Banning Hymn Jerusalem

Dr. Michael L. Ford

9 April 2008


            Those who keep up with events around the world should not be surprised to read the assertion there are within England churchmen who do not love their country just as there exist such men in the United States. I believe that is the true reason the Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Colin Slee, banned “Jerusalem,” one of the Britain’s best-loved hymns and the favorite of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, from services at Southwark Cathedral. Dean Slee just does not like the British government. I came to this conclusion after doing extensive reading about the liberal clergyman on the Internet.

            Oh, I do not think he likes evangelicals, many Americans, unless they be dead Indians, either. He opposes a lot of things, some of which I would agree with him about, but since he favors homosexuals, I doubt if he would like me very well either. But I can see he has reasons for not liking the British government, because they have not provided the money he wants for stonework repair. So banning the Prime Minister’s favorite hymn seems a good way to show his pique.

            The excuse used that “the words do not praise God and are too nationalistic” does not impress me, unless the emphasis is put on the last part. The words are too nationalistic. Nationalism does not seem to be held in too high esteem either in the United States or not so merry old England these days. The Dean might get along well with the likes of Obama’s pastor Wright and many other of the black leadership whose mission is to denigrate America, but he would not like we Baptists who sing the national anthem in our services on national holidays.

            Actually, I like the words to Jerusalem:

And did those feet in ancient time

walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

on England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine

shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

till we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant Land.

The poem clearly refers to the apocryphal story about a young Jesus, accompanying Joseph of Arimathea to Glastonbury, England. This legend is linked to a misinterpretation of the Book of Revelation where Jesus establishes a new Jerusalem. The English Church in particular, used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven. While the words and the idea are not scriptural, they certainly are nationalistic, and I think that is the real problem for Dean Slee.

            The Dean even banned the song from private memorial services. I mean goodness gracious! Isn’t a memorial service about remembering the departed and comforting the hearts of those remaining? Even King George V said that he preferred "Jerusalem" over "God Save the King", which is used like an national anthem. I would find it strange if someone were to say that memorial music of a patriotic sort could not be played when celebrating the life of a dear friend or loved one who had gone on ahead of us. Clearly this fellow has a problem and I do not think it is really with the song.


            Jonsquill Ministries

P. O. Box 752

Buchanan, Georgia 30113