The world, the flesh and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Share
Related Topics
All I am asking for is about a minute-and-a-half," pleaded Cardinal Hume in a last-ditch attempt to intrude some Christian element into the Greenwich Dome fiasco. Dr Carey has made comparably plaintive bleating noises - "Unless there is some Christian component in the celebration, I won't be there".

Whether you are the most flinty-hearted secularist, a Muslim Triumphalist or a Whirling Dervish, wasn't a little bit of you moved to pity at the spectacle of these two archbishops making their feeble entreaties? As has now been reiterated thousands of times, the millennium is either a religious anniversary or it is nothing. This does not mean the literal commemoration of a birthday. No one knows where or when Jesus Christ was born. This is, or could have been, a celebration of the Christian Thing, of Christendom, of the religious idea, myth, call it what you will, which lay behind the development of European civilisation since the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.

To hear the senior English RC bishop begging for "one-and-a-half minutes" of the action on millennium night made some of us think that institutional Christianity was not merely dead, but putrescent, stinking, abominable in all its ways. One scarcely ever heard a feebler utterance from a senior cleric.

The Archbishop of Canterbury presents an equally sorry sight. "We are now in discussion," he says (ie with the New Millennium Experience Company, that collection of vulgarian businessmen who found their true soulmates, first with Michael Heseltine and then with Mandy, whom they persuaded to give political justification for their commercial jamboree). "We will see where we are," says the successor of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, "when they [ie the spivs] have made up their minds what they are going to do."

The point at issue is whether these archbishops, consecrated, as they would have us believe, in direct line from the holy Apostles of Christ, and charged with confronting the world with the uncompromising commands of the Gospel - whether these Apostles of Christ should be allowed one and a half minutes on telly just before the clock strikes midnight.

One suggestion is that these joint Apostles should recite the ludicrous (some would deem blasphemous) "prayer" composed for the occasion to appeal to "those of other faiths and those of no faith at all" (sic). "Let there be respect for the earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the . . ." No, No. One can't bear to quote any more of this nauseous drivel. The pointless subjunctives are not even addressed to God, or to a God. The vacuous Blue Peter-ish hopes are to be distributed by the Churches to every home in the land at a cost of pounds 6m. Yes, six million pounds.

You could say that this was a small sum when compared with the pounds 100m of your, the taxpayers' money which Chris Smith is spending on millennium projects - pounds 25,000 for a play "celebrating the aspirations of the people of Dagenham"; pounds 25,000 so that people in Herefordshire can fly millennium kites etc. But you would surely have something stronger to say if you were an archbishop?

The Cardinal has now said that if he doesn't get his one and a half minutes, squeezed in between Noel Edmonds and Zoe Ball, he will have to consider going to say his prayers in Westminster Cathedral on millennium night. How can it ever have crossed his mind to do anything else? When the tormentors of the early Christian martyrs asked Saints Ignatius or Polycarp to worship false gods, did they reply: "We are now in discussion?" Did Tertullian bleat with self-pity because there was not one and a half minutes of Christian "dimension" in the orgies of blood at the Colosseum? Did Saints Basil or Gregory of Nyssa whine because they were "excluded" from the profane Mysteries of Eleusis? Or did they serve a Master whose Kingdom was not of this world, and did they preach that their message was essentially and eternally contra mundum?

The true voice of Christianity during all the millennium controversies has come, not from Canterbury or Westminster but from York. Ena the Cruel, as Anglo-Catholics used to call the Archbishop of York, has been the one sane, authentically spiritual voice. It was perfectly obvious from the start that the Greenwich Rocky Horror Experience was a godless, vulgar prank got up by a gang of capitalist entrepreneurs with the aim of parting fools from their money. It had as much to do with the 2,000 years of Christian tradition as has your local branch of Burger King. That is why, in the initial stages, no Christians gave money to the Dome, and it was left to four philanthropic Hindu businessmen to provide a "Spirit Zone" which would enable the New Millennium Experience Company to say that they took religion seriously. Ena, with characteristic intelligence, simplicity and edge, contrasted the humility of the Stable at Bethlehem with the vainglory of the false idols on offer at Greenwich.

Any person of common sense, regardless of their religious background or affiliation, knows that the so-called millennium celebrations will be a bore and an absurdity. We shall all in our different ways boycott the non-event. It would cross none of our minds to pay money to see the ugly Mandy-Dome.

If we belong to the tiny minority which cherishes 2,000 years of Christian tradition, would we be sitting in front of the telly at midnight watching the Prime Minister put on his "solemn" face or worrying about whether Basil Hume is given his one and a half minutes? Wouldn't we rather be staring at the mysterious night sky or joining with others who thought as we did in our local parish church? That is where we should expect to find our priests and bishops. Any Cardinal who did not see this should be considering his position.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

£450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

£90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

Foundation Phase Teacher required

£90 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Exciting opputunities availabl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron walks on stage to speak at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013  

Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?

Temi Ogunye
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz