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Leader: A cross on the ward; Where would Jesus shop?

23 September 2009

A cross on the ward

THERE is one religion that triumphs over all others in hospitals these days, and that is infection control. There is one high priesthood, the infection-control team, powerful enough to dictate even the sort of neckwear sported by doctors and consultants. They preside over ritual ablutions, and their word is writ. The battle against potentially fatal diseases caused by MRSA and Clostridium difficile is slowly being won because of the rigour of the regime; the spread of the norovirus bug, however, shows that greater efforts have still to be made.

This is the context of the argument over the small cross worn by Nurse Shirley Chaplin, who works for the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust. The infection-control team there produces a 63-page annual report listing its successes and failures. There is no question that health and safety, that maligned combination, is of vital importance in such a setting. Mrs Chaplin now seeks to prove that the inclusion of her cross in the general ban on jewellery was discriminatory — just as a handful of Muslim staff elsewhere have argued against the now national bare-below-the-elbows policy, saying that it discriminates against religious dress codes. There appears to be no specific anti-Christian bias, just the ques­tion whether the rules have been applied too enthusiastically.

Where would Jesus shop?

IT HAS been a while since we saw such an old-fashioned story get such coverage: bishop says something vaguely striking, the papers report it, and that’s it, really. Such stories were the bread and butter of the national press in the days when all the serious news­papers had Churches correspondents. It is good to see that one element has not changed since those days, i.e. the conviction that church pronouncements always need a little improvement. Thus the Bishop of Reading’s remark that Jesus was “just as likely” to be found in Asda or Aldi as in Marks & Spencer was swiftly changed on retelling to “more likely”. This presumably sent super­market PR departments into a frenzy, as they tried to work out whether, in the present climate, Jesus was to be viewed as a valued customer or not. The miracle of the loaves and fishes, for example, suggests that he was not familiar with website store-locators, though he was clearly a fan of Buy One Get One (or more) Free offers.

In our view, Jesus would more likely to be in a street market than a supermarket; but, in any case, the supermarkets might pause before working him into their next marketing campaign. The inference from the Gospels is that Christ delegated the shopping to one of the disciples, the one who was good with money — until he threw it down on to the temple floor.

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