Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bishops Ban the Bible (and prayer)

The Church of England bench of bishops have banned the Bible.

That's a bit tabloid, but it's true. Today the ban on religious imagery in civil weddings was dropped. The BBC is excitedly telling people that they can now have Robbie Williams' 'Angels' played at their weddings (how religious this is anyway, let the reader decide). But also things like The Prophet, and indeed most English poetry before 1850, had caused problems for this rule.

The truth is that it was never a well observed ban anyway. At the last civil wedding I went to the bride entered to 'The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' and the whole ceremony took place in a country house with pictures illustrating the beatitudes. Another I've attended included a reading of poetry by John Milton, who can hardly be described as secular. The whole non-religious thing was nonsense.

So changing the rules was long overdue. And prior to doing so, the government consulted with the Church of England through its bishops. And the bishops told them that registrars should continue to ban: text from a recognised religious service; prayers or intercessions; hymns, worship-songs or chants; readings from the Bible (or other religious texts like the Qur’an); and any vows or blessings with religious content.

This amounts to the bishops asking for a ban on prayer and the Bible. Why? Since the reformation we have recognised that anyone can read the Bible and pray. The church has no control over this, and rightly so. The bishops say that they don't want 'to blur the fundamental distinction between a civil ceremony and a religious event', but where does this fundamental distinction come from? It is certainly not something that an Anglican theology of marriage contains. Someone married in a registary office is not somehow less married than someone married in church.

This is a huge missed opportunity. Put the Bible in the hands of people and it will speak to them. You may then find that they want to read more of it! Let people pray to God, who will certainly hear their prayers. They may do it again! And please, never ever get into a place where the bishops of the church are urging a ban on the Bible!

1 comment:

Sammy'sDot said...

The best commentary I've read on this ... thank you.

I only just discovered this column; I'll be back regularly from now on.