The Mail online headline today is “Glasto turns political,” as various “angry stars” protested the US Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. But it actually is better seen as finally coming out fully as a festival of a specific religious cult, that has become the established religion of Britain and the entire West.
And that is not simply because one rapper closed the festival in an “8,000-diamond encrusted crown of thorns,” though minimal thought will show you that this was as clear a symbolic anti-Christian gesture as an inverted cross would have been. And it was just as premeditated, since you can be pretty sure he didn’t commission a jeweller after the court’s decision last week, just as you can be sure that anyone seriously re-enacting Christ’s sufferings on the Cross would scarcely use 8,000 diamonds to do so.
No, this rather tedious echoing of what is called “progressive politics,” but which actually just reflects the mores of a senile elite, is of a piece with the platform given to Greta Thunberg and the virtual one given to this year’s fashionable hero, Volodymyr Zelensky. Glastonbury is now all about ideological beliefs being mindlessly celebrated by those in control of society, and therefore is in effect a State religious festival, much as one might see at Stonehenge in the Bronze age, or in Mecca at the Hajj.
Once one clearly sees Glastonbury to be a religious gathering, one also sees the whole conglomerate of fashionable causes as constituting a Cult, despite the apparent disparity of LGBTn, Climate Alarmism, COVID Compliance, the Ukrainian War, Veganism, Abortion Normalisation, Paedophilia, Abolition of National Borders and so on. And once one sees all these as facets of a rather incoherent religious system (though in the devil’s eyes, there is a strategic goal linking them all), it is only a foolish Christian who fails to see it all as a direct opponent of the faith they hold.
Let me contrast two other rock festivals I have attended (pretty much the only two, in fact). The Isle of Wight 1970 preceded the first Glastonbury Festival by several weeks, and was far, far, bigger. Yet it was still only one of many Woodstock lookalikes, ranging from the properly organised Bath Festival to the chaotic Phun City. All these vaguely arose from the Hippy ideals of Peace, Love, Pot and Profit, but to the vast majority of punters those were peripheral to the celebration of an “underground” music scene that justified travelling on trains resembling those after the relief of Dunkirk and living in squalor for several days. No doubt many of the beautiful young things (of both sexes) wished to be seen – but not with the expectation of appearing as celebrities in the news by extreme dressing or undressing, as seems de rigeur in Glastonbury.
In fact, the IoW 1970 was where I learned about press bias, as I picked up a copy of the Telegraph describing unhygienic horrors and mayhem far beyond anything actually going on, even with the parasitic presence of Danny Cohn-Bendit and his French anarchists. For politics was clearly parasitic on what was, primarily, a music festival. Even the most on-message performers only made vague references to peace in Vietnam, whilst there was ideological room for Pete Townshend to moan that they were performing in England for the first time in months to “a load of bloody foreigners.” And I’ve described in Seeing Through Smoke how it was the pelting (by Cohn-Bendit’s anarchists) of a church minister appealing for help in their care for those suffering after drug use that led the organisers to declare it, after a famous rant, a free festival. Maybe that act of capitulation sowed seeds for the success of cancel-culture now.
Greenbelt Festival, however, was an avowedly Christian event, though equally modeled, obviously, on Woodstock. I knew personally about half the acts in the first year, though I missed it myself doing street theatre evangelism with what became Riding Lights. But I played on its fringe myself from 1984-6, and even though it was a celebration of Evangelical Christianity, the range of expressions (including some less than orthodox, sadly) was wide, and warmly tolerated. You could get taught by Graham Cray or Os Guinness, celebrate a Taizé service or a Franciscan meditation, watch a sombre crowd of young punks singing to a small guitar on the bandstand, or listen to the famous Griff Pilchard almost singing his complaint that festival goers were all “Frogs, and we like mud” in some corner. That and After the Fire, of course.
Despite the Christian ethos, provision was made for helping drug and alchol abusers (I know Christians are not exempt from those vices, but the fact that the organisers were aware as well shows something). My brother, not a Christian, played with me the first year: he may have been offended by gospel messages from the stage, but no one took offence at him.
My point is that a true religious festival, as opposed to a cult celebration, is not a monoculture. Indeed, in 1985 my solo spots included a satirical dig at the whole culture of Greenbelt, and an unkind parody of Garth Hewett. Yet not only was it acceptable, but I got asked to play some extra gigs, including the very last set of the festival, after midnight at the Fringe and Scissors.
But can you imagine taking a dig at Zelensky on one of the 100 Glastonbury stages? Can you imagine questioning the validity of climate science, as a Greenbelt speaker criticised Bible translators (mistakenly) for colonialist bias in African translations? The whole thing about the Woke Cult is conformity – a difficult balancing act when the dogma changes every five minutes, at an even higher rate than that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Can you imagine chatting freely with other festival-goers about your Christian commitment, and your disagreement with promoting abortion in a cynical crown of thorns?
No, the world and his middle-aged wife are now regularly seen at Glastonbury, but I think the Christians should nowadays treat it as if it were a feast to Moloch. Yet they should also recognise that it demonstrates the Cultus of our leaders and institutions, much as feasts to Moloch did in the days of the later Old Testament kings. And we know how that all ended.