Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Frank Skinner's Prayer About The Hell Thing
I'm not sure it's a coincidence that one of my favourite teaching resources, is from one of my favourite books, written by one of my favourite comedians. In Frank Skinner's autobiography as a committed Catholic, he includes a series of prayers. This one always struck me, and continues to do so as I read and re-read it over the years. Increasingly the students I teach are not familiar with Skinner, but the sentiment remains. I do always tell them that he was one of the most famous faces on TV for many years with his chat show ("Yes, like Jonathan Ross, but better...") and is on Absolute Radio ("I only listen to Kiss and Capital..."). However I like to mention that many years ago when he was very famous and performing at the Brentwood Centre, he came to Mass at our very own Brentwood Cathedral. His prayer is a great source of inspiration and reflection when contemplating issues of reconciliation and the big questions about life after death. Here it is, the Hell thing...
I think taboo subjects are bad for a relationship. You know what I’m going to say. We need to talk about the Hell thing. Now, let me get this right. We fail the course and then you have us tortured forever. Not just till we die. We get teased and toasted for all eternity.
When I read about two kids torturing an old-age pensioner for a day and a half in his own home, until he died broken and humiliated I felt like crying. I even thought, ‘This is what happens to society when religion isn’t a big deal anymore.’ Please don’t tell me that this is the your-own-image you made us in. Of course, even as torturers we fall short. We can only keep ‘em alive for a day and a half.
This Hell thing, it’s just not you. You’re better than that. Even cattle get it short and sharp. This is the bad thing about working on your own. If only you’d had a team. When you brought up hell at a meeting, you’d have picked up on the raised eyebrows. You’d have gone away and come up with something better. I suppose purgatory was your compromise, but I think that’s something you put in for the Catholics: ‘Ok, we’ll go to heaven but we insist on some suffering beforehand.’ Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I have a corrupted-by-liberalism view of things that has strayed from the truth. Maybe eternal torture is a good thing, but do me one favour.
Don’t torture anyone for what they did to me. I forgive them. I’m the forgiving type. I wonder where I get that from.