Monday, 30 May 2011

A parody of the gospel

Came across this (below) in a book recently.  It was written in 1947 by Dorothy L. Sayers as her impression of what most people thought the Church believed at the time.  (N.B. Sayers was passionate about the real Christian message and this wasn't in any way meant to reflect what the church actually does believe!)

Sayers' parody is funny and tragic for the same reasons - because it's so wide of the mark, and yet probably rang true for so many people. In many ways it's a damning indictment of the Church's failure to communicate - and perhaps also to model - what the Christian faith is really all about.

I suspect the only significant difference between then and now is that there are significantly more people now who would not be able to give any answers to a lot of these questions.  Unfortunately though, that's probably an improvement...
Question: What does the Church think of God the Father?

Answer: He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible of fulfilment. He is very angry if these are not carried out. He sometimes interferes by means of arbitrary judgement and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favouritism. He likes to be truckled to, and is always ready to pounce on anybody who trips up over a difficulty in the Law, or is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary.

Question: What does the Church think of God the Son?

Answer: He is in some way to be identified with Jesus of Nazareth. It was not his fault that the world was made like this and, unlike God the father, he is friendly to man and did his best to reconcile man and God. He has a good deal of influence with God, and if you want anything done, it's best to apply to him.

Question: What does the Church think of God the Holy Ghost?

Answer: I don't know exactly. He was never seen or heard of till Whit Sunday. There is a sin against him which damns you for ever, but nobody knows what it is.

Question: What is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity?

Answer: "The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Ghost incomprehensible" - the whole thing incomprehensible. Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult. Nothing to do with daily life or reality.

Question: What was Jesus Christ like in real life:

Answer: He was a good man - so good as to be called the Son of God. He was meek and mild and preached a simple religion of love and pacifism. He had no sense of humour. If we try to live like him, God the Father will let us off being damned hereafter and only have us tortured in this life instead.

Question: What is meant by the Atonement?

Answer: God wanted to damn everybody, but his vindictive sadism was sated by the crucifixion of his own Son, who was quite innocent and therefore a particularly attractive victim. God now only damns people who don't follow Christ or who never heard of him.

Question: What does the Church think of sex?

Answer: God made it necessary to the machinery of the world, and tolerates it, provided the parties (a) are married, and (b) get no pleasure out of it.

Question: What does the Church call sin?

Answer: Sex (otherwise than as excepted above); getting drunk; saying "damn"; murder, and cruelty to dumb animals; not going to church; most kinds of amusement. "Original sin" means that anything we enjoy doing is wrong.

Question: What is faith?

Answer: Resolutely shutting your eyes to scientific fact.

Question: What is the human intellect?

Answer: A barrier to faith.

Question: What are the seven Christian virtues?

Answer: Respectability; childishness; mental timidity; dullness; sentimentality; censoriousness, and depression of spirits.

Question: Wilt though be baptised in this faith?

Answer: NO FEAR!


  1. Particularly liked the question "What are the seven Christian virtues?" I found the answers to the other questions made me feel sad, not particularly amused.

  2. what was the book?

  3. I stumbled across it quite randomly when I was browsing some second-hand books. It was quoted in a collection of essays on anglo-catholicism called "Living the Mystery" (nothing to do with Dorothy Sayers).

    The original is apparently in an essay called "The Dogma is the Drama", which appears in a collection of essays called "Creed or Chaos". I assume it's this book, although I don't have access to the contents.

    Slightly confusingly, Sayers also gave an address in 1940 called "Creed or Chaos", which seems to be widely available and doesn't contain the above.

  4. Many thanks for the info


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