Wednesday, 23 December 2009


To our local nine lessons and carols yesterday evening, where my daughter was serving. For the uninitiated, this involves processing up the church before the priest, carrying a candle or large crucifix and then standing at the priest's elbow while he mutters special magical words and incantations. For most of the year, I attend church on Sundays and view this whole performance as something which might be found in a textbook on anthropology. The Shaman summons down the dead God and invites the tribe to feats on his body and so take on the attributes of the God themselves. Viewed objectively in this way, it is a fascinating ritual. A couple of times a year though, I wonder if there might perhaps be more to the business than meets the eye. I am reminded of John Betjeman's poem Christmas;

"And is it true? And is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained glass window's hue,
A Baby in an Ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?"

Sometimes, the whole story of the Gospels seems less like a mythological account, embellished over the centuries until you can hardly make out the original text, and more like a straightforward, historical narrative.

The things that happen in the Gospels are very odd, it is true, but the people in the stories see them as being odd and react much as we would ourselves. In Greek mythology, we encounter minotaurs and various other fairytale monsters and nobody in the stories bats an eyelid. They inhabit a fantasy world where such things are taken for granted. It is clear that this is pure myth. It is quite different in the Gospels. The things that happen there are just that little bit beyond believing and the characters see that they are witnessing something strange. A virgin becomes pregnant and her boyfriend reacts by deciding to wriggle out of the engagement without causing her too much embarrassment . These are real people, dealing with real, if extraordinary, events.

Anyway, I shall probably be posting less frequently over the next few days, as I descend into a frenzy of churchgoing and celebration. I hope that everybody who visits here has a good Christmas.


  1. Have a Blessed Christmas!

    Mrs Anon

  2. Maybe you could say a prayer for this family,

    "An appeals-level court in Sweden has affirmed the "kidnapping" of a 7-year-old boy who was snatched by police from a jetliner as it prepared to take his family to their new home in India.

    The days-old decision from the Administrative Court of Stockholm affirms the state custody of Dominic Johansson, who was taken by uniformed police officers on the orders of social workers even though there was no allegation of any crime on the part of the family, nor was there any warrant, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.

    The group, the premiere homeschool advocacy association in the world today, has been alarmed by the case that developed apparently because school and social services officials in Sweden objected to the homeschool program for the child..."

  3. I don't know a great deal about this case, but I think that there may be more to it than meets the eye. For those who don't know anything about it, this took place six months ago in June. The parents are very devout Christians and were intending to go to India so that they could minister to the poor. Before boarding the plane, they sold all their belongings, following the advice which Jesus gave in Luke 18.22, (see also Mt. 19.16-30 and Mk. 10.17-31). This is all very well and I have great admiration for those individuals who choose to follow this path. However, when you have a seven year old son, you are not really quite so free to make choices of this sort.
    Another thing which gave concern to the social workers was that the child's mother, an Indian national, had had mental health problems for years and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. The last I heard, she was back in one. Also, the child had a lot of tooth decay and had not been immunised against any of the diseases in India which he might encounter. It is hard to know what to say about such a case until we know all the facts, but I am not at all sure that this is all about the Swedes cracking down on home education. Of course they deserve our prayers, but it is possible that the child is safer now than he was with his parents.

  4. Hmm, I was going to comment too and say much the same thing; it is always difficult to know the "whole truth" in any of these child welfare cases, not least when it involves different cultures and our only knowledge is often biased newspaper reporting. Everytime there is a "Daily Mail" type welfare case reported here ( child snatched by social workers" type of headline; the average Daily Mail reader seems out for all social workers blood; but next minute it is the Baby P type of headline and the pendulum swings the other way.

  5. "Another thing which gave concern to the social workers was that the child's mother, an Indian national, had had mental health problems for years and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. The last I heard, she was back in one."

    All of these applied to me as a child (mother in psychiatric hospitals, lack of immunisations and poor teeth, not HE or Indian national). I know for a fact that I was far better off with my parents than in the care system. The care system is a remarkably poor replacement even for very poor parents (mine were great).

  6. I wasn't meaning to suggest for a moment that having treatment in a psychiatric hospital should be grounds for having one's children removed! I was simply pointing out that this case is becoming a cause celebre and people are saying that Sweden is likely to follow Germany's lead in banning home eduction. That being so, it is worth looking closely at what has happened.

    This looks to me like a welfare issue. Not having vaccinations against mumps, as often happens in this country is one thing. When you are taking a seven year old child with you to work in orphanages in Indian slums, the case is a little different. There are many terribly contagious diseases there which one would not encounter in Northern Europe. There is also the question of how, having disposed of all of one's property and intending to work in thse orphanages, the child will be looked after and educated.

    As I said, I don't know all the facts in this case, but it does not look to mne like an attack on home education. I suspect that the Swedish authorities would have stepped in even if the kid had been at school.