17 Feb

The plague of immoderate rain and waters

Prayers published by the Church of England for deliverance from the floods are, well…wet. Here’s one:

“God of all goodness and love,

in whom we can trust in every time of need:

be close to all who live in fear and distress

at this time of flooding in our land.

We pray for wisdom and strength for all who seek to help,

and that through this emergency,

people and communities may be drawn more closely together

in service to one another;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This is yet another example of the church’s recently-acquired fondness for doggerel words in corny rhythms. I say recently, but it dates back at least as far as that simpering excrescence The Alternative Service Book (1980) – a book, incidentally, trumpeted by the General Synod as “the greatest publishing event in 400 years”; only to ban it its use a mere twenty years later. Does the so liberal Church of England really – like the Nazis – go in for banning books? Yes indeed it does. But why? Because, they wanted to make as much money as possible out of the even worse book which they launched in 2000 – a thing called Common Worship. But back to that doggerel and those rhythms…

The rhythm of that first line echoes a sort of Noddy speech first encountered in the vain-glorious Gloria from that ASB:

“Glory to God in the highest.” The next line clumps along in the same metre, and peace to his people on earth”

Diddly-diddly-dee-dee. Dee diddle-de-diddle-dee-dee. Here come the floods and the response of church poets is to go back to the playgroup. Par for the course, for all the modern services are infantilised, sentimentalised and euphemised. They are also disrespectful to God and peremptory. Notice how the one I’ve just quoted begins baldly, “God…” Not “Almighty God…” Certainly nothing so Prayer-Bookish and majestic as “God of all power and might…” They don’t like language like that: too elitist, imperialistic, hierarchical and not democratic at all. How reactionary to suggest that God is so much higher up the scale than us! Why, it smacks of feudalism…

It goes without saying that the theology of this prayer is weak to the point of being non-existent. In fact it is not theology at all, but naturalism. The foods just happen and God has no part in what is going on. There is no “plague of immoderate rain and waters” as The Book of Common Prayer majestically puts it. No plague at all: merely an “emergency.” – like running out of cigarettes at two o’clock in the morning. The prayer does not have the courage and faith to ask God to deliver us from the floods but only to form in us a queasy combination of the stoical and the touchy-feely. We shudder at that “may be drawn more closely together.”

Compare what the BCP has to say on the subject:

“O Almighty Lord God…” (That’s more like it!) “…who for the sin of man didst once drown all the world, except eight persons, and afterward of thy great mercy didst promise never to destroy it so again: we humbly beseech thee, that although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season; and learn both by thy punishment to amend our lives and for thy clemency to give thee praise and glory…”

The new prayer is not written for a world where God is in charge: judging, punishing and delivering. Instead we are merely the pagan victims of a natural order, trying our best to work up in ourselves as much sentimental togetherness as we can muster. It is therefore a faithless prayer. But what should we expect from a faithless church?