20 Jan

Divine retribution?

David Silvester has been suspended by the UKIP leadership from his post as an Oxfordshire councillor for reiterating the “nasty” opinion  that the recent floods were a judgement on David Cameron’s passing the “Gay” “Marriage” bill. This seems rather unfair on God’s part. I mean, do we know that only same-sex “partners” had their homes deluged? In any case, the chief perpetrator, Mr Cameron, seems to have escaped unscathed. Perhaps God is just losing his touch? It reminds me of the story about the priest and his lay friend playing a round of golf. The lay friend played a bad shot and exclaimed, “Missed the bugger!” He did the same again a couple of times. The priest said, “Be careful, God will not overlook the sin of swearing!” Next minute, the priest was struck by lightning and fell down dead. And there came a loud voice from heaven, “Missed the bugger!”

I have a little experience in this business of divine retribution.

One Sunday when I was a country parson in Yorkshire, I took the evening off and went for a look around York Minster. There was a huge sign at the entrance to the precinct garden saying TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. I thought that even cathedral canons might have stretched their charity as far as TRESPASSERS WILL BE FORGIVEN. Another sign said NO CARS NO ENTRY NO DOGS NO BALLS You had to go inside to notice there was plenty of balls. The Minster authorities had lent it to the aisle-dancing lunatics from St Michael-le-Belfrey next door and they were practising some sort of hideous religious rock concert. Litter everywhere. An ice cream half-eaten melting on a 14th century vestments chest. Men hammering away at a stage prop of Noah’s Ark. Everyone shouting. A few youthful tourists were gazing at the glass and stone and playing their transistor radios full belt on Radio Awful. Others exercised recently-discovered lusts of the flesh under the scaffolding. Nothing too terrifying. An American tourist, fat as King Eglon, stood on a pile of 12th century copes to take a flash photograph of the reserved Sacrament. An Englishman gave us a commentary on an ancient statue:

“Ee looks as if ‘ee ‘as an ‘ard on!”

Next day I wrote a caustic piece for The Guardian which I concluded with the line,

“Let’s have a bit more reverence and respect – or else for God’s sake burn it down.”

The following week the Minster was struck by lightning. The popular press surmised that this Act of God was a punishment on the newly-appointed Bishop of Durham for his unbelief. A few days later I received a postcard from the playwright John Osborne saying,

“So God reads The Guardian – how awful!”

By way of polite reprimand, the Archbishop of York had a letter published in The Guardian informing its readers that,

“God does not send down fire from heaven.”

The Guardian had the decency to publish my one-line riposte:

“Tell it to Elijah!”