Cagblog: Washing Your Hands Of Your Past.
These are two of my favourite old photos taken in the early 1990’s for the Church Urban Fund in the days before 9/11, the 7/7 bombings in London and the West’s involvement in the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. It shows a Church of England primary school in Nelson, Lancashire, with a 90% Muslim intake, some of them seen here during Christian morning prayers.
In a week when so many prayers have been offered for Fabrice Muamba by believers and non-believers alike, I heard the following anecdotal evidence that I believe displays a surprising lack of religious and cultural awareness in modern Britain. I wonder if you agree?
Some undergraduates in an English seminar at Bristol, one of the UK’s top universities, were asked a question about Pontius Pilate and only one girl there – who had had a Catholic upbringing – knew who he was.
Hearing this, last night I conducted my own straw poll whilst at a friend’s birthday celebration in the Champagne Bar at St Pancras. As you can see, I’ll travel to the remotest corners of the earth in the name of research. I asked the same question of 3 people whom I’d never met before who were probably 10-20 years older than those Bristol students. One of these three knew of Pilate and his power over Jesus Christ, the other two knew nothing of him.
As a nation built on two thousand years of Judaeo-Christian tradition it seems that, if urged to, we can put our hands together to pray for a stricken footballer and maybe the power of those common prayers has helped Muamba’s spirit and recovery.
But a language that I once thought we held in common: “I wash my hands of him”, meaning to absolve oneself of a heavy responsibility – may not now be the case, it seems. People may be using these terms without understanding their true origin.
Between the 1st Century Pilate and our 21st Century Pilates we may have lost more than we thought…