Tuesday, 3 July 2012

False Religion and the Olympics

 The Vestal Virgins (?) light the Torch in what the BBC described as "a traditional ceremony set in ancient Olympia"

I watched channel 4's programme "Dispatches - Cashing in on the Games" last night.  It was more media coverage of  how businesses and individuals are cashing in on the Olympic Games to make money.  From the lawyer selling-on tickets to the 100 metres finals race at  £25,000 each to the crummy hotel whose rooms are usually £60 a night bumping them up to over £1,000.  (You would have to be mad!)  Such reports are not unusual and it seems that the estimated profits and visitor numbers don't historically live up to the hype.  The programme also reported on how lottery money has been filtered away from projects all over the country where it might actually be doing some good to pay for the London Olympics.  The Government have promised to put such funding back in place after the Games - which they interpret as sometime in the mid 2020's!  Rather a long time for the good causes to keep going without it.

What actually caught my attention were the  references to the "spirit of the Games".  This is what those hoping to make greedy profits out of the Games were challenged with - their greed wasn't "in the spirit of the Olympics".  Now many reports seem to suggest that because of the huge amounts of money to be made there is vast corruption around many aspects of putting on the Games and even if that isn't true across the board, the fact is that it is viewed as a vast money making venture.  But apparently we are to view it as some sort of moral compass.  

The "spirit of the Games" has brought out thousands (if not millions) onto the streets of Britain to view the Torch as it passes by.  If it was the bones of St Theresa in procession or the heart of St John Vianney, no doubt the media and sadly many within the Church would complain of reviving medieval superstition for the  gawping masses of the uneducated.  But coming out to line the streets to see a tawdry over-sized cigarette lighter being hailed as the beacon of hope is great community building exercise (no matter that the sacred relic is then flogged on Ebay the next day in a revival of the relic trading done in the so-called dark Ages). I'm not sure what the importance or mystical significance of this torch is - it's not even the one that the High Priest of secular culture, David Beckham lit or the one that will be at the opening of the Games but merely one of many thousands made for this purpose (at what cost?).  Yes, I know - it's the Olympic Flame..... but this is a very dubious line of succession, as even in my lackadaisical viewing of its progress on the news, I've heard it reported that it's gone out at least once.  Besides which, it was lit just a few months ago by Greek ladies dressed up as the Vestal Virgins in a ridiculous quasi-religious ceremony lauding the much vaunted "spirit of the Games".

 David Beckham, one of the High Priests of secular culture, lights the Torch

My favourite story is that of  the 1956 Melbourne Games, when local veterinary student Barry Larkin protested against the relay by tricking onlookers. He carried a fake flame, consisting of a pair of underpants set on fire in a plum pudding can, attached to a chair leg. He successfully managed to hand over the fake flame to the Mayor of Sydney, Pat Hillsand, and escape without being noticed.

 More ridiculous liturgy from the lighting of the Torch ceremony.
Your albs appear a little too short, gentlemen.

It is one of the pantheon of Secular religions that now stand in for real religion.  The sad thing is that our politicians and media appeal to these hollow (and often corrupt) icons as something to inspire  high ideals, care for one another, community spirit.  In other words, icons of secular humanism to carry along public opinion and try to persuade people they actually mean something and that the philosophy behind that secular humanism actually means something spiritual and worthwhile.  Unfortunately, many in the Church are all to ready to abandon our own Tradition of popular piety and real religion (now considered old-fashioned and embarrassing) and sign up to these new totems.  

When the Devil wants to get his way, he's usually most successful in taking something that is good and of God and making a hollow image of it - enough for people to be fooled into thinking it's the real thing and then only when its too late and everyone has abandoned the genuine article and the strength and grace that comes with it, can it be revealed as an empty shell.  It is applied to many aspects of our society: the politicians' "Family values" for Christian Marriage; the United Nations' "human rights" for the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God; the media's "freedom of conscience" for the  Church's properly formed conscience; "Bread & Circuses" for the true worship of almighty God.

I've really got nothing against sportsmen and women competing against one another and representing their country but it's not the answer to all the problems of the world.  

I hope that the Heart of the Curé of Ars will bring the traffic to a halt and cause riots in the streets!

 Veneration of the Sacred Relic

 The unreadable logo - or is it the one from the Eucharistic Congress?

  The Blessing of the waters

 Health of the Sick

 Preaching to the animals

 The Wedding Blessing

Christians abandon their own ceremonies for these much more popular ones

 A lone Jedward brings a note of dignity to the proceedings

The Phoenix rises from the dead amidst the Olympic Flame


Simon Platt said...

Surely vestal virgins were Roman, Father, not Greek?

But, I'm sorry to say, you were spot on with the rest. The olympic torch went past the end of our street the other day, so we all went up to have a look at it. I came away thinking that the whole business was a kind of metaphor for modern society. There was a high corporate sponsorship presence, noisy PAs with excitable announcers, lots of Metropolitan police outriders (!), and ... an anti-climax. And following the torchbearer herself was a minibus specially adapted to include a torch rack carrying what was presumably the rest of the day's torches.

James Preece had an uplifing post about the torchbearing in Hull. (http://www.lovingit.co.uk/2012/06/equal-rights-for-downs-syndrome-babies.html) It prompted my interest, and prompted me to find out something online about the Preston torchbearers. (http://www.london2012.com/torch-relay/torchbearers/community=preston-lancashire/index.html) That was rather disappointing.

I do wish it could have been done better. I think it was a good example of more becoming less.

Louis said...

To England’s shore Augustine came
To teach the Faith in Jesus’ name
And faithful soon were proud to sing
This prayer for the Vicar of Christ the King:
“God bless our Pope, with faith and love”

An isle of saints England became
And Mary’s Dowry her fair name,
As faith and virtue grew in twain
While minds and hearts ne’er ceased proclaim:
“God bless our Pope, with faith and love”

So now when God is set aside
And evil flows in stronger tide
We need the faith of days of yore
To sing with fervour ever more:
“God bless our Pope, with faith and love”

Francis Ripley [1912 - 1998]
Sung to the same tune as "Full in the panting heart of Rome"

Douse the Torch said...

I found out quite recently that the 'tradition' of carrying the torch only started with the Nazis in 1936 for the Berlin Olympics. Probably to glorify the Arian race. So why is it so glorified today?

Another Nazi initiative was the banning of fox hunting and we have followed that. What next, I wonder? I daren't think.

Anonymous said...

Why so grouchy?