Give the Welsh divorce and boost the Christian cause

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The Independent Online
WHAT a strange few days it's been for the Christians. A man billed as a 'religious fanatic' jumped into the Asiatic lion enclosure at London Zoo, suffering severe injuries, and born-again Christian Sam Fox was spotted leaving a casino with her former lover. Perhaps we shouldn't be too judgemental: maybe she was in there to upturn the tables and rant at the moneylenders, but if the Sun was right, the 'F***ing hell] What are we gonna f***ing do?' gives the game away.

As if to counter the growing belief that Christians are either barking, on the make, or both, the Christian Socialist Movement (members include Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) opened its first full-time headquarters since 1948 at Westminster.

It is still a small step on the Damascus road, when most of the country is heading in the opposite direction. Even the Secondary Heads Association has now declared that the state schools' compulsory morning service is 'not appropriate to the 1990s' and has asked for it to be scrapped.

After 50 years, it is about time: not simply because we live in a multi-cultural society, but because if anything was ever guaranteed to turn the masses away from God, it was that hit-over-the-head, love-your- neighbour stuff at 8.50am. Nobody loves their neighbour at that time of the morning and nor would they want to.

The hymns and prayers were depressing enough, but in my primary school they even used one service a month to inform us about how many pupils had been injured or killed on the roads during the previous four weeks. The head would take the podium and adopt his most solemn pose, before declaring: 'Billy Jones. Killed. Stepped out from behind parked vehicle. Andrea Smith. Two broken legs. Stepped into path of oncoming car.' Most of the causes of death or accident were of the former variety, and even today I can't hear the song 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' without thinking about the limbs that ended their brief lives when they threw themselves out from behind parked vehicles.

At the Bishop of Llandaff High School, where I taught in Cardiff, the morning service was an excuse to beg for money. 'Jimmy Johns's father has given pounds 3,000 to the school,' the head would announce. 'Pupils are asked to remind their parents how gratefully all contributions to school funds are received.' So much for 'Think not of the morrow . . .'

The Pope isn't doing religion many favours at the moment, either. I hate to kick a man when he's down, but aren't his comments about not 'using religion as an excuse for war' in Bosnia rather missing the point? The only thing that's kept religion alive is its power as a warmongering force. The basic cause of war is one group's intolerance towards the beliefs, attitudes or lifestyles of another; all religions express the same arrogance and belief in their being the only way, regardless of other creeds. That's why war and religion so often co-exist: they need the same food to ensure survival, and, when that runs out, they start gorging on each other.

Promotion of the Christian religion, in particular, has always been in the language of war. It's a quick jump from 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' sung by kiddies at the harvest festival, to the cries of 'Onward] Christian Soldiers' that Christian adults holler with such glee. 'Fight the good fight', 'Sound the battle cry' ('Gird your armour on') - Christians have always seen themselves as being engaged in a pious war against people who they don't believe meet their own standards. When you use the language of war to promote your cause, you can't be surprised when people take up arms to defend it.

Perhaps the greatest harm done to Christianity in recent times, however, has been the battle taking place in the Church of England over the ordination of women priests. In Wales, the women lost their cause, but now the Church in Wales is considering whether to recognise divorce.

This is an act that would give a much-needed boost to the Christian cause. Most Welsh men are misogynistic, beer-swilling rugby fanatics who should consider themselves lucky to find a woman, let alone keep one. Why women should ever want to marry them in the first place is a mystery.

While Christians everywhere battle against the medieval intolerance and madness destroying the Church, it is good to know that at least Welsh women may be given leeway to escape what can only have been a temporary aberration in the form of marriage to a Welshman.