The Bitter Taste of The Tablet
DESPITE being an avid and dedicated Radio 4 fan, the daily so-called “Thought for the Day” is a wart on the station’s otherwise beautiful face. Its ridiculous name notwithstanding (isn’t the whole of the Today programme a series of thoughts for that day?), the blatant, uncritical and anodyne eulogy of religion in the form of some ill-thought through analogy (often of the logical form, “the Post Office has just been floated on the stock exchange … and this makes me think of Jesus”) offends the good sense that the rest of the programme usually develops.
Let’s focus on one bulletin, the TFTD on July, 11, 2014, the day I write this, a bulletin that got me so annoyed I thought I should write back. Radio 4 listeners were graced with the melodious tones of Catherine Pepinster, above, the editrix of The Tablet, the well-known Catholic rag. Pepinster kicked off with a “news” item that I’d certainly missed on the appointment of Chris Patten as a media advisor to the “Holy” See, helping the Holy Father send tweets to the faithful.
Segueing seamlessly thence, Pepister went on to yadder on about the role and value of silence and how churches are oh-so important in encountering this blissful state.
(Sorry if I’ve mis-read you Catherine. If you’re reading this between verses of scripture, and I’ve missed the point, get in contact. Actually, don’t bother.)
So that’s the context, now for Beef Number One: here are my thoughts on religious organisations and social media.
A) Why do religious organisations use social media? The idiocy of jumping wholesale on the bandwagon of social media usage seems lost on the faithful. For a start, these incredible, if over-used, tools are the result of the consistent application of the scientific method, experimentation, rationality and the unfettered use of the intellect. And bring that on, say I – but religions tend to disagree. Ultimately they must mistrust the methods of enquiry out of which bridges, airplanes, satellites and search engines have emerged as they stand is direct opposition to a worldview based on the authority of founder/text/church. I cannot see how they can make use of these tools without questioning the fundamentals of their own epistemology.
B) Isn’t God more powerful than a tweet? Odd, is it not, that the God of gods, the Creator, has to rely on the same grubby, human marketing tools that Coke and David Cameron use in order to gets their precious message across? I thought prayer was the most powerful tool (“Whatever you ask for in my Name … ” etc). Plus, “Do not love the world or anything in it” (First Letter (or email!) of John).
C) Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are owned by massive corporations which seek profit (“Love of money is the root of all evil”). YouTube is owned by Google, a company that has been accused of not contributing sufficiently to the Exchequer in the UK. Surely God’s chosen people should not be dallying with such secular, profit-driven organisations.
Let’s pause here. Maybe Catherine agrees with all this. I don’t know (and I don’t care either; I was only half listening actually). Her main point seemed to be about the role and value of silence and how mooching around in a dark medieval building is a top flight way to get that silence. Time for Beef Number Two.
A) Yes, silence may be great, but why do we need churches or religions or Catholicism to get it? Isn’t silence equally effectively encountered in bed, on a hill, on boat on the sea? Answer: yes. So, actually, Catherine, instead of buying into the brainwashing idiocies of Catholicism, I’ll just go for a walk in the hills. Or perhaps that is not a godly enough kind of silence?
B) Silence isn’t for everyone anyway. Lots of people (myself included) find it boring. I don’t really want to sit in silence when I come to think about it. It sounds really dull.
C) Even worse, Catherine assumes that those who don’t seek silence (why are religious people always “seeking” things anyway; can’t they find something for a change? Like common sense) are missing out. She shares this view with quite a few religious people whose assumptions are often that their view of the world is morally / ontologically better. Pepinster blathered out at one point that avoiding silence “means we don’t have to face up to deeper or tougher issues …”, the implication being (or at least my inference) that if we all stare at each other and don’t talk, the Glory of the Lord’ll come shinin’ all around. (I just tried that for a few moments actually; nothing happened!) I resent the implication of superiority, that she knows something I don’t. You might like sitting dumb in a church, love; I don’t. End of.
Ok, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I’m now going to write to John Humphreys at Radio 4 and ask him what he thinks about Catherine Pepinster and her unhealthy obsession with wordless wonder. I hope, like me, he thinks she’s an arrogant, out-of-touch, priggish bore who has no place on a national radio station.
• Davita Kirby went to a church school and did Theology at university, “and so knows more about monophysitism than everyday life requires. She’s now firmly off the religion drug and does freelance proofreading instead of praying.”