An extract from the Special Broadcast by The Former Chief Druid: The Very Reverend Hawthorn Straggleybeard [first] heard on Radio Dorset on Monday 23 March at 20.30 GMT
First of all, may I say that we are living in extraordinary times - times so unprecedented in peacetime that it feels more like a time of war; as in a real sense it is. True, the enemy is not some unidentified hun of unimaginably bad breath and evil demeanour, rather he/she/it is a silent deadly foe whose only purpose is to infect us, unsettle us and ultimately to destroy our economy, our society, our culture and our way of life. He/she/it will seek to undermine us by all the means at its disposal: emptying our supermarkets of essentials like toad-in-the-hole premix and closing our churches and places of worship to those eighty-plus-year-olds and upwards searching for spiritual sustenance. This unseen force is gnawing at the core of our fibre, jangling the synapses of our being and playing merry hell with our welfare, principles and values. And the name of this mortal enemy? As Matthew (8:28-34) tells us "My name is Legion" or in this case, Atheism.
Atheism [or ANTIGOD-19] is quite possibly the single most sinister and destructive force we are facing today; and it is dangerous precisely because, like any disease, it spreads rapidly and insidiously, causing contagion amongst young and old alike but infecting, in particular, those already vulnerable through serious pre-existing underlying moral health issues. As we all now know, the spiritual death rate is, unhappily, rising on a daily basis and it is no exaggeration to say that the pandemic has already reached a point where institutions are overwhelmed and no spiritual healthcare system in the world, however well-run and well-funded [eg The Established Church of Dorset] could possibly cope. I will not sugar-coat this: souls are at risk.
As we are beginning to observe and as all our evangelical systemic modelling has long suggested, atheism is on the rise leading to:
Self-isolation as people separate themselves from the love of God
Lock-down as churches close across the country [largely to protect their silverware from petty theft]
Soul-food shortages as people "panic buy" the latest fads, "isms" and ideologies
I know that very many of you feel vulnerable, that many are living in fear and very few in hope. To you all, I say, we must fight this growing epidemic and we must fight it together with resolution and with strength. No former Chief Druid wants to see measures imposed which would restrict our basic right not to give a toss about God, to think of churches and chapels only as marriage, baptism or funeral stations and to profoundly doubt the Creation myths. No Former Druid in living history has had to offer to you, the people of this great nation, such a stark choice between liberty and the freedom to read Richard Dawkins on the one hand and the fight for our very survival as a robust God-fearing nation on the other. I cannot put it more bluntly: unless we act now, congregations will shrink, churches will close and people will "think liberally". This is not a rehearsal, some Domesday scenario imagined in the fevered brains of ecclesiastical gamers world-wide. This is real, this is now, this is happening.
The measures I am imposing today will not be popular though I assure you they will be kept under constant review. The moment it is safe to allow you to read philosophy, theology, psychology, the liberal arts and science fiction again, we will not hesitate to try to prevent you from doing so by less-drastic means. But for now, I ask you the great people of this great nation to come together and do the right thing: stay indoors, switch off the television, burn unhelpful literature and tape-up your letterboxes. Cease idle chatter and eschew the ways of mammon. Working together we can turn this around in just 12 apostles and when the Second Coming comes - as come it surely will - we will celebrate together in this world - or possibly [if you are already enfeebled before Atheism hits] in the next.
Stay safe: wash your mind clean, stay indoors, stay disconnected, stay indoctrinated.
Thank you and goodnight.
Readers in Scotland will note that, in an attempt to suggest independence, an almost identical address, with the odd word or sequence of words altered, was given 15 minutes after the Dorset broadcast by the Rev Nicholas Sturminster [Head of the Scottish Episcopalian Anti-Athiest Assembly].