Canon Donald Gray, former Chaplain to the Queen, speaking on the Channel 4 programme 4thought on 16 October 2010, opposed the introduction of “Jerusalem” as our national anthem instead of “God Save the Queen”. He believes it is divisive, suggesting that the industrial working classes are less fortunate than those who live in the countryside, and it also gives credibility to the notion that Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury. He supported the continuing use of “God Save the Queen” because it was a simple prayer for the Queen and she values our prayers.
He was actually setting up a straw-man and knocking it down again, because nobody actually believes that “God Save the Queen” should be replaced by anything. As far as I am aware, it is and always will be the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He didn’t make any reference to the need for a separate anthem for England, or the questions that inevitably arise when the same anthem is used to represent both the UK and England at international sporting events.
Turning to his specific criticism of “Jerusalem”, the “dark satanic mills” could mean the smoke-stacks of the industrial revolution, or they could symbolise the boring monotony of an office job, pushing papers across a desk. Most people, when they go on holiday, travel from towns and cities to the seaside or countryside, or they go to places of historic or cultural interest. They know what they want to get away from and where they want to go, and the question of social division is really a non-issue.
As for the question of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea going to Glastonbury, it’s a possibility but it cannot be proved. More likely, I think, is the suggestion made by some, that Joseph came with other followers of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Jesus told them to go to the uttermost parts of the earth and preach the gospel, and that includes here. So it’s possible that Simon Zelotes, Aristobulus and the Apostle Paul all came to Britain, and I have discussed some of the evidence for this in my book “Forgotten History of the Western People“. William Blake wasn’t promoting the idea that Jesus came to Britain, he was merely asking whether or not it was possible, and he might have been poking fun at the British Israelites who believed it. The important thing is that, after centuries of struggle when it was dangerous to have the wrong views, we have emerged as a society where you can believe whatever you like as long as you are peaceful and law-abiding. This is what makes us great, and this is why Jerusalem is a great hymn for England, because you can believe whatever you like about what it means.