New Year’s eve in Stratford at the Swan Theatre to see the RSC perform David Edgar’s play about the King James Bible. Wonderful – not only for the usual brilliances of acting and stagecraft but for the insights – the incredible courage of the men and women who were incinerated at the stake for their belief that the Bible should be read by all and that the difference between the original text and the subsequent inventions of priests (men) should be clear to all. The controversy about key words – are we to be a flock (and to have free will) or to be enfolded (to have none)?, are we to be a church (controlled) or a congregation (to control)? and are we to be ruled by priests or by elders?.
The other fascinating insight I took from the play was the process of compromise that constituted the final text – some of the words indeed fell to a puritan interpretation, others to the traditional Catholic preference , thereby incorporating and marrying the two extremes in the one.
‘Written on the heart’ refers to the quotation from the play that explains that none of the text can be properly understood unless the reader has both love and compassion written upon their heart. Not a bad lesson for 2012 – the basic rule of all faiths and none- if we have no love for one another and for our children, we shall not see beyond our own selfish world and are likely to create a violent and greedy one.
We can talk about an ethos, but in the spirit of the King James Bible, let us speak plain, we need love to provide the respect, compassion and self esteem that underpins a just society.