Wednesday 31 July 2019

An Expert on Retail and Christianity Writes: Selfridges and the Decline of Christianity

Ignore the vicious bit at the top of Sarah Vine's article. Indeed, if you can't face the Daily Mail, don't follow the link either. But in amidst her moralizing drivel is a lovely bit of whingeing. I've read it so you don't have to.

First up, complaining that Selfridges are opening their Christmas shop.

Linking that to the crazy golf in Rochester Cathedral. Saying Christianity "seems to be giving up all pretence of a spiritual dimension."

And concluding, "What is it Matthew says in the Bible? ‘Ye cannot serve both God and Mammon.'"

 Well, firstly I don't think Rochester are claiming the golf is is primarily a fund-raising exercise. They are viewing it as mission. Our Lord didn't quite say "go into the world and knock little white balls through windmills" but then he really wasn't very specific about how we should do mission. Cobbling it together from various passages it would seem we should wander around in pairs, without food or extra clothing, shaking the dust off whenever we meet a frosty reception. And there's not many people complaining about the mini-golf actually do that very often. So we can assume the mini-golf is just Vine's way of yanking the chain of assorted all-round reactionaries of this country. Let us put this to one side and look at Selfridges.

Selfridges are opening their Xmas shop. Five months before Xmas.

Same as they did last year.

And the year before.

Now, I know everyone complains that shops start early for Christmas. But it's logistical. I'm sure Sarah Vine yearns for the good old days when rosy-cheeked urchins ran down to the shops on Xmas Eve. But that's not when people want to buy. They want Christmas sorted in November. And that means Christmas stuff starts trickling out to the shops in August. Because you can't invest in the supply chains and storage space to just chuck the whole of Christmas in a week.  And if you have it in the stores you want to sell it.

Moaning that Christmas happens early is the same magical thinking that gave us Graham Brady's "Other arrangements " amendment to the Brexit Bill. That leading right-wing columnists and the Parliamentary dim right-wing don't understand what is actually the most critical industry in our nation, logistics, is unsurprising, given the evidence of Brexit. But it's also terrifying.

But Selfridges are doing it stupidly early, I hear you choking over your cornflakes. And in a sense, yes. But I would like you to consider where Selfridges flagship store is.

Oxford Street.

And I realise that I need at this point I need to step back and explain some things to any of the people whose chain Sarah Vine has been yanking. 

I suspect, if you're the sort of person who's wandered into this blog having typed "Sadiq Khan's Islamic Secret Police" into Google, that you'll have a certain view of London, but won't have been there in a while.

And maybe you believe that, should you ever venture into London, you will be stabbed to death on the platform at Euston before being arrested by Sadiq Khan's Islamic Secret Police and sent to Lewisham to sell crack cocaine to people in retirement homes. 

Now, of course this is true. But somehow, despite this, Oxford Street in London's trendy West End™ carries on just as it ever did. It's a massive tourist destination. And it is currently, across great swathes of the world and UK, the summer holidays.

So of the people that are going into Selfridges, many won't be buying holiday attire because they are already wearing it, having bought it before going on holiday. They don't need summery frocks and sun hats.

But, given this might be their only trip to London this year, they may well be interested in picking up something a bit Christmassy, to give to family members in Baden Baden, Cadiz, Stoke or wherever. Or maybe a nice decoration to hang up in the depths of winter, to remind themselves of the nice time they spent in the town which swings like a pendulum do. What could be nicer, on a drizzly December day in Utrecht or Wrexham, than remembering the place where bobbies go on bicycles two by two?

And if those visitors have come from foreign parts, then thanks to what we must now call the Boris Pound, those mighty Euros and Dollars will be burning holes in their pockets. So Selfridges - whose main offering, by the way, is confusingly not fridges - is doing everything it can to make as much money from these good people as it can. And good luck to it.

Let's go on to Sarah Vine's next non-sequitur. The conflation of Selfridges with Christianity. Apparently their Christmas shop opening in the summer is Christianity giving up all pretence at a spiritual dimension.

I don't know who the vicar of Selfridges is, or whether they have their own bishop or they're part of the Diocese of London or even a Royal Peculiar. But I suspect the real reason that Selfridges isn't worried about a Christian spiritual dimension is because it is, not to put too fine a point on it, a department store not a world religion.

And finally, rhetorically, Sarah Vine concludes, "What is it Matthew says in the Bible? ‘Ye cannot serve both God and Mammon.'"
Matthew doesn't say it. Jesus does. Matthew quotes him. Very important to know who said what, if you're a journalist.

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  1. Ding ding - and in the red corner we have the Archdruid , in peak condition !

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  4. Rochester Cathedral's golf is free by the way, so not a fund raiser. It's meant to help people think about bridge building, put on in partnership with Rochester Bridge Trust, which looks after the historic bridge in Rochester. Bridge building seems like a pretty spiritual thing to me... Just saying... Great article as always (yours, not the Daily Mail's!)

  5. They could have called it 'crazy popes' since a 'pontiff' is a bridge. I'm sure nobody would have misinterpreted that.

  6. A pontiff is a pontifex maximus - a big bridge-builder. Whereas Boris Johnson is a pontifex minimus.


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