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Bishop Piffle

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Call to ban 'nationalistic' hymn

An Anglican bishop wants to ban the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country - because it echoes Hitler's Germany and is "heretical".
The Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, attacked English nationalism in a diocese newsletter.

Well he can piss off, a tearjerker of a hymn if ever there was one, set to great music, I will take that to happy-clappy guitar sing songs anyday:

All together now:

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.


Good to see some people prepared to make that final sacrifice, lay their dearest on the alter and die in their country's interests no matter how their leaders define them. Like Churchill said; MY COUNTRY RIGHT OR WRONG!!!

No more whinging about Iraq, eh!

If Bishop Lowe sees a moral equivalence between nazi Germany in the thirties and todayís Britain heís clearly got some difficulty with perspective. Itís the same foolishness which saw traditional icons such as the flag being condemned as symbols of racism. As a result the flag became the exclusive property of the undemocratic racist right. Itís good to see the flag now being reclaimed by the democratic of all races within Britain, and it just seems silly to go through all this again with "I Vow to Thee my Country".

One of my favourite songs is "Jerusalem". Itís stirring, benignly patriotic, avoids naked jingoism and calls on the singer to build a better country here in England. Itís a song which resonates with both the political left and right. Itís a song specifically about England and therefore makes an excellent ĎEnglishí, rather than ĎBritishĎ, national anthem (The Scots and Welsh have theirs and we should have ours) Yet itís not a hymn. Itís theology is derisible and itís not about the Christian God in any orthodox sense. Sung in a stadium it brings tears to my eyes. Sung in church it makes me squirm.

With some reluctance Bishop Lowe makes one good point. Modern Britain may be nothing like Nazi Germany, but a church existed in Germany when the Nazis came to power. All to often the church acquiesced with the Nazi state. Even Christians who went on to heroically oppose Hitler, were compromised to begin with because they were conditioned to support the state unquestioningly. Christians aren't called to put country before God, though they are called to give to the state what is due to the state. I donít think thatís precisely what "I vow to thee my country calls us to do, but I think heís right to remind us of the dangers of unquestioning nationalism.

Sorry, but Jerusalem is a completely Christian hymn. "Those feet" to which the hymn refers are the feet of Jesus. The whole song is based on a bit of folklore saying that Jesus visited Britain during the years of his life not covered in the Bible.
Hell, it even talks about the "Holy lamb of God."
I agree with you that it mainly calls on the singer (and the listener) to build a better country in England, but to make out that it is a secular song is clearly incorrect.

I didn't say it was secular. However, venues outside church where it is sung, by definition, invariably are, be they sports stadia, party conferences or the last night of the proms.

I don't think Blake claimed to be a Christian in any orthodox sense. I'm aware of the 'folklore' of Christ having visited Britain as a youth. My father actually believed it, also believing that the virgin Mary was half cornish. It's a fairly harmless belief, but certainly not orthodox Christianity in any sense. You would be hard pressed to find church goers of any tradition who believed it. As a national song is spine tingling, but that doesn't mean we have to pretend it's something it's not.

It's quite legitimate for a Bishop to question the soundness of a hymn on theological grounds. However, as I understand it, Bishop Piffle questioned "I vow to Thee" on the grounds of it's 'Nazi' sentiments, and it's call to put nation before God, both of which are demonstrably not true, and simply make him look like an arse.

I really think 'I vow to thee my country' would be good as an English national anthem. It was written by an Englishman with the music by a Scandinavian-descended English composer (gets the immigrant vote? And isn't England pretty much Scandinavian when you get down to it?) and it is singable. To say it is reminiscent of Hitler is like saying that vegetarianism is wrong because H. was a vegetarian.

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