Saturday, 8 March 2014

Ring with pride! A sermon for our ringers.


The only Muslim country I have ever visited is Turkey, and one of the great pleasures there is to hear, five times a day, the muezzin's call to prayer: "Allahu akhbar, God is great!" How wonderful, I always think, if we had such a call to prayer ringing out over all our towns and villages. But of course, we do, thanks to you, and every bit as beautiful. If only more people would heed it.
Presumably some people in Turkey find the muezzin's chant an annoyance. There is, after all, no escaping it. The music booms out from loudspeakers, dominating everywhere from the smallest village to the broadest city square. So much for "secular space." Yet it continues, and I have no idea what would happen if anyone tried to complain.
People do complain over here, of course, even just at the Sunday peal. I worked at a church in London where one neighbour complained incessantly about the ringing of the bells waking her. The church had been there for a hundred and fifty years, which I'd wager was rather longer than she had, and the bells had always rung, but the lady in question did not particularly welcome that argument, for some reason. She'd paid good money for her personal space, and it shouldn't be invaded by the God squad.
I suspect that, much like the sort of Anglican who coughs at incense, people who complain about bells are motivated more by religious opinion than genuine concern about pollution, whether by noise or smoke. Their objection is of the sort that is applied to prayers in town council meetings or crosses in crematoria. We don't want your religious hocum obscuring our clear-sighted, open-minded, freethinking, neutral secular realm. If you want to practise your outmoded superstitions behind closed doors, well, that's your business, but don't come flaunting such silliness in the public square.
Which argument might be all well and good, I suppose, were it not baloney. There are two inconvenient facts to bear in mind. First, the historical fact that our national political and legal establishment, our very notion of statehood, our arts, music and literature, our philosophy, even our notion of human rights, are entirely derived from or a response to that outmoded superstition. Second, the political fact that Britain is a Christian monarchy, our liege being anointed and crowned by the Church both as Head of State and Governor of the Church. We never voted to become the "multicultural secular state" of Notting Hill political fantasy. And so, the public square is de facto and de iure a Christian square. To make it anything other requires not a complaint about bells, but a tick on the ballot form.
So please, my brothers and sisters, ring with pride. The call to faith is the call to our national destiny, which is joined by the Crown to the Church's destiny, a place where no bell-despising secular utopia will lead us: the Kingdom of God, where peace and love shall reign eternal. Amen to that.

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