Thursday, 5 August 2010

Dog Takes Communion Scandal

Down to the local church this time, for a radio discussion...

Peter Levite: Well, here we are for a very special outside broadcast for On Leave with Levite here on Radio Chadderbox, where we have come to the town of Dick, a very special place, and the central parish Church of Saint Chad. Why are we here? Well you may not know it, but this place is the centre of a worldwide scandal that has had no impact whatsoever outside church circles, and that is the scandal of giving holy communion to a dog. We've assembled a panel of local churchpeople, bishops, an animal theologian and an audience of some other churchpeople here. Someone tell me and the audience listening what happened.

Bishop John Sackme: I like to think our clergy have a lot of latitude and freedom of thought and innovation, but just as I wouldn't allow carte blanche use of an earlier prayer book when they had a mass here to rebury the Saxon dead in museum boxes, so I have to impose the discipline of the Church in this case. What happened, if truth was told, was a dog of the clergywoman here came to the east end of the church where she was officiating at the altar, sat with the others and raised its paw. As a result she gave it a consecrated wafer. Then someone had the bright idea to bring the dog's bowl up to the rail and thus a server poured in a drop of consecrated wine and the dog lapped it up. The whole thing is either a major liturgical innovation, at least coequal with gay marriage in church, or a dreadful mistake, at least coequal with gay marriage in church.

Peter Levite: I have to say, for the first time in my life, I haven't a clue where to go with this news story. Why are we doing this? What? OK. What should I ask? Pardon? OK. Whose fault was it then? Not the dog's, presumably.

Rev. Prof. Animal Lindsey: Humm. Definitely not the dog's. You see, the dog cannot possibly make an error, a point I may address.

Rev. Lynn Shea-Doyle: I suppose it was my fault. Hooker is my dog.

Peter Levite: Let me introduce the panel. We have Lay Reader Dr. Jurgen Havamass, I see Hooker the Collie Dog, then the Most Rev. John Sendmehome. Just a minute. What are you doing here?

Most Rev. John Sendmehome: You said I could come on any radio programme like this. It's to get my and therefore our presence in the media, in it? Hey, this employer's looking at a really thick applicant's one certificate - and the employer says, "What sort of certificate is this? It says it's 'a certificate in it', 'it's a certificate in it'. What have we come to?" "No," says the candidate. "It's my certificate in IT."

Peter Levite: I'll carry on. There's Rev. Al Therys, ah the priest of priests Father Eric Clapton, then Rev. Fulvus Carrie Rabbit, Rev. Len Sableur, and then the Rev. Lynn Shea-Doyle, we've already heard from, as we have from the Rev. Prof. Animal Lindsey. Just a minute, are all you so far except for Animal Lindsey and John Sendmehome ministers in this church?

Right Rev. Barry Wappentake: They are, yes, and I am their suffragan bishop.

Peter Levite: Barry Wappentake. And Right Rev. Tim Id and we have the bishop for the whole diocese for a little bit longer, the Right Rev. John Sackme, who you've just heard. Let's not forget our small audience.
Right Rev. Barry Wappentake: In between my activities of letting the structures and the management of the area hang about to see what happens, I shall also be having a word about this incident.

Right Rev. Tim Id: I'm just here for the fun and see what's going on. I've come to see Iggle Piggle, Upsa Daisy and especially Macka Packa, who I understand is an evangelical theologian from Canada. So long as I don't get any Tombli Boos while I'm here.

John Sackme: It's the stress of the job; I'll talk to him later. Tim and Barry, go into the audience because I am on the panel.

Peter Levite: Just before I try and go somewhere with this issue, tell me about the church. That's a lot of clergy for a congregation. Father, is it, Eric Clapton, what is the make-up of this church?

Rev. Fr. Eric Clapton: Well over 50 per cent of the congregation is made up of people who are paid clergy, unpaid clergy, retired clergy and related to clergy. It is an ambitious church, once restrained in going up the candle being in a small town, but then the one down the road in a village is going down the candle pretty sharpish, and then the one they all drive to is simply on another planet. By the way, Bishop Barry, when am I going to get my permanent contract?

John Sendmehome: You mean the church at Duckpond to the north in my area. Yes. You have those sort of places: they say, 'Do you know why Jesus was followed by twelve men?' 'Because they hadn't been paid yet.' Judas was especially self-employed: he organised a different way of payment. By the way, in churches like that they don't walk anywhere: they said that the disciples didn't walk but went with Judas and 'is chariot.

Hooker: Woof.

Peter Levite: By the way, why is the dog named after a prostitute?

Jurgen Havamass: The standard of education today!

Rev. Len Sableur: Ignoramus. He is named after a founding Anglican theologian. I'll lend you a book.

Peter Levite: Don't call me an ignoramous. OK then, why is an Anglican founding theologian named after a prostitute?

Rev. Len Sableur: Smile and I'll take your picture. He established the idea called the via media.

Peter Levite: I thought that was John Logie Baird. So what channel was he on? Look, never mind, what's the problem with a dog having a disc and some wine in his bowl? We've actually paid someone to come up from Essex and be here: can you comment?

Animal Lindsey: [silence]

Peter Levite: The idea of radio is that you talk, answer.

Animal Lindsey: Humm. Well, you see. Why is it that we do not give communion to animals? [Silence]

Peter Levite: I'm asking just that. Do I need to move on?

Animal Lindsey: Well, why do humans take communion?

Peter Levite: Is this programme a mistake?

Animal Lindsey: Well it is for a sense of moral regeneration. We sin, you see, and need restoration. Animals cannot sin. They have done nothing wrong, at a fundamental level they are morally blameless. Humans are rather different. Because we do sin, we need sacramental grace. It is we who are cruel, and selfish, and so we do but they don't.

Eric Clapton: Yeah like animals rip each other apart, hunt and be hunted. When it comes to the natural world, Dawkins is dead right. The only good animal is the one on my plate.

Animal Lindsey: Humm. But they only hunt for food, only for necessity.

Flora Faunamor [In the audience]: Why can't a dog have communion? You've written that animals have 'theos rights'...

Peter Levite: Get the microphone to her - we might just have a programme.

Flora Faunamor: If they have theos rights then they can participate in theos grace. Anyway, what does it matter?

Animal Lindsey: I absolutely sympathise. I absolutely do. It is just, humm, unnecessary.

Flora Faunamor: Doesn't the dog go to heaven then?

Animal Lindsey: Absolutely absolutely. It is just unnecessary to do this in order to go to heaven, so to speak.

Hattie Clapton [In the audience]: You know, this is so sad.

Peter Levite: Woman with the shell-like hat on.

Hattie Clapton: A poor little doggy takes itself to the altar rail and we have a scandal. Think in Old Testament times that it could have been a sacrifice, taken up and roasted.

Eric Clapton: Good idea if you ask me, bit of liturgical variety.

Hattie Clapton: Now it just raises its paw and wants to join in.

Flora Faunamor: So why can't you say the dog was moved by the Holy Spirit, to come forward, to raise its paw and to get what it asked for? You don't believe in Descartes and dualism and animals as machines!

Animal Lindsey: Gosh yes. Well I am pleased you read my books. I absolutely sympathise. I don't think any crime was committed: it is just, well, umm, unusual.

Peter Levite: You obviously feel very strongly about this madam. If anyone else does listening to this hot topic, text in. And let's take a text vote: should dogs and other animals have holy communion? Yes or no. Now the weather.

George Hudson [From Selby station]: Someone noticed you in that Russian place eating a sandwich yesterday, and it wasn't vegetarian.

Peter Levite: Just give us the weather forecast.

George Hudson: It's raining cats and dogs.

Peter Levite: See you later!

George Hudson: Bye! What was that one?

Dr. Harry Tickpaper [In the audience]: What a load of crap.

Peter Levite: Strong words, strong words. Just wait for the microphone.

Harry Tickpaper: You take higher, social animals. They have the characteristics of alliances, devious behaviour, grabbing food, hiding food, grooming some, shagging others. They have an anthropology. The only difference is the level, the amount, the sophistication and language. Animals are as sinful as us, we are as sinless as them. It comes down to self-consciousness and symbolism.

Animal Lindsey: [silence]

Peter Levite: Do you have a reaction to that powerful statement, if anyone understood it? Yes or no?

Animal Lindsey: Understood it? Yes. Well, we have choice.

Harry Tickpaper: They are not machines. Every day is new. Nor are animals that include us in their world machines. A dog knows when its owner signifies disapproval. A dog, like other higher animals, is incredibly environmentally sensitive and intensely social.

Animal Lindsey: We sinned. They didn't.

Harry Tickpaper: This is dogma, to coin a phrase.

John Sendmehome: A man walking his doberman is with a man walking his chihuahua and both want to go into a pub, but dogs aren't allowed unless for the disabled. So the man with doberman goes in first, and, told he can't come in, says he's blind and the dog let's him see. "Great dogs for it," he says. "They'll replace Labradors." Hearing this from outside, the other man is worried. He goes in with his chihuahua. "I'm blind," he says, but the publican says, "What with a chihuahua?" The man thinks fast and says, "They sold me a chihuahua, a chihuahua?"

Harry Tickpaper: And I thought I came up with all the rubbish jokes. Look, the difference is that we humans can read and write, we have the most developed language. Others symbolise and communicate, but they don't keep a library. We do. So as soon as you admit that other creatures are like us, either they do have to morally regenerate, as you call it, or more likely you'd look a bit of an idiot trying to 'preach the gospel' say to a bunch of bonobos.

Animal Lindsey: Well I have read the Gospel to all kinds of creatures at my services, mainly human of course. I do think it is a shame that you didn't come into the Church in England.

Harry Tickpaper: What, to add to the zoo-like variety? I did for a while.

Animal Lindsey: Yes but properly. Clergy. But it's all gone wrong now, all gone wrong with this Church. Do you know a decent Church?

Rev. Carrie Rabbit: There is an intellectual answer to this, that I was thinking when reading Lynn Shea-Doyle's thesis on the subject and writing some of my essays. It taxes the deepest philosophical insights which only a few of us are capable of achieving.

Peter Levite: Can that be made plain for the Radio Chadderbox audience?

Carrie Rabbit: No, I doubt it. It's what we have to do, though, we clergy, when we preach to the local people.

John Sendmehome: Hey Hooker. [People look around]

Hooker: Woof!

John Sendmehome: What do you get if you cross your sort with a Lhasa Apso? You get a collapso, a dog that goes in a suitcase. What do you get if you cross a Lhasa Apso with a Pekingnese? A Peek-Asso, and it looks bloody funny. And, hey, also cross your working collie type with a malamute? It has to start commuting to work.

Peter Levite: Any comments from the audience members, someone who hasn't spoken?

Sal Minella: I just like cooking burgers, but I'd never eat dog.

Animal Lindsey: Breeding, eating: oh the ironies of speciesism.

Harry Tickpaper: But that's what you do, giving sin to one species only.

Barry Wappentake: This guy, is he in your church?

Eric Clapton: Not any more, I hope. He doesn't communicate and yet the dog does.

Hugh Jorgan Rabbit [In the audience]: Let's not be cynical.

John Sendmehome: Two dogs shagging on the pavement and a little girl asks granny what they're doing. She says, "One's hurt its paws and the other is helping him get to hospital." Dad comes along and says, "Yeah, that's right, offer some help and get shafted."

Peter Levite: This is a family programme in the middle of the afternoon.

Flora Faunamor: Harry, I thought we were supposed to be on his side?

Harry Tickpaper: Sentimentally, but its just a bad argument. Up against any fundies, then yeah.

Dennis Menace [In the audience]: You should just read the Bible and do as you are told, like it says in the papers.

Val Yum: There used to be so many more local people. I wonder if their dogs would come instead?

Peter Levite: We're coming to the end now. On the panel, local clergyman Rev. Al Therys has not said anything.

Rev. Al Therys: I don't think I've anything to say.

Peter Levite: On this subject, or anything?

Rev. Al Therys: I don't think I've anything to say.

Paul Theo Chain [In the audience]: You do that for your sermons too! We all have our talents. I wonder what Bishop Spong would think?

Hugh Jorgan Rabbit [In the audience]: Let's not be cynical. He and I make a good team, he below and me above.

Daisy Chain [In the audience]: Do you get the bishop's newsletter, Reverend Professor Animal?

