Wednesday, May 10, 2006


It's Just What You Do

If there’s one phrase that makes me want to weep with frustration it’s ‘it’s just what you do.’ Trotted out to defend the indefensible, it has become the mantra of the British middle classes, determined to get little Julian and Jocasta into the school of their choice, and seeking to justify the breathtaking hypocrisy they know they are going have to employ to do so.

I usually hear it just after someone has told me that they’re going to have their baby christened.

‘Oh,’ I’ll say. ‘I didn’t know you were religious.’

‘Oh, I’m not.’ They’ll say.

‘So is your partner/husband/wife?’ I’ll say.

‘No.’ They’ll say. ‘It’s just what you do, though, isn’t it?’

‘Oh?’ I’ll say.

‘Well, you know, schools, that sort of thing.’ They’ll say.

‘It’s just what you do.’


Forgive me, but this makes my blood boil on so many levels. For a start, people trotting out this tripe are usually acquainted with the fact that I have two children of my own. If they care to cast their minds back over the 11 years since my first child was born, they won’t find any memories of looking on beatifically as my children were sprinkled with holy water. So where do they get off looking me straight in the eye and saying ‘It’s just what you do.’?

Who do they mean? Where is it ‘just what you do’?

Of course, historically, there have often been good reasons for baptism being ‘just what you do’, whether you were religious or not. I expect it seemed like a good idea in the Middle ages, say, or during the Reformation, when your religious affiliations, or lack of them, could get you burnt at the stake.

And of course there are countries today — Afghanistan, for example, where the penalty for apostasy can be death — where it’s probably wise to observe the traditions and customs of the dominant religion.

But here? Now? So I choose not to have my children christened. What’s the worst that can happen?

Of all the things that irritate me about this kind of attitude, it’s the implication that if you’re not prepared to perjure yourself, you’re somehow not as committed to your children as the next person. That you don’t love them enough unless you're prepared to sacrifice your own principles to get them into a nice little church school and away from the riff-raff.

It’s like when people say to you before you have children ‘Oh, you wait until you’ve got children yourself. Your principles will go out of the window then.’

What rot. My children are special, wonderful, talented, beautiful, clever… of course they are. What kind of a mother doesn’t think her children are all these things? But I’d have to be an idiot to think that just because they are special to me that they are special per se, or to anyone else.

In the grand scheme of things, every child is equally special, and if they’re not, then they should be. I could be wrong but didn’t Jesus have a few words to say on the subject? Oops, sorry, I slipped into thinking we were talking about sincere people for a second. I forgot it’s got nothing to do with whether you actually believe or not… it’s just what you do.

While those with enough money to move to a posh area and enough gall to stand up in church and make promises they have no intention of keeping block-book the good schools, the rest of population are left with schools that are rapidly turning into sink schools. The very children who need good schools most — the poor, the disadvantaged, the abused, those with parents who don’t care or who haven’t got the wherewithal to care… oh, and those with parents who still have a few principles and a vague sense of collective responsibility — are left to rot.

But that doesn’t matter. Precious little Julian and Jocasta will get their place at school, because mummy and daddy love them sooooo much that they're going to get up every Sunday for… ooh, three weeks and tell lies in a house of god. Yey!

And what’s our so-called labour government doing about it?

Don’t get me started.

I know. Anyway, I wouldn't want to subject my kid to some religious school just so he gets a better chance at getting better grades.
Isn't there some study now that says you do worse academically if you're religious? Must look it up and post something about it.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?