Sunday, 4 June 2017

Simon Jenkins Talks Drivel

Dunno who Sir Simon Jenkins is but he's been talking drivel at the Hay on Wye festival.

Sir Simon compares the (relative) popularity of cathedrals with the (relative) decline of parish churches and suggests it's down to the old, meaningless distinction between religion and spirituality. Religion bad, old-fashioned, formal, structured. Spirituality free-flowing, hippy, believe what you like, go with the flow man (or, in these enlightened times, woman or other self-identification).

But.  I may be missing something here. But. Cathedral evensong (for instance) is first and foremost a religious thing. There is a set format. There are collects, a creed, both the Mag and Nunc if you're really blessed. If there's  sermon it's in the suggested place.

And the psalms, hymns, creed and readings are all, almost with exception, about God. This is a religious thing - and if it's also a spiritual one is down to the work of clergy, quire and laity (and lest we forget the Spirit) that makes it one.

It strikes me what Sir Simon is after is not spirituality - as he himself mentions in passing, it's anonymity. It's being able to dip into his own personal well of blessedness - constructed within the matrix of others' religion - and take what he wants without giving.

If that's what is making the cathedrals popular it probably also explains the financial straits some are in. Everybody wants nice experiences - spiritual or, as seems more likely, aesthetical. But not everybody wants to show the commitment to pay for it. Obviously I cannot speak of this particular noble knight, whose giving pattern - and indeed spirituality - I am not privileged to be aware of.

Spirituality or religion? Give me religion ever time. You know where you are and it keeps the roof on.

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