Friday, 3 July 2009

Angelic image, no earthly uses

It’s not often you see me backing a Manx clergyman, but I had to agree with Rev. Phil Frear’s letter in this week’s Indie (see
For off-island readers, the background to this was a court case to decide if one of those flashing ‘20’ signs outside schools constitutes advice or a legal instruction to motorists. Apparently it cannot be legally enforced.
But Phil’s one of the good guys, as I know from his work as the Nobles Hospital chaplain. It was Phil who, while not budging over the chapel, tried to open up hospital chaplaincy and religious input to the hospital in general to ‘all faiths and none’.
Sadly this offer hasn’t been taken up fully. Is this because NHS clientele are more downmarket than the departure lounge of choice for wealthy Rotarians, the Hospice?
I once took advice from Phil’s predecessor on setting up a hospital visiting scheme for us heathens. Unfortunately it seems our interest in self-determination becomes total disinterest when elderly, infirm atheists are under the weather.
When I tried to raise the matter the feeling was that we should leave ‘that sort of thing’ to the social services. If none of my fellow local heathens noticed that there aren’t any that might be why we’re not picking up new members; perhaps the current ones are too detached from most Manx people.
But this disdain for cash-strapped pensioners or folk from sink estates isn’t peculiar to atheists. The Interfaith Group and all ‘minority faith leaders’ listed on the government’s website or in the phonebook were scrupulously added to the faith community ‘guest list’ by public health officials when they were first advising on flu pandemics. Only the Interfaith lady turned up, and even she drifted off to ‘another appointment’ within 20 minutes and was never seen again. Similarly my offer to liase on health issues in future with minority faiths through the Interfaith Group was never taken up.
Meanwhile it seems every flakey fakir is setting up tent to flog crystals and other mumbo-juice at the Hospice. This, of course, cannot be because any dodgy potion or prayer you flog to a terminally ill person can handily be said to have ‘helped’ whatever happens, but will never be said to have contributed to the death of someone who would die anyway, with or without supplementing the quack’s (sorry ‘alternative therapist’s’) bank account.
A clergyman I know jokes that a parishioner once said to him: “You’re a real angel, but you’re no earthly use to anyone.”
I used to prize that as a description of bumbling vicars; it now occurs to me that it applies equally to many others.

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