Overheard in a local parish church where I was singing yesterday evening, the second ‘Proper Lesson’ from the Anglican liturgy for ‘the Anniversary of the day of the Accession of the Reigning Sovereign‘ which comes down to us from ‘reformed’-tax-collector-turned-Apostle Paul and his letter to early Christians in Rome:
1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Romans 13:1-11, King James Version)
It takes a lot to jolt me out of my dead-eyed trance when somebody is reading something out in church, but this rabble-dousing howler really took my breath away. Nice one Paul – I bet you made your old bosses proud with this one!
I should confess my part in singing the special responses:
Priest. O Lord, save the Queen.
Answer. Who putteth her trust in thee.
Priest. Send her help from thy holy place;
Answer. And evermore mightily defend her.
Priest. Be unto her, O Lord, a strong tower;
Answer. From the face of her enemies.
… along with the William Byrd’s beautiful and obsequious anthem, ‘O Lord, make Thy servant Elizabeth’*, and assenting with resounding ‘Amen’s to statements like:
O GOD, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: Vouchsafe so to bless thy Servant our Queen, that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and thy Church may serve thee in all godly quietness; and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works unto the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ…
… and barely having the courage to sing ‘long to reign over ARSE’ (certainly not refusing to stand or sing) in the national anthem. All of which ‘normalises the unthinkable’† of renouncing personal sovereignty to people who have anything but our best interests at heart.
I’m not offering any excuses (eg: “I’m just doing my job as a professional musician who happens to be employed by the Church”). At base I don’t know why I keep going there to sing in a strange voice and join others in reciting strange words that have little or no connection to my authentic personhood. I like some of the people. The money (£25 per service) comes in handy. The physical sensations of relating to other beings through harmony and rhythm are sometimes still enjoyable. There is a ‘safe’ sense of community that I don’t currently have anywhere else in my life, whether congregated around Truth or Lies (as I perceive them). I get revelations like these about my inherited cultural traditions which help to clarify and put into perspective my struggle for independence from them. It feels better than ‘doing nothing’ (eg: watching TV) on a Sunday evening, even though by doing ‘something’ I recognise that I’m still ‘doing the done thing’, hence not really ‘doing’ anything truly productive…
I will probably continue to participate in these activities until I discover, am offered, or make my own better alternatives. How ’bout you?
* – King’s Singers performance on youtube. The piece was
[...] most likely composed either as part of an effort to secure an appointment with the Royal chapel in London (partly the result of certain tensions that had grown between him and the powers-that-be in Lincoln, where he resided and worked until 1570) or during the years shortly following his successful attainment of such a post in 1570. Certainly the direct homage to Queen Elizabeth is of far more than just vague rhetorical expression, while the actual music to which the text is set is of the densely contrapuntal kind that features into so many of Byrd’s youthful works.
The text of O Lord, make thy servant is drawn from Psalm 21, suitably adapted to refer to Queen Elizabeth rather than King David:
O Lord, make thy servant, Elisabeth our Queen, to rejoice in thy strength; give her her heart’s desire, and deny not the request of her lips; but prevent her with thine everlasting blessing, and give her a long life, ev’n for ever and ever. Amen. (link)
† – read Edward Herman on ‘The Banality of Evil‘:
Doing terrible things in an organized and systematic way rests on “normalization.” This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as “the way things are done.” There is usually a division of labor in doing and rationalizing the unthinkable, with the direct brutalizing and killing done by one set of individuals; others keeping the machinery of death (sanitation, food supply) in order; still others producing the implements of killing, or working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of defense intellectuals and other experts, and the mainstream media, to normalize the unthinkable for the general public.