Having been out of radio contact for the last three days (at a residential meeting at the utterly beautiful and wonderful Parcevall Hall in the Yorkshire Dales – no mobile signal and no accessible wi-fi), I re-emerge to find all sorts of comment about the Rowan Atkinson interview last week. I am beginning to wonder if he regretted slagging off the clergy in the first place or if it was a deliberate ‘get the headlines’ grab to raise his profile for the launch of his latest film. I wonder if he really thought his comments would become the story they did.
What is interesting from some of the response is just how personal it all gets. People have been questioning his own integrity, hypocrisy, etc and then having a go at his not-very-funny creations… as if disliking Mr Bean is enough to justify discrediting the actor behind the character. It’s all a bit odd, really.
I don’t feel at all hostile to him. I even wonder if he – like many who find the unwise aside quoted as the main thrust of the story – watched amazed as the story ran away with itself.
I have no idea – and it is hardly the most important matter in the world. The truth about clergy integrity can stand for itself, regardless of how comic actors see them.
However, I also emerged to the rather bizarre shouting match about the BBC and its policy decision to ban the use of ‘BC’ and ‘AD’ on its programmes. Yet another example of anti-Christian, liberal, politically-correct nonsense by the Beeb! Except, of course (and somewhat inconveniently), it simply isn’t true. (Listen to ‘Feedback’ on Radio 4 today – which I did in the car.)
No such policy decision has been made. The whole story emanated from a piece on the BBC website and from it all sorts of conclusions were drawn. Why did no one ask the BBC?
One of the shouters is, predictably, Ann Widdecombe. Hardly surprising, as she has form in this regard. She once slagged off (in a newspaper column – the Express, I think) the entire House of Bishops of the Church of England – and, by extension, the whole Church of England) for some research the House was supposed to have commissioned and published. I did a head-to-head with her on BBC radio and she went first, repeating her tirade. When I got my chance I asked her for an apology (on the basis of the ninth Commandment which says that we shouldn’t misrepresent our neighbour’s case) as the said report had nothing to do with the bishops, had not been commissioned by them, not published by them and not authorised by them. She managed to go through the entire interview trying to ignore this inconvenient truth and simply slag off the lousy Church anyway.
Very entertaining, of course. But, why, when these stories explode, do people like Widdecombe and others not exercise the self-discipline of finding out the facts before commenting? I wouldn’t have thought that would be so revolutionary. We all get caught out by the journalist phoning, telling us the horror story and asking for an instant response – and that’s fine. But, if we can’t resist nature’s propensity to abhor a vacuum (or silence), we shouldn’t then be surprised to find ourselves embarrassed by the exposure of our naivety, stupidity, credulity or self-righteous pomposity.
And I still find Rowan Atkinson funny. And the offer to show him some crackingly good clergy still stands.