Sunday, November 29, 2009

It Must Be Nearly December

- because the usual tirade decrying  Christmas tradition  is being uttered.

Sadly, the current round is from an Anglican Bishop........ Once all the things he opposes are removed from the C of E, it might as well be a pagan religion......




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Traditional carols are 'nonsense', says bishop


Some traditional carols are “nonsense” and have turned Jesus into a Father Christmas figure, according to a leading bishop.



By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Published: 8:30AM GMT 29 Nov 2009  Daily Telegraph website



Away in a Manger cannot be sung “without embarrassment”, Once in Roy al David’s City is “Victorian behaviour control”; and O Come, All Ye Faithful is misleading, said the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Nick Baines.



He blamed the much-loved carols for adding to confusion over the season’s real meaning and turning Jesus into a figure as fictitious as Father Christmas.



While others defended the traditional songs as “joyful” and “triumphant”, the bishop complained that the carols have contributed to the story of Christ’s birth being seen “as just one more story alongside the panto and fairy stories”.



In a new book published by the Church of England, Why Wish You a Merry Christmas, the bishop argues that carols encourage images of Christmas that have more to do with Victorian sentiment than the Biblical account of Christ’s birth.



“I always find it a slightly bizarre sight when I see parents and grandparents at a nativity play singing Away in a Manger as if it actually related to reality,” he said.



“I can understand the little children being quite taken with the sort of baby of whom it can be said 'no crying he makes’, but how can any adult sing this without embarrassment?”



He said that Jesus would be abnormal if he had not cried as a baby. “If we sing nonsense, is it any surprise that children grow into adults and throw out the tearless baby Jesus with Father Christmas and other fantasy figures?” He continued: “Once in Royal David’s City has Jesus as 'our childhood’s pattern’ — even though we know almost nothing of his childhood apart from one incident when he was 12 years old and being disobedient to his parents — and invites children to be 'mild, obedient, good as he’, which means what, exactly? This sounds suspiciously like Victorian behaviour control to me.”



While the bishop praises the ability of some carols to excite and capture the Christmas message, he cites O Come, All Ye Faithful as a prime example of inaccuracy.



The bishop said it was not the “faithful” who went to see the baby Jesus and his parents but shepherds, who are the “great unwashed” and the wise men, who were “not good Jews, but were pagans, men who were outside the covenant people of God”.



“Some of the traditional carols perpetuate images of Christmas that have more to do with Victorian sentiment than the story we actually read in the Gospels,” the bishop said in the book.



Ralph Allwood, director of music at Eton College, said some carols may be nonsense, but they are also joyful and triumphant. “They bring a smile to people’s faces. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like children at Christmas,” he said.



O Come, All Ye Faithful became popular in the 18th century, but may have been written earlier, while Once in Royal David’s City and Away in a Manger were published in 1848 and 1885 respectively.



The bishop also blamed Nativity plays that introduce snakes and grizzly bears, as having responsibility for “relegating the story to fictional fantasy”.



By “romanticising the festival and commercialising our culture” Christmas has become “tame, fantastic and anaemic,” he said. “Bring back the reality. Perhaps we need to recover the nativity play as something to be done by adults for children and not the other way round.”



Christmas can still offer deep meaning and joy if people learn the real story, the bishop argued.



About 40 per cent of adults are expected to attend church over Christmas, based on figures for previous years.



The Church of England has seen a rise in worshippers at Christmas over the past decade. In 2007, three million attended an Anglican service over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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2 comments:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The bishop said it was not the “faithful” who went to see the baby Jesus and his parents but shepherds, who are the “great unwashed” and the wise men, who were “not good Jews, but were pagans, men who were outside the covenant people of God”.

But that's part of the point, isn't it? That "the faithful" can include anyone, even the unwashed, even the hitherto pagan.

And another part of the point, surely, is that "Come, All Ye Faithful" is addressed to us, today.

Huw Raphael said...

I wonder if the Bishop is of the Evangelical school or of the ex-Evangelical school? I ask because only someone who wanted to take the texts literally could say such things. Christmas carols are - like most western liturgical music - verbal paintings. We can read into them or out of them nearly anything we want from Nicene orthodoxy to modernist feminism (!). But what we can't do is take them literally. If he was raised (and/or now lives) thinking that things must be literally true in order to be meaningful (evangelical/fundamentalist) then he, upon finding out that they are not true, must needs get rid of such things. It's sad to see how text=literally true plays out.

This is one of the things I rather like about Eastern Hymns: the images conjured by them for me are all new. I didn't grow up singing about offering a cave to the pre-eternal God and so I have to think about it every year. I don't wake up thinking "'no crying he makes' can't be literally true at all!!!"