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Here's the first of my AKICOLJ questions.

Today I saw a news story that the Church of England was dropping its objection to the song / hymn 'Jerusalem' at weddings. Some christians apparently think of the song as heretical.

Now my question (please answer in words an atheist who wasn't brought up in England will understand) is:

What is or was perceived to be heretical about 'Jerusalem'?



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
Only regarded as heretical by a very small and more than usually tiny-minded group, none of whom seem able to understand the difference between a question and a statement. However, a great many more think it inappropriate for a wedding; chiefly because it's got absolutely nothing to do with weddings. Then again, neither does the 23rd psalm, and that's generally considered acceptable.

The theological issues hinge on the first verse, which asks whether those feet, in ancient times, walked upon England's pastures green. The answer, if you're interested, is "Almost certainly not". But there was a widespread myth, much promoted in the middle ages, connecting both Joseph of Arimathea and Jesus Himself, to a trip to Glastonbury - curiously enough the monks of Glastonbury did much to encourage the story. Blake was referring to that, and using the imagery to a) contrast with the "dark satanic mills" of the early industrial revolution, and b) suggest that there's room for improvement in the way the country is now, and we should all be striving to make things a bit better.

Some of the confusion may be due to the martial imagery of the second verse - easy to mistake for marital imagery.
Jul. 15th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
Would this be the same group as don't like the idea of female bishops?
Jul. 15th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
AIUI, the position is more complicated than that. There may be some overlap between the two groups, but they are probably not made up of just the same people.
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
I would suspect they are very much a different group - see my comment.
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that reminds me of another question I could ask...
Jul. 15th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
The answer, if you're interested, is "Almost certainly not".

There is absolutely no evidence for it, for one thing.

the middle ages

1066 - 1485, as any fule kno.

curiously enough the monks of Glastonbury did much to encourage the story.

As they did to the story that Glastonbury was Avalon, and housed the tombs of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

the "dark satanic mills" of the early industrial revolution

Or, according to others, the "dark satanic mills" of part of the English church at the time.
Jul. 16th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
chiefly because it's got absolutely nothing to do with weddings.

Though, if one is of a certain turn of mind, the verse about 'burning arrows of desire' 'unfolding clouds' and 'nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand' might have something to do with the wedding night.

I'll get my coat...
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
There are people who think it is nationalistic, and is a song to the glory of England rather than the glory of God. Which raises the questions a) what's wrong with patriotism and b) have these people really read the lyrics. The song actually talks about changing what England is to make it more like Jerusalem (the future one, not the current city) and is not at all unquestioningly jingoistic. But lots of people in the modern Church of England are knee jerk left wingers who automatically associate the song with nationalism and automatically assume it is therefore Bad and Wrong.

This is perhaps ironic, as the theory that you can build the Kingdom of God (another term, alongside Jerusalem, for the hypothetical utopia God will one day build) by human activism is in actual fact very much the kind of theology that the left wing of the Church tends to hold, and so they should be embracing the song. :p
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
Compare and contrast this.

"I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace."

Words Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, music Gustav Holst.

And this film:
Jul. 18th, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
Left and a fan
Hiya. Really interesting comment. Having studying quite a bit on the idea of God establishing the kingdom of God in some kind of New Jerusalem now, as a politically and theologically left person, I like it!
Any song that stops putting God's interaction with people far off into some distant future in heaven could be worse!

"Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land"
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Left and a fan
p.s. meant to add -- although, I find the battle imagery might be one of the reasons for negativity from the left.
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
Blake was considered very odd and heretical by the Church of England, and others, during his life. There's a lot of Gnostic heresy there, particularly in The Tyger.

The martial imagery does not, I suspect, equate very well with the church's idea of marital bliss. As usual, Blake does not answer his rhetorical questions, to which, I suspect, he would have given 'No' as an answer.

Jul. 15th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, in the forest of the night.
Tyger, Tyger, my mistake; I thought that you were William Blake.
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
Excellent! Thanks everyone. This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping people would post. Very little effort on my part for significant intellectual gain!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )