On Saturday, while standing by Queen Victoria pointing with her sceptre in the customary direction, I witnessed a disturbing spectacle. A Salvation Army band was marching round the statue playing Onward Christian Soldiers while the latter indulged in cries of “Jesus” and “Hallelujah”.
No, it wasn’t the Black and White Minstrels. It was the so-called Hull and East Riding Festival of Light aiming to promote love, purity and family life. About 250 people attended which must have disappointed the organisers who expected a growing movement following the London version. Most of the crowd were young and somewhat hairy in contrast to a later meeting in which the middle aged and self-styled middle class sang hymns and loved each other with cold, aloof, even frigid passion.
The well rehearsed vocal responses of the younger section suggested that they might have been imported by coach from various communes of Jesus People to make up the numbers. The citizens of Hull were no doubt engaged in such selfish pursuits as scouring the market to spread out their dole and Social Security money or cleaning up the fallen ceilings of their slums. They might even have been making love!
The reader will probably have noticed many parallels between the Salvation Army and their political counterparts, the Socialist Labour League. But some other interesting comparisons suggest themselves. The Jesus Freaks who demand the Jesus revolution now are surely none other than the elusive third wing of the Situationists.
From a distance the ritual spelling out of “Jesus” (Give us a J! etc.) and “Who’s alive?. . Jesus!” gave one the impression that the childishly intended and executed swastikas on the festival’s posters were not so inappropriate after all. In contrast, something analagous to political vanguardism also seemed to be present in the march behind the band and the great crusade for liberty fearlessly waged by Mrs. Whitehouse and her small but dedicated élite of television addicts who know what’s best for us better than we know ourselves.
A petition was available aimed at forcing the government to put through the transitional demands of television censorship and book burning. At the evening meeting the well known right wing Tory Patrick Wall M.P. spoke in support. A socialist asked if questions were permitted, to put other points of view. On being told that the people had only come to hear the speakers, several opponents left the meeting pursued by an embarrassed and apologetic methodist.
But the Festival’s supporters had the last word from the top of the City Hall steps. Our friends who did not have their questions answered have the consolation of knowing that they will be prayed for. Meanwhile Mrs. Whitehouse spoke of the enemy within and forces working for the overthrow of our society; and some Labour M.P.s sent their support for the Festival.
Consider love, purity and family life. “Love” is simple enough, being a feeling of general benevolence for everybody but especially one’s enemies. Any physical relationship must remain in strict bureaucratic limits. The Jesus Communes hold everything in common except each other.
“Purity” means that certain biological facts can be mentioned while others cannot, especially when children are waiting around to be corrupted or frightened out of their wits. When Christians advocate family life they are at their most naive. Can they say that the family structure of western civilisation, or that of 2,000 years ago from which their dogmatic rules which control it derive, are in all or even most cases satisfactory?
Of course a “perfect” family life with unbounded happiness would be great as would “perfect” feudalism or “perfect” slavery. They say that failures and stresses in family life are due to the faults of people; their ungodliness; their lustful desires and their failure to appreciate the fact that family life must be the best possible system because that is what it says in the bible.
The usual reasoning prevails of accepting the dogma and twisting the facts to fit it, just as much now in this mini-revival as in the ancient Catholic church which fiddled a second marriage for Joseph to explain away Jesus’s brothers while preserving Mary’s virginity for her crowning in heaven.
And it is this attitude that makes nonsense of the Jesus People’s claim to be a revolutionary force. True, they claim to be for democratic action. Two of their banners showed ballot papers with the choice: Jesus—Satan and Porno—Purity. The communes are just self multiplying bisexual monasteries with regular biblical readings and rhythmical incantations.
An organisation which bases itself on divine revelation can hardly be expected to be able to analyse the modern system and thereby find serious ways to change it. However, the movement is not catching on; if it did, it would be one more force against the free thought and free discussion and the build up of revolutionary consciousness.