Driving through Trim in Co Meath each morning, I see a sign for Mornington View. A search of a streetmap of the town show that there are also Mornington Heights, Green, Drive, Avenue and Way. While there is no Mornington Crescent, the signpost always prompts thoughts of the the BBC Radio 4 panel show I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue.
There was a game on the programme called ‘Mornington Crescent.’ The game seemed a random naming of stations on the London Underground network until someone said ‘Mornington Crescent’ and won the game.
Having spent three years in London as a student, I would have known the Tube lines well and would try to work out the logic of the name – of course, there was none. When arbitrary connections were challenged, they would be justified by reference to imaginary sets of rules.
Examining moral codes with a Second Year class, there was a lesson on the Ten Commandments. The questions to be answered included one on the relevance of the Commandments for today. The students saw no relevance.
I pointed out that respect for human life and property rights were rooted in the Commandments, but one articulate student pointed out that we could have those things without having a religious dimension. They saw no need for God, and no need for the church.
It is hard to see a way back for the church when it is perceived as simply an irrelevance, and the church has only itself to blame.
To an outsider, and that is now the majority of the population, the language and conduct of the church can seem as confusing as a game of ‘Mornington Crescent.’
The church has strange and arbitrary behaviour which it justifies by reference to its own sets of rules that are frequently incomprehensible to onlookers and which have as much by way of verifiable substance as a sequence of Leicester Square, Acton Town and Waterloo.
The story of Jesus, a story of infinite simplicity, has been rendered so complicated that we are no longer sure that we understand it ourselves. It would be much easier to close the whole operation down and start again, though there might be some opposition from the people who attach so much importance to weird traditions and funny names. The chances of the church contemplating such a radical return to its roots are zero, but the prospect of a new generation attending church is similarly remote
A game of ‘Mornington Crescent’ is simple by comparison – and much more comprehensible.