Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Not proud of my prejudices

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s refreshing to have your prejudices challenged.

British Society has two great pillars, Church and State, and I’m not particularly fond of either. They’re still heavily intertwined over here where the Queen remains head of the Church of England. Other more enlightened countries have gone to some lengths to keep the State apart from the Church, as in France (where secularism is practically a state religion) or the US (which seems on occasion to regret the fact).

It’s not that I have anything especially against the Church of England. I’m just not convinced by two great arguments advanced for faith in general: that they bring consolation to individuals and communities together. The problem with the first assertion is that ‘because it makes me feel better’ has never struck me as the most persuasive argument for the truth of any proposition. As for the second, it seems to me that as soon as religion has built a community, it defines anyone outside it as ‘other’, and ‘other’ quickly degenerates into ‘wrong’ and ‘wrong’ in turn into ‘heretic’ or ‘unbeliever.’ That strikes me as far too close to persecution, hardly an activity for which humankind special motivation

But then along comes someone like Giles Fraser. He was Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s, but resigned when it looked as though the cathedral authorities were going to evict the ‘Occupy’ protestors from outside their front door. He reckoned that he could imagine Christ being born in that camp. After a brief period out of work, he’s about to start a new appointment, not as a Dean or Bishop (although he was apparently on the right sort of shortlists), but as a vicar of an Inner London parish with some of the toughest social difficulties in the country.

I feel almost obliged to go and hear him preach. Fortunately, he’s going to be writing a regular column in The Guardian so I can be entertained and edified without having to do anything that drastic.

So much for the Church. What about the State and its great symbol, the Royal Family? Surely I can indulge my comfortable view that they're without redeeming features? But no sooner do I reassure myself on that point, than along they come and redeem themselves a bit. On a royal trip to Copenhagen, the Prince of Wales and Camilla had themselves introduced to Sofie Gråbøl, star of the extraordinary Danish series The Killing. And then they paid a visit to the set.

Sofie, in one her trademark jumpers, giving another to Camilla

It’s appalling, isn’t it? The two series of The Killing have provided some of the best TV I’ve seen in years. And some of the Royals like it too? Ghastly. I may have to concede that they have some taste.

At least it was Camilla who persuaded Charles to watch with her. She’s not a real royal at all but just married into the family (which in passing suggests that her good taste is perhaps not that reliable when we get out of the realm of TV series). She had to fight to get into the family, against the vehement opposition of the Queen. It was that paragon of parenting skills who initially managed not only to push Camilla out of the way but to move Diana in instead, and didn’t that work out well?

So at least I can console myself with the thought that my agreement with Camilla over a TV series isn’t really a concession to an authentic royal. Which is a relief. Because though it’s refreshing to challenge one’s prejudices, it’s also tiring. Nice to be able relax back into some simplistic preconceptions.

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