I used to go to church as a child, sent there with lower-aged siblings by my parents to sing in the choir while they had three hours of uninterrupted breakfast in bed. I had heard the phrase “thundering from the pulpit” and as we half-listened to the watery Anglican preaching, used to wonder where the admonishments were, the Vicar’s words were so gently uncritical of the elderly parishioners of St Margaret’s, Upper Norwood.
But it seemed to me there was plenty of scope for outrage, what with the natural world being destroyed in front of our eyes, and the perfect example in Jesus himself who threw the money lenders from the temple and told everyone that priests were unnecessary and everyone could be like him, if they wanted. Even two thousand years later, after extensive revisions and corruptions of his message, that thunder remains – the sweeping away of the old, the ways of vengeance, the jealous God to be feared, replaced by a loving, compassionate God who wants only that we live in harmony with each other. Why is the Old Testament with its fury and contradictions and intolerance even considered part of the same teaching? One of the things systematically edited out was Jesus’ rejection of the old, painful ways.
Meanwhile, in straight-faced protest, I changed the words of the hymns, singing in a loud, clear voice, “TO BE A PENGUIN” “AND DID THOSE GEESE IN ANCIENT SLIME” and at Christmas, “GLO-O-O-O-O-O, GLO-O-O-O-O-O, GLO-O-O-O-O-O, GLORIA, HOSANNAH IN EX CHEL-SEA!” even though I was a Crystal Palace fan.
In the same way, even though I meditate, and connect more deeply with Buddhism and the Tao, my heart lifts itself unto Jesus. I don’t go to church, unless it’s for architectural, historical or marriage reasons, but daily I practise the forgiveness of sins, on the basis that my own fuck ups might somehow be made less frequent, and as time drags me to the end of the branch, that I might become less prone to brooding resentments and the inevitable depression this brings.
A wind moves through the temple, upturning tables, sending small change rattling and ringing as it is swept out.