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Friday, 12 November 2010

Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise*

Some seem to be saying it’s a good thing that the supermarket giant Tesco, destroyer of many a good high street, has taken over a disused church building in Bournemouth in the South of England.

I’m not so sure.

Oh, yes, it’s good to see religion’s hold on us diminishing to the extent that buildings are falling into disuse. It’s good to see buildings put to a purpose other than propagandising on behalf of superstition.

However, if the religionists concerned – in this case it’s a former Methodist church – want to meet in a building to do their thing, I see no problem, other than that, by dint of being a religion, it gets special tax advantages paid for by you and me. If it weren’t for that, I’d say good luck to them. Just don’t try to impose your beliefs on me and others and on our schools, and don’t try to gain unfair advantage. Just enjoy your religion.

My main concern, though, is that it’s just another milestone on the road to total Tescopoly. Sometimes, yes, a Tesco store is the only place you can get this or that, although one can’t help but wonder whether, if it weren’t for the existence of an edge-of-town one-stop supermarket with handy free car parking, more shops would exist in the high street of said town to provide the this and that you can now get only at Tesco.

So – short of having it as something more useful such as a farmers’ market, selling local produce and helping the local economy – maybe the building would be better being used as a church after all (with all the above caveats, of course).

Having a bunch of people singing and doing their mumbo-jumbo is probably far less harmful to the fabric of our traditional shopping areas, which just cannot compete with Tesco on the fringe, sucking the lifeblood from them, as has happened in towns near where I live.

Now Tesco – in the guise, in this case, of its Tesco Express stores – is moving into hitherto untried territory in the form of churches, it’s just strengthening its hold.
* John 2: 16: “And [he] said unto them that sold doves [in the temple], Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”

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