A conference on "educational values in the money culture" is the sort of event likely to call forth intimations of doom and disaster. The gathering convened in Edinburgh last Friday by the Christian Education Movement in Scotland certainly got off to a flying start in that direction with an address by John Hull, the blind professor of religious education at Birmingham University.
In an intellectual tour de force, Hull analysed the nation's moral and spiritual decline into worship of "the money god" (two festivals pay homage to this god, Hull said: the National Lottery and Christmas).
But his view that schools should create "a curriculum of life" rather than "a curriculum of death" proved controversial. Hull's was an "apocalyptic" vision, according to Fred Forrester of the Educational Institute of Scotland, a man given to the odd apocalyptic touch himself when he shifts into denunciatory gear.
Forrester's complaint was that Hull was hot on intellectual analysis but cool on practical application. Hull's response was pretty cool: that did not matter, he said, since the important thing was to analyse the situation correctly while others could sift through the implications and applications provided they agreed with his thesis.
His thesis, of course, was inspired by "the Lord and giver of life" rather than the lord of the lottery ticket. He had, however, to acknowledge the presence in his audience of people like Lindsay Paterson of Moray House, a card-carrying atheist. But Hull is a Christian gent and said atheists had their place which, unlike some of his more fundamentalist brethren, he did not seem to feel was in hell.
The consequences of living in a money culture hit the conference right at the beginning. Isabel Smyth, convener of the Christian Education Movement in Scotland, was due to preside over the opening session. But Smyth was stranded at Stansted Airport after buying a cut-price ticket from Ryanair instead of paying pound;100 more for the greater certainties of a seat on British Airways or British Midland.
The money god works in mysterious ways.