Skip to comments.Cathedral bans popular hymn Jerusalem
Posted on 04/11/2008 5:51:39 AM PDT by fweingart
Funny how the "liberals" in the Church have developed this fondness for banning things.
First they banned their own modern Alternative Service Book after only 20 years in use. Now, the Very Reverend Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark, has banned the hymn Jerusalem from his cathedral because it is "not in the glory of God" and is too nationalistic.
But surely there is the radiance of divinity in "And was the Holy Lamb of God on England's pleasant pastures seen"?
The pseudo-scholarly clergy don't like that line because they deny the Glastonbury legend about Jesus coming to England with Joseph of Arimathea. This shows a numbskull literal-mindedness.
When I preach the Resurrection on Easter Day, I try to evoke the Lord's appearances around Galilee, and on the walk to Emmaus, as if they had happened in my beloved Yorkshire Dales.
Blake didn't think Jesus came to England, either. He was a poet and his lines are the stuff of imaginative allusion. But imagination is a bit beyond the reach of the polite mechanicals among the modern clergy.
Christians in England are redeemed by Christ, as surely as the first disciples were redeemed by him in Galilee. Blake's magnificent poem is a way of bringing this home to us, building the truth of the experience into our hearts and minds by using homely, national imagery.
The spirit of God breathes all through Jerusalem. Take the fervent line, "Bring me my chariot of fire." It is straight out of the Bible, the ecstatic vision of the prophet Elijah carried up to heaven in the whirlwind (II Kings 2:11). "Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand" is clearly a reference to "the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).
What the modern clergy can't stand is the powerful evocation of England. When they see the word "England" they don't hear the music of ancient Albion. They see patriotism and national pride, which to them are the next worse things to fascism and expansionary imperialism.
But, as Chesterton said, if a man won't love his country, it is difficult to believe he loves anything. Blake's hymn was a prelude to Milton, and he knew that Paradise Lost, the Fall of Man, happens down the Old Kent Road as definitely as anywhere else.
Odd, the trendy clergy's preference for abstractions and internationalism when it was abstracted international communism under Stalin and Mao which slaughtered millions more even than the über-nationalists in the Third Reich.
There is nothing abstract or theoretical about Blake's hymn. He wasn't writing a report for the General Synod. As a poet of genius, he knew that the way to convey spiritual realities is to incarnate them in things: swords, chariots, clouded hills, mountains green.
St Margaret's, "Parliament's church" in Westminster, disapproves of the line about "dark satanic mills" only by misunderstanding it. No English literature scholar imagines for a minute that Blake was referring to the cotton mills and weaving sheds in Lancashire.
One of our finest biblical commentators, Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, says: "The 'dark satanic mills' were not the cotton mills and steel mills of the new, noisy and smoky industrial revolution. They were the great churches, such as Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral, which Blake saw as being hopelessly in thrall to the follies of the world, follies he saw all too clearly in the great thinkers of what was already calling itself the Enlightenment.
He faced down the scorn of Voltaire and Rousseau against the deep mysteries of faith. 'You throw the sand against the wind,' he wrote, 'and the wind blows it back again.'?"
Now, at last, we are getting close to understanding this sour prejudice against Jerusalem among so many clergy. For Blake is attacking them - those who, though they promised at ordination to challenge the follies of the age, actually aid and encourage them.
It is the Jerusalem haters who have swallowed whole all the dogmas of Rousseauism and the secular superstitions of the Enlightenment in its most recent form: political-correctness.
If Blake could hear for five minutes these people banging on about their true preoccupations, the follies of the age - anti-racism, gender egalitarianism, compliance, the foreign aid industry and the paranoid fantasy of global warming - he would sing all the more loudly against this lot: "Bring me my bow bring me my arrows bring me my sword "
The Revd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill
“Jerusalem” is a beautiful hymn!! The Emerson, Lake & Palmer version of it is absolutely soul stirring. (I was listening to it just last Monday.)
As for us dumb Yanks stateside, there are a zillion old time Gospel hymns that refer to “the blood”...could those be next to be criticized because of the violent and gory imagery?
England just keeps getting dumber and dumber and their churches grow further away from God.
When my son was born 12 years ago, we had a family party at our home on the day he and my wife got out of the Hospital.
I had rigged a sound system outdoors, and when Mum and son came up the drive, we played “Jerusalem” at high volume. And when they came indoors through an honor guard of assembled friends, we played Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”. Plenty of champagne followed.
These are probably the two finest pieces of triumphalist music ever written, and I am unashamed and unrepentant for all the noise they made on that very special day twelve years ago.
It is a shame that this church has banned “Jerusalem”. It is their loss.
Alright, that’s it. Bring me my bow of burning gold.
“Till we have built Jerusalem”... that’s important because one has to remember that Jerusalem is a lot more than a patch of land and a few piles of stones. Jerusalem has a deep inner meaning, and that’s what everybody should be building not just on England but inside of oneself.
IIPeter 3:10 But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night:.....
I was expecting that the ban was due to UK Muslims finding something offensive in the lyrics ...give it time and they probably will find something to be indignant about in this hymn.
“Jerusalem” is now a bad word because the idiots assume that it has to do with Zionism and modern Israeli politics.
The hymn talks about bringing liberation to the “satanic mills” and building the City of God in England. It has absolutely nothing to do with the real estate of Jerusalem in the Holy Land.
More knee jerk idiocy from the COE.
How inspiring to see that the Very Rectum Abp. Williams of Canterbury is not the only one huffing airplane glue. "Jerusalem" WAS the CoE at one time.
Of course, that's when there was a CoE.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer did a nice version.
Jerusalem is a beautiful hymn. Another joy killer takes the soapbox.
Hiho-2, thanks for posting that. It’s quite beautiful. Sent it to my niece’s fiance, a Brit here in Utah.
Man, that hymn is the first one I think of when I think of hymns in England. In John Ford’s westerns, anytime a hymn was sung, it was always “Shall We Gather at the River?”. In English films, when hymns are depicted, it always seems to be “Jerusalem”. Oh, well...
Pitch darkness in the middle of the night, all of the boys who were about to leave standing outside the school buildings, singing Jerusalem.
For me, and many of the others, it was a pledge for our lives. To do what we felt we needed to do in our lives to create the world we wanted.
Chariot of fire
The line from the poem, "Bring me my Chariot of Fire!" draws on the story of 2 Kings 2:11, where the Old Testament prophet Elijah is taken directly to heaven: "And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Or it could refer to 2 Kings 6:17 , where the prophet Elisha prays that the eyes of his servant might be opened to the "horses and chariots of fire" surrounding them to protect them from an enemy army.
Who could forget the singing of this hymn during Abrams funeral in the movie, "Chariots of Fire?"
This is my favorite version.
Maybe he can get the Muzzies to cut out that cr@p about ole Mo visiting Jerusalem?
Excellent post and comments. And very well said by The Rev. Dr. Peter Mullen.
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