Saturday, December 06, 2008

Nativity vandalised

As I was preparing to leave for church to have another go at sorting out the office computer, prior to the lunchtime 'Oriana' concert, I had a phone call from Pauline to say that the nativity scene in the north tower churchyard had been vandalised overnight. The figure of baby Jesus in his crib had been wrenched from its mounting and smashed into smithereens against the step. A half drunk bottle of alcopop had been discarded on the ground in front of the crib - a calling card? I wondered. This bottle was the first piece of rubbish discarded in this churchyard in the three weeks since the crib was erected, contrary to pessimistic expectations of some people around the place. Well, we'll see what the police have to say about fingerprints and DNA on the bottle in question. I reported the incident immediately, with just this in mind. And then I emailed the Media Wales newsroom.

That the figure of Jesus had been smashed and all other figures left intact is disturbing. This wasn't an arbitary attack by someone out of control. The culprit had to make the effort to climb over five foot spiked railings to get at the crib, as the gate was chained. Not easy, and a risky thing to do on one's own. Earlier in the day the 'Echo' had reported on Denzil John's 'Prayer for Binge Drinkers', and mentioned the service of crib blessing on Thursday night at which it was first used. Was this act a response to the article from someone reluctant to express their opinion and debate openly with Christians expressing their concern about the culture of excess and debauchery?

We're rather used to passing off such acts as being simple minded yobbery and high spirits. I say it bears the marks of a religious hate crime. Christianity is routinely mocked and derided in public. Advocates of the abolition of all religion do well from book sales and media appearances. Attacks on clerics and others, also places of worship of all faith communities are on the increase. Government legislation introduced on religious hate crimes is applicable across the board in relation to all faith communities. It's not a crime to think. But when alcohol or drugs loosens inhibition, hostile attitudes turn into actions, and outrages happen.

One thing was evident to me as a stood and surveyed the scene. Passers-by of all ages were shocked and angered. Regardless of the offence intended to religious people, there is something particularly offensive about smashing the image of an innocent helpless child - coming as it does in the weeks following the 'Baby P' case and the trial of the abductors of Shannon Matthews. This is not childish or adolescent naughtiness, it is much darker, revealing that just under the surface of our popular happily permissive tolerant culture, dangerous elements of ill-will are breeding, contemptuous of anything that seeks to nuture good-will, trust and respect.

When discussing all this with people in church before the concert, it was clear that this wasn't the first time in their long experience that something like this had happened, and been recovered from. "Never mind", said Dr. Percy, expressing his happy anticipation of the coming feast; "He'll be here again before long whatever else happens." That gave me an idea. Having managed to sort out the computer, I printed a notice to hang on the stable gable.

"Despite his enemies - Jesus is coming again very soon."

Meanwhile, the city centre management team has been informed of what happened, and will be on the case, acquiring a replacement figurine when business opens on Monday. Pauline will have a go at piecing together the broken bits of the baby pro tem. Already this is taking on a symbolic life of its own. These anti-religious fools just don't seem to understand - you can't kill a real story, about a real person, a good story, a story of good overcoming evil. And at a time like this, we need to remember this.

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