Thursday, June 30, 2011

Out of the frying pan into the fire for Scotland's Presbyterians

There's a battle in my garden with weeds. An aggressive specimen introduced from the Middle East has been wreaking havoc. The only good thing is that this specimen will, in time, apparently destroy itself - constantly breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces until there's nothing left but some annoying little nodules that wear orange sashes and become animated at the sound of a flute.

The genus is Abraham. The species is Christianity. The varieties are legion though there are several that fall within the Calvinist category. Sadly, these have taken root in Scottish soil and despite the efforts of various stalwart gardening experts from David Hume to Hugh MacDiarmid and Iain Crichton Smith, this poisonous weed still thrives in some quarters. Even calling in modern day pest-control experts such as Richard Dawkins and Iain Banks hasn't solved the problem.

The Church of Scotland sub-variety has been in turmoil of late. This is the creation that decreed that the Highland Clearances were the work of god. God had, apparently, chosen idle syphilitic landlords to get rid of poor crofters who sinned against the guy in the sky by living unprofitably on land that could instead by occupied by god's chosen sheep. In later years it orchestrated a vitriolic campaign against a Roman variety of this weed whose seeds were brought to Scotland from neighbouring Ireland. In recent times, the Auld Kirk has become more benign and in a fit of enlightenment recently allowed gay men the right to preach the musings and prejudices of Semite tribes. Some local pods rebelled against this and a few seeds have now ejected themselves and joined with their Free Presbyterian variety.

However, the 'Wee Free' variety is also not without its problems. After years of playing 'bad cop' to the Kirk's 'gay cop', It recently gave the godly green light to music in the house of god. This may seem incredible to most normal people who like a tune or two but many in the Free Kirk still contend that music in any form is the work of Satan and will only worship their god with ancient psalms. Each to their own, I guess. I wonder though what the stern and dour seed pods of the Wee Frees will make of a new crop of all-singing, all-dancing happy clappy Church of Scotlanders joining in?

Park on the Isle of Raasay
The Wee Frees are to reason and progress what the Lib Dems are to honesty and principles. Recently, one Wee Free supporter on BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, bemoaned 'the passing of the Sabbath' on the Isle of Lewis after Caledonian MacBrayne decided to run a Sunday service. His logic was that were humans to disregard the Good Lord's commandments regarding work and play on 'his' day then it wouldn't be long before 'thou shall not kill ' went out the window too and murder and mayhem would ensue. As this man's church also believes that we are all sinners anyway, no matter how heterosexual or sabbatarian we are, and that we are all destined for hell, then one has to ask why a Sunday sail on the Minch would make much difference?

One wonders if all these homophobic Calvinists will insist on upholding other parts of "God's word"? Shall their be stonings of tattooed men? Will adulterers be hung from lamposts? Will a dour but godly minister inspect every new born boy to check that his foreskin has been sliced off? Will there be a campaign to stop men conversing or worse, touching, their wives during their 'monthly uncleanliness'? Indeed, I understand that Deuteronomy even frowns upon women who wear 'men's clothes' as it is 'an abomination unto the Lord'.

Or will the 'gentle churches' content themselves with, as Sorley Maclean put it in his poem 'Ban-Ghaidheal', to speak about the lost state of our miserable souls?

Sing if you're glad to be British
Talking of music and homosexuality though... those Village People of Northern Ireland and their followers will take to the streets of Glasgow this weekend. This tiny but very aggressive variety of Abrahamic horticulture usually goes under the name of the 'Orange Order'. They proclaim their opposition to the aforementioned Roman variety due to its love of 'idols' (that means statues, pictures and photographs to me and you). However, their wind-blown meanderings along West of Scotland byways often sees them miss the entrance to their churches and instead end up inside the football stadium of Ibrox. It has also been pointed out that as they march under large banners of King William of Orange that they too are guilty of 'idolatry'. While this pedantry is nothing that a good dose of laxative wouldn't solve, it has also been observed that 'King Billy' was reputed to have 'enjoyed' more homosexual liaisons than all the gay ministers in the Church of Scotland put together.

Funny that. Nothing like religion to give you a good moral compass and consistency of disapproval.

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