Monday, December 15, 2008

Vicar bans ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’

Meet the Reverend Stephen Coulter. He has visited the West Bank once, and discovered that the line ‘How still we see thee lie’ from the carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ is not quite true. So he has deleted the carol from Christmas worship in the Dorset parish of Blandford Forum on the grounds that the words were ‘too far removed from life in Bethlehem’ and no longer ‘represent the modern-day reality of the war-torn city’.

He was dismayed to discover that ‘where shepherds once used to watch over flocks by night, now security guards watched over the people living there’.

If he had bothered to travel wider in the area, he might also have observed that very little in Israel is as it was 2000 years ago, not least because a church seems to have been built over every possible site where Mary spilled some of her breast milk or to mark the burial site of the donkey which carried Jesus into Jerusalem. It remains true, however, that nothing good comes out of Nazareth.

And Mr Coulter draws attention to a carving he ‘smuggled out of Palestine’ which shows the Israeli security fence separating the crib from the wise men. And while he is in the limelight, he highlights reports that the Israeli government is prohibiting the movement of communion wine from Bethlehem this Christmas because it was deemed a security risk.

Is it any wonder with vicars like these that the Church of England is in such a state of terminal decline and ritually held up to ridicule?

Since when was modern reality being at variance with history justification for banning hymns or carols?

Why does this theologically-foolish and politically-naïve vicar not ban ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ because they patently no longer do?

Or ‘O Come all ye Faithful!’ because the faithful are no longer coming?

Or ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and ‘See Amid The Winter’s Snow’ because of global warming?

Or ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ because Christmas now seems to last for about 60 days, from early November right through to January?

Or ‘Away in a Manger’ on health and safety grounds for fear of increasing the likelihood of cot death?

Or ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ because so many church bells have either been silenced by local councils or are being supplanted by the local mosque’s call to prayer?

Or ‘Joy to the World’, because joy is not possible in a world of conflict and war.

Or ‘Silent Night’ on the grounds that silence is no longer possible in a world of increasing noise pollution?

Or ‘While Shepherds Watched’ because few people go anywhere or do anything by night for fear of being mugged or murdered?

Or ‘Unto Us a Child is Born’ because so many more are being aborted?

While this vicar is obsessing about peripheral minutiae like the movement of communion wine, he might consider saying something about the Palestinian Christians who are being persecuted.

What has he said about the cases of violence, including forced marriage to Muslims, and the Arab-engineered decline in Christian population of Bethlehem?

Is he aware that His Supreme Governor has recently bestowed an honorary knighthood on the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres?

What has he observed of the number of lives – Arab and Israeli – that the Israeli security fence has saved?

What has he said in support of Israel’s democracy, in which Arab-Muslims may rise to the highest office?

Since he is intent on censoring divine worship and imposing his puerile politics upon his congregation, Cranmer thinks a little email harassment enlightenment is wholly justified:

The Reverend Stephen Coulter's email addresses are:

Do let him know what you think, especially about the plight of Palestinian Christians and the importance to the whole region of Israel's security. And be sure to wish him a Merry Christmas, even though merriment is far from the present reality in Gordon Brown’s credit-crunch Britain.


Anonymous Preacher said...

Nice rant Your Grace, but consider that the reason the Anglican Communion is in dire straits is that we cling to traditions & customs introduced in the 19th century rather than by the first believers. Most of the populace are fed up with the commercialism of the present time with canned carols blasting out of speakers on tne high street it sounds more like a count down to armageddon than a spiritual time of reflection. People are rushing around spending money they don't have, a modern carol would have to include the lines "I'll be glad when it's all over" & " its all for the kids". Peace on earth & goodwill to all men has a hollow sound in the light of the state of the world. But underneath all of this their still remains the truth of the love of God in becoming man to pay the price of sin by His own sacrifice, a still small voice in the midst of chaos, that for me is Christmas, not the Victorian fantasy.

15 December 2008 at 10:18  
Blogger The Heresiarch said...

Brilliant. I would add that "We three kings" and "Good King Wenceslas" both show an elitist regard for monarchism, while "I saw three ships" exaggerates the current strength of the Royal Navy.

15 December 2008 at 11:00  
Anonymous James Goodman said...

Shocking. Inciting email harassment, even of a fool, is despicable behaviour. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Did Jesus ever try to get the crowds to boo the Pharisees?