Animal Lindsey: Humm. Well, you see, it's because we have this discriminatory church that people like Bishop Spong end up having to say what they do. But imagine you're in my position: I am having to convince people theologically, from where they are, across the spectrum, with all this language, to take up a more animal friendly position. Imagine if Bart had gone on to focus on the Spirit.

Peter Levite: I don't know that one.

Animal Lindsey: Bart. If he'd changed, if he focussed on the Spirit in such singular fashion as before. He would introduce inspiration, change, action to put right wrongs. An ethical outpouring of an institution not frightened to see its own sin, its own deep deep corruption.

Peter Levite: I don't remember that episode.

Jurgen Havamass: The standard of education today!

Rev. Lynn Shea-Doyle: You did your Ph.D on Bart didn't you. Thanks for saying it wasn't a crime, what happened.

Barry Wappentake [Now in the audience]: That's for me to decide.

John Sackme: Actually, that's for me to decide.

Tim Id (Now in the audience]: I see what Professor Animal means, but for every Borgia there is a Mother Theresa and for every Orangeman there is a Martin Luther King. It's unsettling and unsatisfying and we know that the Church is not as it should be and is not as Jesus willed it.

Harry Tickpaper: Jesus didn't will anything about the Church. He had no concept of the Church.

Tim Id: Sort of then. I know I'm just an apologist for the Church. I can understand why the young do not come to Church and, like, where are they here in a town like Dick? We have to cut through the choking clouds of incense obscurity...

Eric Clapton: No we don't.

Tim Id: The tedious incomprehensible sermonising...

Jurgen Havamass: Not especially.

Tim Id: Well, it's all so like-minded, cosy to itself, institutionalised, ghettoised and we need to get back to the Jesus of the Mount shining ahead into the new future.

John Sackme: To get back to me, it is for me to decide on this matter of the dog and communion, and if I may say what a most interesting discussion and interventions to have among our clergy and people and able to spread the gospel by the airwaves. It is good to know that theology is alive and well. Perhaps the Holy Spirit arranged for the dog to come forward so that we could have this theological discussion.

Jurgen Havamass: Yes, I can see that this is perfectly possible in our preaching the Gospel and God choosing us.

Harry Tickpaper: More supernatural claptrap. Reality isn't like that.

Jurgen Havamass: Yes, this is perfectly possible too. But even if I think that way I shall preach the other way regardless.

Peter Levite: It's your church, Father Crapton, sorry Clapton; how do you conclude all this? No doubt we'll be hearing from George Hudson about this tomorrow!

Eric Clapton: Yeah it feels like Crapton. What can be said is, if you look at the biblical texts that we could turn to you can see that we have a spiritual journey possibly laid out asking us towards faithfulness. There are no set answers to this. Climb every mountain and ford every stream, and follow your own rainbow because, remember, every rainbow depends on your own set of eyes, those refracting raindrops only you can see. Personally, I think we can walk through this issue introduced to the promptings of what we can know and understand and, well, who am I to go any further than this in opening up what is potential and possible as each of us travels over what must ultimately be hallowed ground?

Rev. Len Sableur: There is plenty in the biblical texts, the Christian tradition, and my library to be a bit more definite than that as to how to respond to a dog raising its paw at the altar rail, which is after all the issue. It doesn't all come down to which journey you happen to be on.

Eric Clapton: Just remember who's boss.

John Sackme: I am.

Eric Clapton: I wasn't saying I was.

John Sendmehome: You know what domestic dogs worship? Bone Idol.

Hooker: Woof.

Peter Levite: Alright, we'll move on. Well, this has been one hot topic. A dog takes communion. I can see that we have... no text messages in from listeners so far. How is the vote going? 5 yes and 4 no. So that's quite tight then. It's coming up to 4 p.m. now and time for traffic and travel. That's it and where's the exit?

Traffic announcement: Watch out in the town of Dick, where parking outside the church is unusually heavy and is causing moving vehicles to slow down and wait for one another in order to pass. Drivers are urged to use their brakes and gears.

Note: Nothing like this happened locally. It all happened in Canada. Thanks to the other attender who provided inside knowledge. Apologies to Wesley.

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