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Press: Read all about ‘woke’ with one simple tag  

08 March 2024

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THE Telegraph has started to use “woke” as a tag for news stories, so that the readers need waste no time in getting their chunter on.

A quick glance at stories thus tagged offers “National Trust adopting ‘North Korean approach’ to democracy, claims Lord Sumption”; but, for balance, “Charities must avoid being dragged into political culture wars”; then there is “‘Most qualified person should get the job’ is microaggression, Russell Group universities say”; “A colonialist’s head on a stick would be a more honest sculpture”; and, of course, the obligatory stories about the Church of England: “Stonewall funded Church of England guidance that said primary schoolchildren can be transgender”; “Church of England yet to set up £100m slavery reparations fund after a year”; “C of E to hire ‘deconstructing whiteness’ officer”. Whoever it will be is grossly overpaid. You don’t need much deconstruction to understand what’s going on with that selection of stories.

The Mail was even more direct, with a headline so misleading that it might as well have been written by an AI: “Vicars in uproar after the Church of England moves to set aside £1 billion to pay for slavery reparations”. But what’s actually proposed is that the Church should set aside £900,000,000 of someone else’s money — exactly whose is handwaved away — and it is the sheer lunatic unreality of that plan which is more worrying than the implications would be if it were a serious proposition.

What are these people smoking? And where do I get some?

The one piece of news in the Mail story is that the Revd Dr Ian Paul, a member of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, has been elevated to the dignity of Vicar in Uproar in exchange for a meaty quote: “This report appears to be based on an essentially racist reading of history. . . It is anti-Christian. Unbelievably, it calls on the Church to repent for having preached the gospel. . . The authors appear to be completely ignorant of the Church’s own beliefs” — which beliefs are always available on application to Dr Paul.

But it is still difficult to argue with his conclusion: “Whoever commissioned this report appears to have a death wish for the Church of England.” To get all the opprobrium consequent on giving away hundreds of millions of pounds to an unpopular cause, and to do so without any of the benefits to anyone which might appear if the money had been real, is a master stroke of anti-politics that even Rishi Sunak might admire. There has been nothing like it since the proposal to get rid of such limiting factors as church buildings and the clergy (News, 2 July 2021).

Obviously, the moral of all this is that the “woke” tag really works, and can reduce even ancient columnists to a state of helpless chunter.


AND so on to light relief, and the battle of the flashbulbs. I loved this quote in The Times from Mark Horton, a wedding photographer in Birmingham: “I turn up and they’re like, ‘Right, you’ll stand at the back, you won’t move.’ And I’m saying, ‘I’m being paid by the people down the front to get their faces.’ They’re like, ‘It’s not about you, it’s about God’. . . [I say] ‘I’m not going to diss your religion and your job, but let’s have some kind of collaborative effort.’ The response? ‘This is my church — you do what I say.’”

His point sounds entirely reasonable: here is the couple, gathered here to solemnise their union in the sight of almighty Instagram, and they don’t want some fusspot who keeps up the picturesque backdrop interfering. The Times quoted the average daily rate for wedding photographers as £1300. No one is going to spend that much on the Vicar, which shows where their priorities lie.

It was very sporting of the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams to join in the fun. “The event isn’t staged just as a spectacle to be filmed, but as a personal encounter of a couple with God,” he told The Times. But the best quote of the story actually came from the photographer’s side: Faye Wilde, in Nottingham, said: “I had one [vicar] who was talking all through the ceremony about how she couldn’t wait for the couple to have sex. She spent the ceremony talking about how they were going to have ‘the best night of their lives’.” Then Wilde added: “They already had a child. She was the flower girl.”


THERE was even one lovely, serious, piece of religious journalism this week, in The Guardian, where Julian Coman reviewed Marilynne Robinson’s new book on Genesis. He is scrupulous, generous, and penetrating.

“The vision of a single omniscient and benevolent God is a staggering new departure in ancient literature, with implications all the way down to design details,” Coman writes. “In the Garden of Eden, Robinson points out, ‘the beauty of the trees is noted before the fact that they yield food’. Here is a world packed with signs of a divine desire that the first humans feel at home. Compared with the surrounding myths on offer, this vision ‘is from the beginning an immeasurable elevation of status.’”

I shall take this thought as a reminder that even professional Christians are worthy of the love of God.

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