15 December 2008 at 11:55  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

Well done your grace,it is time to fight fire with fire,there are many attacks at present upon Christmas,most notably a fool in london somewhere with hindu snowmen with stupid dots in the middle of thier foreheads,Christmas can not be multi-delusional,it is the MASS of CHRIST,not the paedophile prophet,not hindoo,not sikh,not primitive ju-ju,but the Christianity of the ENGLISH people,and if it is a little "victorian"then that is preferable to selling everything,from meaningless plastic junk to the extract of a skunks reproductive organs with the insane overlay of sordid sex.i shall drop him a line,for it is high time to stop "turning the other cheek"

15 December 2008 at 12:28  
Anonymous Martin Sewell said...

Calm down everyone!

The Revd Coulter may well have made an unhelpful gaffe with this but surely the proper response is informed by the traditional intructory quotation of Evensong
" Oh Lord correct me but with Judgement not in thine anger lest thou bring me to nothingness".

15 December 2008 at 13:00  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Did Jesus ever try to get the crowds to boo the Pharisees?

No. He personally hurled insults at them instead.

Would you prefer His Grace did that to the Rev Stephen Coulter?

15 December 2008 at 13:02  
Anonymous William said...

I felt no sympathy at all with the deluded Reverend Stephen Coulter, until I saw that you were inciting internet harassment of him. Quite disgraceful. I hope you have the elementary decency to remove his email addresses from your blog.

15 December 2008 at 13:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wikipedia has interesting information about Palestinian Christians, see here -

Pre Israel it seems that 20% of the Palestinian population (and maybe as much as 40%) were Christian. Most were driven out by the Israelis in 1948.

15 December 2008 at 13:24  
OpenID arltblogger said...

It's a question of reading what the carols actually say. 'O little town' imagines being in Bethlehem on the night of the Nativity ('are met in thee tonight') so conditions there today are not relevant.

Cranmer's own examples are, intentionally, equally unconvincing, but some through confusion between wishes/commands and statements. As when you wish someone "Good morning!" and they say "What's good about it?"

15 December 2008 at 13:44  
Blogger McKenzie said...

Time for a holiday sir. Leave the ranting and raving to me.

15 December 2008 at 14:09  
Blogger elderflower said...

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear his coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in.

He is a silly man for banning this most beautiful of carols, but perhaps a kindly rebuke might have more effect on him than hostility.

15 December 2008 at 14:57  
Blogger Fidothedog said...

I can but assume he was on about that fine bit of peaceful real estate that was really peaceful in the time of Jesus.

Jewish revolts against the Romans, the dictatorship of Herod who was not adverse to spot of bloodshed.

Add to that invasions by Pathia on a few occasions and I think he is missing the point somewhat.

Peace in that area has sadly never lasted long.

15 December 2008 at 15:00  
Blogger Christian-Jedi-Alliance said...

You do understand don,t you that we can not continue on the same course?

We, at some point, have to wake up and change.

15 December 2008 at 16:41  
Anonymous James Goodman said...

--Did Jesus ever try to get the crowds to boo the Pharisees?
-No. He personally hurled insults at them instead.
-Would you prefer His Grace did that to the Rev Stephen Coulter?

Since this was Jesus' example, it seems wise to follow it.

Jesus spoke many strong words against the Pharisees to their faces. Jesus also warned his disciples against the Pharisees' teaching, even when the Pharisees were not present to defend themselves.

But we don't read of Jesus telling his followers to go and heckle the Pharisees in the synagogues, or to write them unpleasant letters.

I would be glad to hear that you had addressed yourself to Mr Coulter directly, as I was glad to read your public critique of his foolishness. But publishing his email addresses and asking your readers to harass him is wrong.

Thankyou for the altering the wording in your post.

15 December 2008 at 18:33  
Blogger Christian-Jedi-Alliance said...

What happened to us, How did we lose sight of such basic things?

15 December 2008 at 18:47  
Anonymous billy said...

The Heresiarch said...
........ "I saw three ships" exaggerates the current strength of the Royal Navy.

15 December 2008 11:00

Very good H.

15 December 2008 at 19:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace

You have reduced me to immoderate laughter, to the point I had my family looking at me as though I had finally flipped.

But thank you.

