Why Are We So Blessed? "Europe Was Created by History. America Was Created by Philosophy"-Margaret Thatcher

Article excerpt

Having disappeared for several months from these pages, I think I owe the long-suffering readers of Beefs a special treat, on this my long-awaited return. So please, sit back and gird your loins. During my lengthy disappearance, I have been reading up on some of the things I had allowed to pile up on my to-do list, such as the press cuttings yellowing in my Scrap Book. My faithful Scrap Book. And what great treasure it holds!

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Well, is it only me or is it the sin of people of a certain age--I love history, it has a lot to teach. Sometimes I am inclined to think that Africa's struggle for a place in the economic sun has become even more difficult because we have neglected to properly learn history, our history and the history of the other people who inhabit the same planet as us, and use that history as a guide for our tomorrow.

I write this with the words of the great John Hendrik Clarke of blessed memory, ringing in my ears. "If we are to change tomorrow, we are going to have to look back in order to look forward. We will have to look back with some courage, warm our hands on the revolutionary fires of those who came before us, and understand that we have within ourselves, nationally and internationally, the ability to regain what we have lost and to build a new humanity for ourselves."

So what history has my Scrap Book thrown up in the interim? Please wait for this. It comes in the form of a letter written by one David Cayde of London to The Guardian, published on 15 April 1998. It is a shocker! Mr Cayde began:

"After Peter Tatchell reminded the Archbishop of Canterbury of his Church's discrimination against gay and lesbian people (Gay activists storm Carey pulpit, April 13), George Carey resumed his sermon saying: 'People in Britain are forgetting their Christian past.'

"Ordinances (catalogued MS e Mus 229) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, support the fact that for 550 years, from 1000 to 1546, the Church administered London's Bankside brothels. The Church managed its 20 or so brothels so that they filled its coffers.

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"For example, as many nuns financed their convents by working as prostitutes, the Church's ordinances of 1161 levied a fine of 20 shillings upon any brothel [not part of the Church's network] permitting a nun to work. With Christian fastidiousness, the Church also ordained that on Holy Days, no whore should work between 6am and 11am or 1pm and 6pm. These are just a few examples of our Christian past that we must, as the Archbishop says, not forget."

Imagine a church, of the standing of the Church of England, having its own brothels--20 or so of them! And filling its coffers with the money coming from the brothels.

Imagine a nun, all saintly and holy, with head covered in a white veil, hands in a prayerful position, receiving it in the inner sanctum of the brothel despite the knowledge that a hefty fine of 20 shillings against the whore house awaited at the door. She had to finance her convent with the proceeds from prostitution! Some might say: "But what do you expect, the Church of England itself came into being because its founder, Henry VIII, wanted to have more illegal sexual liaisons against the wishes of Rome." In Ghana, our elders say, "a crab never gives birth to a bird". So the Church's history continued. To me, the real funny bit is the ban imposed on Holy Days. The brothels' clientele were allowed by the Church to gorge themselves on the forbidden fruit within only two hours of daylight on Holy Days--they couldn't do it between 6am and 11am or 1pm and 6pm. So what was special about the two scant hours between 11am and 1pm? Unholy hours?

For non-Christians who might not know, "holy days" in the Christian firmament are the high days such as Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the Day of Atonement, and such like. And yet, even though people had so much time on their hands to burn on those Holy Days, the clientele were restricted to just two hours of daylight work. …