Before you waste any time figuring out the significance of the cup of coffee I’ll tell you—it’s a symbol for today’s religious education. But I’ll get to that later.
We went to a candlelit Advent Carol Service on Sunday night up in the hills above the North Wales coast. The church was beautiful, big, though well filled, with people and choir from the nearby town swelling the congregation of locals.
‘O come, o come, Emmanuel’, naturally and the response to the intercessions was ‘Maranatha—come Lord Jesus’, but I couldn’t help wondering how many of us actually mean that. He comes, but do we open the door?
It was the traditional sort of service that I have enjoyed all my life, and that’s one of the problems. There were a few younger people there and half a dozen children but most of the congregation, though younger than I am, weren’t that much younger! My generation are good at many things—faithfulness, loyalty, stoicism—but I’m the first to admit we’re no longer quite so full of fervour, zeal and passion as we used to be. This isn’t a criticism of the Vicar for not laying on a jolly, noisy free-for-all that might have been thought to appeal to a younger crowd. She produced a thoughtful, satisfying service which was exactly what that congregation wanted. Had there been a demand, or even a tentative need for something more jazzy I know she would have been delighted to provide it.
So where are the young Christian men and women who still have the energy and enthusiasm to fight for their beliefs? What is it about Islam that attracts not just young men, but young women and even parents with young families, who are prepared to fight to the death for what they believe? Much of their hatred and violence is targeted specifically againstChristians. So why don’t we fight back?
I don’t mean with air strikes. My earliest memories date back to the early 1940s and since then there has scarcely been any time when I haven’t been living with wars and rumours of wars somewhere in the world; and in all that time bombing hell out of people has failed to give us lasting peace.
What ever happened to ‘He who would valiant be, ‘gainst all disaster,’? Daunted by hobgoblins and foul fiends, I suppose; certainly there are some very foul-mouthed fiends on-line who seem to be just as terrified of Christianity as ISIS is.
I dare to say that I can’t help thinking the complete lack of genuine Christian education in schools is part of the trouble. We are still supposed to be a Christian country but at the moment what are we giving children that provides them with a strong, tough base on which to build their lives. Surely that lack of a solid foundation must be part of the reason there are so many victims terrified of hearing ideas they don’t like, and needing safe spaces in which to feel secure.
Another weakness I suspect is the tendency to skim, without ever going deeply and troublingly into a subject. I still haven’t got over the shock I felt meeting a girl who had got A* in her Eng.Lit GCSE without ever reading more than a few selected sections of “Pride and Prejudice.” How could you have P & P in your hands, savour that fabulous first sentence and not read on? All right, Jane Austen isn’t for everyone so think about your own favourite book; what would you have missed if you’d only ever read an odd section here and there?
And this is where the cup of cappuccino comes in. Maths and physics, for example, are like an espresso—powerful, and you have to get it right. English, obviously, and Religious studies are more like cappuccino. You can skim the foam off the top—which promptly disappears— drink some of the coffee and leave the dregs, which is where the true essence of the coffee is. But it isn’t really satisfying—you’ll need another in an hour.
There may have been a small sign of hope on local BBC tv earlier this month. 650 junior school children were taken to a Mosque in Cardiff to learn about Islam. However, it is only a sign of hope if we soon see the same children being taken to the Cathedral and being taught the Lord’s Prayer while they’re there. Otherwise it’s still more lunacy.
An afterthought. The girl who objected to the GCSE Music syllabus because it didn’t include any women composers has been voted one of the 100 most influential women in the world. There’s a bit more amorphous foam for you.