Tuesday, 26 December 2006

A reply to the Queen

When I was a kid undoubtedly the most boring hour (at least it felt that long) of christmas day was the Queens Speech to the Nation. Since those days of childhood I have never watched or paid attention to the speech, until this year. This is because the transcript of the speech was immediately available online and she even, for the first time, has a podcast ! Now I have no desire to self-inflict the speech on myself by downloading the podcast. However I did read positive notes on how this years speech was more multi-faith than previously.

It is the first time scenes from a mosque have been seen on her Christmas broadcasts. The Hindu and Jewish religions were also acknowledged, with scenes shown of the opening of Europe's largest Hindu temple, the Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) in Tividale in the West Midlands, and from a Jewish reception at St James's Palace attended by the Queen and the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.

So this years speech might be more inclusive of other faiths than previously. Is she preparing the day for Charles "head of all faiths" monarchy to come? Did she let him influence her to do this? Regardless I do think this is a positive step when possibly only 17% of the population think this should be a christian country. But what about the rest of us who are all UK citizens - and technically still her Majesty's subjects - why is she not speaking to us, to those of nominal and not real faith, those who don't care about god and faith and even those working for a more impartial faith-free government. These three groups together, if not a majority are certainly a very large minority and most definitely larger than any of the minority faith groups that she addressed. Yes, what about us?

So I am thinking it would be amusing to give a reply to the speech in the spirit of a response in an online forum, not exactly flaming but probably not always applying the principle of charity either. Please note that I have no opinion for or against the UK continuing to have a monarch but I do think that if she is going to address the nation that we should be included. So here goes:

I have lived long enough to know that things never remain quite the same for very long.

One of the things that has not changed all that much for me is the celebration of Christmas.

It remains a time when I try to put aside the anxieties of the moment and remember that Christ was born to bring peace and tolerance to a troubled world.

Nice sentiment but what happened? He seems to have actually bring more war and intolerance into the world. I respect that you and other christians might think otherwise, but look at the facts. You want to talk to other faiths yet some of these find the term "Christ" offensive! Why not use the non-offensive Jesus instead?

The birth of Jesus naturally turns our thoughts to all new-born children and what the future holds for them.

The birth of a baby brings great happiness - but then the business of growing up begins.

It is a process that starts within the protection and care of parents and other members of the family - including the older generation.

Dedicated teachers, friends and voluntary workers, like these here at Southwark Cathedral, have much to contribute.

As with any team, there is strength in combination: what grandparent has not wished for the best possible upbringing for their grandchildren or felt an enormous sense of pride at their achievements?

But, despite the many community projects like this one, the pressures of modern life sometimes seem to be weakening the links which have traditionally kept us together as families and communities.

As children grow up and develop their own sense of confidence and independence in the ever-changing technological environment, there is always the danger of a real divide opening up between young and old, based on unfamiliarity, ignorance or misunderstanding.

It is worth bearing in mind that all of our faith communities encourage the bridging of that divide.

Ahem, no they do not. Surely they do the opposite. All faiths, at least most in this country, think they are superior to other faiths let alone the faith free. How is this meant to resolve unfamiliarity, ignorance or misunderstanding, they seem to encourage it!

The wisdom and experience of the great religions point to the need to nurture and guide the young, and to encourage respect for the elderly.

Nothing particularly to do with religion just the wisdom of most any culture. Plus religion has a warped view of nurture and guidance for the young that some call indoctrination and others call child abuse! Hardly a good example.
Christ himself told his disciples to let the children come to him, and Saint Paul reminded parents to be gentle with their children, and children to appreciate their parents.
So you are for getting rid of faith schools and faith in schools to give the children a chance and choice to go to Jesus when they are adults?

The scriptures and traditions of the other faiths enshrine the same fundamental guidance.

What to go to Jesus? I think not!

It is very easy to concentrate on the differences between the religious faiths and to forget what they have in common - people of different faiths are bound together by the need to help the younger generation to become considerate and active citizens.

True, but what has this specially to do with religious faiths? Plus not all faiths in this country do seem to be motivated to produce considerate and active citizens...

And there is another cause for hope that we can do better in the future at bridging the generation gap. As older people remain more active for longer, the opportunities to look for new ways to bring young and old together are multiplying.

As I look back on these past 12 months, marked in particular for me by the very generous response to my 80th birthday, I especially value the opportunities I have had to meet young people. I am impressed by their energy and vitality, and by their ambition to learn and to travel.

It makes me wonder what contribution older people can make to help them realise their ambitions.

I am reminded of a lady of about my age who was asked by an earnest, little granddaughter the other day: "Granny, can you remember the Stone Age?"

Should be more like "Granny, can you remember when everyone was stoned" :-)

Whilst that may be going a bit far, the older generation are able to give a sense of context, as well as the wisdom of experience which can be invaluable.

Such advice and comfort are probably needed more often than younger people admit or older people recognise.

I hope that this is something that all of us, young or old, can reflect on at this special time of year.

For Christians, Christmas marks the birth of our Saviour, but it is also a wonderful occasion to bring the generations together in a shared festival of peace, tolerance and goodwill.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas together.

OK, OK. In hindsight, having done this, there was not that much to criticise. It was just the Queen's speech and only our grannies pay it much attention. Nonetheless it would be nice if one year she did attempt to address all her subjects rather than alienate many...