It only takes 27 muscles to smile but 42 to frown and these days I'm to put off for as long as possible the day when my face looks as though someone has been chopping wood on it

15 December 2008 at 20:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just noticed that this strange man's parish is in Blandford Forum. Given that this is an area thronged with various military types, I imagine that he will be having rather sparsely-attended Christmas services once they hear about this foolishness.

15 December 2008 at 20:44  
Blogger Recovering Baptist said...

Sad to say but you may be adding to the ridicule and decline of the C 0f E. The lot of any non Jew in Israel is very sorry indeed and has got worse between my first visit in the late 70's and the most recent a couple of years ago. I do not approve of violence but neither do I approve the lack of spine of christians who compromise the gospel of Christ with their sycophantic praise of Israel regardless of their behavior. Christ may have confronted the pharisee but then he was perfect and all knowing. If and when you can claim these attributes you may confront but not ridicule those with whom you disagree. Right now you seem to be at the level of the rabble rouser.

15 December 2008 at 22:12  
Anonymous Dr. Irene Lancaster said...

Thanks for highlighting this sad state of affairs.

By contrast, this is what is currently taking place in Salford, Greater Manchester:

15 December 2008 at 22:13  
Blogger Christian-Jedi-Alliance said...

Goodness me Your grace, you don't half get about these days:

Cranmer Theological House

15 December 2008 at 23:56  
Anonymous Rebel Saint said...

I for one applaud your Grace for encouraging your readers to activism rather than simply being the usual bunch of whining pew-fillers and blog-commentators.

Whilst some irrelevant vicar of a no-doubt ageing & declining congregation is not high on my hit-list, we've got to start somewhere.

16 December 2008 at 00:43  
Anonymous John Knox said...

Your Eminence,
Even Westminster Abbey is now driving the multifaith train: away from the Christ who claimed to be the only way to the Father. Some Anglican clergy have now added Hindu snowmen, a Chinese dragon and a Jewish temple to the lawn where the traditional scene of a baby Jesus, angels, and the three wise men used to be displayed alone.
“We’ve done this as it creates a good opportunity for Christians to meet and hear about the stories of people of other faiths,” said the Rev. Jane Hedges, a canon of Westminster Abbey, according to U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper. You read it well: good opportunity for Christians...
John Knox agrees and advises the ordinary to appoint a commitation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve and denounce god's wrath on false religions and molten images to worship these. And while he is at is blas a trumpet against women priests as well...

16 December 2008 at 01:52  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Jesus preached a Judaism outside The Temple and the curtain was rent in that same temple as he expired upon the Cross.

Likewise a deluded man in regalia pronouncing upon the merits of verses in Christmas carols in some comfortable living in southern England is farcical. He is an irrelevance and should enjoy his five minutes - he is neither talented enough to write such wonderful carols, nor anything but a reader of texts and spouter of rhetoric.

Bethlehem is "house of bread" and the area has been under so many foreign occupations in its history that this vicar should wonder what Turks and other Muslims were doing there - or perhaps he means to criticise Hamas for persecuting Christians in the region so they flee to the USA for earthly salvation ?

The pomposity of this man is uncalled for at Christmas - humility not censorship would be more becoming

16 December 2008 at 08:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I for one am most grateful for the opportunity of being able to send a cordial, polite, and helpful critique to the good reverend concerned. This is called "feedback". There's nothing worse than reading about a lot of nonsense, and being prevented from putting a response. In these enlightened days in the year of our Lord 2008, this is how the system works. If you read a newspaper article, then, in many cases, the journalist kindly puts his email at the end of it for "comment". Some of your own readers may fairly object that the good reverend isn't a journalist, and is therefore entitled to his "privacy" under his "human rights" however unless his email address has been obtained by deception (a charge I would not consider making against his holiness" then he must, surely, be happy to received comment, adverse or welcoming.
Keep up the good work, your Grace, and compliments of this fine season of advent.

16 December 2008 at 14:26  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

Very well done. we all need to take a stand against this PC rubbish

17 December 2008 at 00:00  
Blogger len.allan said...

This man is so out of touch with the realities of life.
This is why people are leaving the traditional church in droves.
Where are the Spirit filled leaders in our churches?.
It seems something is dreadfully wrong with our churches,and the leadership of them.

17 December 2008 at 19:39  

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