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Anton Coaker: Society has moved on, so why can't the Church, too?

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 03, 2013

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And so a New Year dawns. In fact, I always consider the fresh year is upon us as soon as days start to lengthen, and the birdies start changing their tune. They're always accurate to the day, twittering a different song between the gales, so they and I are already a week or two into 2013.

I'm not sure the birdies know which year it is, as I'm not altogether certain they noticed the birth of some Middle Eastern carpenter chap who turned out to have some really cool ideas about society living together peacefully. I have heard of him and, until convinced otherwise, will continue to reckon the date from his arrival – or was it his departure?

This doesn't mean I buy all the stuff that's been added on to his thoughts in his absence, or slotted in behind for that matter. Oh, no.

For differing reasons, I've been listening to and hearing about various clergymen of late, both near to home and further abroad. This has given rise to some thoughts. I'm sure they have meant well, and they have ostensibly been adhering to the guidelines set down by a visionary carpenter 2,000 years ago.

While some of them have stuck pretty much to those simple principles, others have been very keen to push some concepts which are quite evidently mumbo-jumbo, completely putting me off listening.

Perhaps in past centuries their predecessors could peddle the mumbo-jumbo to a populace who knew no better, but it just doesn't stand analysis now. By all means go on punting the wisdom of peaceful co-existence, common to most organised beliefs. But to maintain the central role you've formerly held within our communities, recognise the tidal wave of education and communication that has swept over us.

I don't understand this fuss about whether girls should be allowed to hold high office. And as for getting hung up over the small percentage of humanity whose mating wires have got crossed, and want to do irregular stuff with consenting adults, surely that's their business?

Mind you, the prevalence of those wanting to do irregular stuff with non-consenting non-adults is another kettle of fish, and I would have thought recent revelations should be causing the organisations embroiled to ask themselves the most fundamental questions of why it's happened.

Generally, I'm not very exercised by religion, beyond begrudging the wilful confusion of the ill-educated. But I have been thinking these last few years about who owns the buildings where we have traditionally celebrated our hatchings and matchings and then come together to mourn the despatches. If a community's beliefs have moved on – and make no mistake, they mostly have – then the way these buildings are operated must surely have to change as well.

I am quite happy to continue to use beautiful grand settings for such functions, and embrace the social cohesion that their use attracts, but I resent the mumbo-jumbo being spouted while we do so. I have long explained to my offspring that people punting such nonsense must be treated as needing care in the community, and we let them continue to do so to give them some purpose.

As I've said, I recognise the values at the core of the teachings, and doff my hat to 'holy men' per se. As individuals, they often carry gravitas and dignity – stand by with extra space on the letters page – and across differing flavours, there resides a great fund of wisdom and benevolence. But I do wish they would see we've moved on.

And on the subject of mysterious wisdom, let's go forth to one of the great mysteries of the Orient. Why is it, when ordering a Chinese, the majority of the group will agree to 'all pick something, and throw it in the middle of the table'? Anyone suggesting otherwise is a spoilsport.

But, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, and the tinfoil trays are spread out, the options you preferred disappear in the first round of 'grab what you can'. All that's left is the tray of red hot gloop and that suspiciously orange viscous sludge, neither of which anyone owns up to having put on the list.

Never mind your 'resurrection' and the saving of the 'immortal soul'… that's the big conundrum.

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