an excerpt from my current reading... 'RACING DAEMON' by David Hare
Three clergymen (Rev Harry, Rev ‘Streaky’ and Rev Tony) are at a restaurant discussing the doctrine and practice of their parish, and of one priest in particular—Lionel—who isn’t at the restaurant with them. Tony is disillusioned with the way Lionel, and the Church in general, is handling evangelism.
Just thought I'd share this interesting dialogue here.
TONY: I think the parish is in a very bad way. I’m shocked by this. Yes, I’ve heard all the familiar arguments. The Church of England’s favourite text: ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ All right. We can say that. We can go on saying it. We can sit where we are and say it for ever. (Turns away, bitter.) Does that mean no one will ever cast any stone at all?
(There is a silence.)
HARRY: Drink your tequila.
(TONY shakes his head.)
STREAKY: I’d forgotten. He’s given up.
(TONY turns and looks at them.)
TONY: There was a woman. She’d had an abortion, I later found out. She came to Lionel for help. He faffed about as usual and sent her away. And three days later, her husband threw a pan of boiling water all over her.
(HARRY looks across at STREAKY.)
Yes. It’s directly connected. Lionel fell down on the job.
(STREAKY is outraged.)
STREAKY: That’s completely ridiculous.
TONY: ‘Don’t judge.’ Honestly, that’s the sum of Lionel’s wisdom. Well, it won’t do. He should have judgedthe danger she was in. ‘Don’t interfere.’ ‘Let them come to you…’ Perhaps one day she will come to him. Half blinded. (Shakes his head.) It could have been prevented. (HARRY sits forward.)
HARRY: Look, you’ve been here three months, you’ve seen the work we do…
STREAKY: It’s one case. There are thousands.
HARRY: He’s tired.
(TONY seizes this, excited.)
TONY: Yes. He’s tired. Exactly. Lionel is tired because he gets no strength from the Gospel. That’s my whole point. He’s tired because he isn’t getting anything back.
(HARRY is shaking his head, disbelieving.)
HARRY: You can’t say that. How dare you? You can’t say that of any priest.
TONY: Of course I can say it.
HARRY: Who are you to judge?
TONY: Have you seen him? Going down the street? In Brixton? His forehead is knotted. He gives off one message: ‘Keep away. I carry the cares of the world.’ It’s true. People don’t go near him. He reeks of personal failure. And anguish. Like so much of the church.
(HARRY is quieter now.)
HARRY: And you think a man should be sacked for the expression on his face? (Smiles.) It’s a very long way from saying he looks miserable, he’s ineffective, and in your view, which is extremely partial, he may be theologically unsound… it’s a very big step to talk of these things to his bishop.
(TONY looks at him, acknowledging the truth of his point.)
STREAKY: No one likes to say this, Tony, but you are very young.
TONY: Yes, I know.
STREAKY: You’ve only just started, old chap.
TONY: It’s a formula for impotence. What is this? The Civil Service? (Smiles.) Put in twenty years and then you can speak? (Shakes his head.) I went round to this woman’s house.
HARRY: We heard.
TONY: I experienced this feeling of utter powerlessness. The Church can do nothing in our parish except witness to suffering. (Looks at them, sure of himself.) And I’m afraid I no longer think that’s enough. I’m tired of standing there, wringing my hands and saying, ‘Oh, this is dreadful…’ I think we stop hedging. I think we come out with what we believe.
(HARRY looks a moment to STREAKY.)
HARRY: And what is that?
TONY: What it says in the Bible. Yes. Nothing more, nothing less. People must be converted. There is only one religion. Yes, one. Whatever your background. And the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. (Pauses a moment.) And if when we say that we divide people… if a certain harshness begins to creep in… well I’d live with that. Because the alternative, going round smiling, sitting people down, have a little chat, very nice, nice to see you, arrivedreci… that doesn’t work. I’ve seen it. (Smiles.) Christ came not to bring peace but the sword.
HARRY: Yes, I thought you might give us that one. It’s a dangerous text. It may be corrupt. It’s contested.
TONY: Any text with any life to it is now contested.
(Before HARRY can answer, TONY rides in passionately.)
Look, you know, I’m like you, I went along with it. For years I was the same, I saw it your way…
… I remember at college we were lectured by a bishop. Actually he was a very decent man. They all are. Everyone laughed at my question. I said, ‘Bishop, what’s the present thinking on hell.’ ‘Hell?’ he said. ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Well, we believe in it.’ I said, ‘I see. Then why do we hear so little about it? It doesn’t come up much in the pulpit these days.’ He said, ‘No. No we try to downplay it. After all, we don’t want to put people off…’
(They all smile.)
HARRY: All right, I agree, that’s ridiculous.
TONY: Yes, you see, but it’s typical.
HARRY: Of what?
TONY: It’s an attitude, Harry. That’s Lionel. There, in a nutshell. Anything rather than lay out the facts. The only effect of all his fiddle-faddle is to leave people confused. People need rules. They actually want to be able to say, OK, this I agree to.
HARRY: Do they?
Whats this novel about fors? Im assuming its a novel?
It's a play about four clergymen who struggle to find the 'right' way to evagelise to non-Christians and take care of their parish. I thought it brought up a lot of relevant issues... like the problem with having a church, the problem of coming across too 'fanatic', the problem of watering down one's Christianity. It's a really thin book, yet compact.
Sounds like you picked a good excerpt. When I read it, it brought up current issues like you said, but it made me wonder if it has any closure? What did you think of it?
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