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‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes: Snowflakes be warned – the Bible is X-rated


Snowflakes will never write great stories. Snowflakes will never pen great scripts for great movies or great plots for great novels. The indispensable ingredient in a story is conflict. Even children’s stories have conflict. Hansel and Gretel needs a wicked witch who eats little children. Jack and the Beanstalk needs a horrible giant who wants to grind Jack’s bones for his bread. Delete conflict and you kill the story. Snowflakes cannot handle conflict.

Conflict, in turn, puts pressure on a character in a story. The greater the pressure, the deeper we see into the character’s true nature. We enjoy watching a movie when the character comes under more and more pressure to make more and more difficult choices until we think he is about to crack and go insane under the pressure. Then, at the climax of the movie, we see how making these choices under pressure have profoundly changed the humanity of the character. Snowflakes cannot handle pressure.

Snowflakes cannot deal with the story at the heart of Western civilisation because it involves engaging with the archetypal conflict at the core of our humanity. If you were all-powerful and could slay your foes with a single word, would you choose instead to suffer and die to save your enemies? And if you were powerful enough to decide the mode of your death, would you choose to die in a manner that Roman orator Cicero described as the grossest, cruellest and most hideous manner of execution known to man?

The main character faces agonising conflict in the Garden of Gethsemane and under immense pressure sweats blood. He makes his choice and dies on the cross. The crucifixion becomes the centrepiece of Western art for centuries—from the 15th century bloodily grotesque painting of Matthias Grünewald to the 21st century pulsating oratorios of the Passion composed by Sir James MacMillan.

But just up the road from Sir James’s birthplace of North Ayrshire, snowflakes studying theology at the University of Glasgow are being given trigger-warnings that a lecture on Jesus and cinema sometimes ‘contains graphic scenes of the crucifixion’ that might shock their sensitive skins and palpitating hearts. These are students reading a course headlined Creation to Apocalypse: Introduction to the Bible (Level 1). The queen of the sciences has been taught at Glasgow University since 1451 but only since 2016 has it opened its admissions to snowflakes needing trigger-warnings.

So does the University of Glasgow provide its theology students with the new Trigger Warning Version (TWV) of the Bible? Because a snowflake reading the Bible from creation to apocalypse would be in need of a defibrillator and a psychotherapist (with teddy bear, crayons, and a therapeutic video of frolicking puppies) from the time our tender snowflake reads the story of Noah’s flood and the sulphurous destruction of Sodom and Abraham’s near-slaying of his son and the animal sacrifices to the massacre of the Canaanites and the carving of the Levite’s concubine into 12 portions for distribution to the 12 tribes of Israel.

The New Testament doesn’t get any merrier and cheerier. Snowflakes would need trigger-warnings for the Christmas story, as they would melt upon reading Herod’s massacre of the baby boys below two—no Santa, red-nosed Rudolph, or real snowflakes in the nativity narratives of the gospels—or Herod Antipas’ beheading of John the Baptist after Herod’s daughter wins Strictly Come Dancing. Our snowflakes would have a complete Traumatic Post-Bible Reading Disorder (TPBRD) if and when they got to the Apocalypse with its plagues and bowls of God’s wrath and the ecological disaster of the sea turning to blood.

I’m grateful that my parents took me to an open-air Good Friday service when I was a mere five-year-old. The parish of St Michael’s in Mumbai issued no trigger-warnings when the clergy enacted the entire drama of the crucifixion with a life-sized body of Jesus that was lifted on a ladder and nailed to a cross towering over the gathering of three thousand Indian spectators.

At the end of the service, the bloodied body was lowered into a silver casket and kept for veneration on Holy Saturday. My parents took my younger sister and me to see and touch and venerate the slain body of the crucified Christ—in England, the police would have arrested them for child abuse.

If story is a metaphor for life and the Bible is a realistic portrayal of life—nasty, brutish and short—snowflakes will never be able to study the horrors of Hiroshima or the Holocaust or visit Yad Vashem or take a trip to Auschwitz or even enter the National Gallery without freaking out at the sight of Caravaggio’s painting of Salome Receiving the Head of John the Baptist.

So what can we expect snowflakes to study at “uni” if they are so freaked out by theology? Diversity studies, gender studies, queer studies (anything with the term “studies” appended) are options that would prepare them for the brave new job-market of social engineers so desperately needed to fill managerial positions in local councils and the NHS. Our brave new universities are rising to the challenge and providing more challenging options.

Snowflakes could do a course in David Beckham Studies as part of a degree in Sport, Media and Culture at Staffordshire University and can still do an MA in Beatles Studies at Liverpool Hope University. If snowflakes wish to study across the pond, they can take a course in Beyoncé studies at the respected Rutgers University. The course is called Politicising Beyoncé and is taught in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Topics include Queen B’s half-naked body as empowering or stereotypical, the extent of her control over her own aesthetic, and how she fits in with singers like Nina Simone and Lady Gaga.

If snowflakes want to study spiritual subjects without being triggered by stuff like the crucifixion, they can apply to Coventry University, where Psychology lecturer Tony Lawrence set up a Psychology of Exceptional Human Experiences course teaching students how to chase poltergeists, talk to the dead and understand telepathy.

The next decade promises to take us to the pinnacle of Western civilisation with snowflakes proudly emerging from these shrines of higher education with Mickey Mouse degrees that will change the world. Just don’t expect them to write great stories.

(Image: George Bannister)

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‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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