Today we had class inside of Christ Church Cathedral. As cathedrals go, it’s quite small. Nevertheless, it’s an absolutely gorgeous structure, with numerous impressive stained glass windows and a spectacular display behind the altar.

More importantly, it’s a holy place. It’s not a museum, or an archaeological site. It is a fully functioning Church, where people come to worship on a daily basis. It may be one of the most popular sites in Oxford for tourists, but it still functions as a site where people go to practice their faith.

And to that end, I think it deserves a little respect – as do all holy places. It doesn’t matter what religion you practice, if any. When you enter a space that others consider holy, you ought to act in a respectful manner. That means staying quiet (or altogether silent),  not touching anything that you’re not supposed to touch, and respecting the rules of the place (e.g. removing your shoes if necessary).

Imagine my horror and disgust when two giggling girls entered the cathedral, and proceeded to walk towards one of the tombs. One of the girls handed the other her camera, and thereafter she leapt upon the tomb and sprawled out in a dumb pose. *FLASH* went the camera, and the girl jumped off the tomb, checked to see if the picture was satisfactory, and then the two continued on their merry way. Absolutely outrageous. I’m not an Anglican, but I was incensed by this show of utter disrespect and stupidity.

It goes without saying that when you’re in a holy place, you should not try to emulate these two girls.

Even without the blatant sacrilege of jumping on top of a tomb, I’ve always felt awkward about taking photographs in holy places. Some places prohibit photography altogether, but even in those that don’t I think it’s a little rude. First of all, cameras make noise. Second, you can never really capture the full magnificence of a holy place in a photograph, and so I feel like photos cheapen the experience somewhat. Third, I just feel it’s a little disrespectful in the same way that I feel pulling out a cell phone and texting in a holy place would be disrespectful. You may not be making any noise or disturbing anyone, but you’re certainly not showing respect to the place you’re in.

The first rule is to always ask whether or not photography is permitted. If there are no signs, don’t assume that it’s okay. The second rule is that if you’re going to take photos, do so in the least obtrusive way possible. Take as few as possible, avoid taking photos if it’s crowded around you, and please, please turn your flash off.

All of this is very, very easy to follow. It’s not rocket science, after all. It’s just common sense. And like a lot of common sense, the vast majority of people get it. Most people, be they religious or atheist, know how to act when they’re in a holy place.  The few that don’t should avoid them altogether.

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