churches that close with those that open- there are many new church congregations opening. But I don't think it's right to simply assume he doesn't know what he is talking about.

    1. Can only comment on the article. Which has just told Guardian readers that Christians believe Jesus tore a temple down and rebuilt it.

  2. It is not about religion, though; journalism is essentially writing about things one does not know about. Look at the state of science journalism in general. We only allow ourselves to believe journalists when they write about things we do not know about ourselves. They are at their most convincing when they write about things that nobody knows about.

    1. Comparing Ashmead's Kernels with Scarlet Navels isn’t the sole prerogative of Grauniad journalists. Keeping with the supermarket theme, in the past the CofE often indicated that its carbon footprint was similar to that of Sainsbury’s supermarket chain. Other than highlighting the magnitude of the Church’s carbon emissions, it was meaningless to compare the environmental impacts of operations involving the 24/7 logistics (i.e. transport of goods) and operations of Sainsbury’s ~1,000 stores with the completely different and less frequent use of the ~15,700 churches, cathedrals &c of the Church of England.

  3. Maybe it's the subeditors rather than Tobias Jones who need to go back to Sunday school?

  4. Perhaps we should ask Jesus to tear down all of the Tesco Stores and rebuild them in three days as Churches where they're needed - probably next door to every Secular person.


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