British Christianity in the Hole…

I read Damien Thompson’s articles a lot less frequently these days, but here’s one doing the rounds – 2067: the end of British Christianity. I link here to the illustration in the article showing a large English cathedral with only one person sitting in a chair.


What do I think? By 2067 I’ll be dead and buried – or whatever will happen to my mortal remains, so it’s of no real concern to me. I share the same cynicism about the Establishment even though I do question the idea of sorting everything out with American style “muscular” religion. I think it is rather simple. When we ordinary folk sense that something is corrupt and no longer in line with its original purpose, we run a mile. We are alienated, whether our next port of call is atheism/materialism or seeking our soul’s desire in some other community or spiritual philosophy.

Quite frankly, what attracted me to the ACC was my original Anglicanism, but also to a small and intimate Church in which people matter and there is virtually no bureaucracy. I suppose, as something of an anarchist, the difference between authority and those of us who accept the Bishop’s paternity in Christ is lower than the big institutions where the name is the Bishop, the reality is the bureaucracy and the governed are those who are so abused that they learn helplessness. That’s how I see it.

My gut reaction is to say that they had it coming. If the present statistical trend of decline continues, it will be all over by 2067, same in the RC Church and the non-conformists. Perhaps the fundies and Evangelicals might go on for a little longer, but I certainly wouldn’t be interested.

Parish churches everywhere will have been adapted for secular use, demolished or abandoned.

It’s a shame, but what alternative is there. Who can find the money to keep those buildings up? Perhaps there will be a new John Wesley in black gown and flowing white hair, but how could he compete with television and electronic information? Maybe something will happen to break the trend, but I fail to see what.

Damien Thompson blames secularisation. Is it all about atheistic propaganda coming from the BBC, Dawkins, etc.? Is it all about being lax on family and other moral ethics? Perhaps. Enter the Dictator and laws returning us to the 1890’s, laws against homosexuality and adultery, etc. Will that bring them all back to church? I doubt it. The USA seems to be going the same way – almost as if Christianity was intrinsic nonsense and people were just waking up with the help of science and rationalism. All that stuff came about in the eighteenth century, and religion should have died long ago. Why did it survive and even prosper in the nineteenth century?

Muslims? I agree with Damien Thompson – most Muslims are people from other countries doing their own thing in the same way they cook curry and couscous. The presence of Islam makes very little difference to most of us Brits, whether living there or expats. So it’s secularisation? Relatively few will want to say they are hard atheists. Most are just alienated by being part of a world in which religion has nothing to say or contribute. Perhaps people only ever went to church because they had to, and once the pressure was off, they did other things on Sundays. What does that leave Christianity in terms of apologetic credibility?

I tend to agree that it’s over in the UK and Europe – and in the USA in time. Perhaps the same thing will happen in Asia and Africa once western globalism and consumerist capitalism hit them. Something is happening in Russia, but we can never be clear about what – they are so foreign to us. Perhaps we can go on where we live, but as hermits in the catacombs. Go somewhere else and we might find ourselves victims of very serious racism and demands for our money! They don’t need Europeans any more. This subject has been discussed before. Perhaps Christianity, at least its Constantinian Church version, has its expiry date like anything man-made, and we have to move on. To what? Perhaps Christianity means something else and could find new credibility as some kind of contemplative life for individuals and small groups that doesn’t need churches, priests or sacraments, and especially men with a lot of political clout.

I think we will find the answers within ourselves, nowhere else. Politics will never again roll back the “liberal” agenda or enforce a religion in which they do not believe. Humanitarianism is secularised and looks after the sick, hungry and war-torn more effectively and with more resources than Christians. There are occasional situations where a priest can slide in between the cracks, but it is rare. Most of us are fish out of water, gawping and flapping around helplessly in the bottom of the boat.

It makes depressing reading, but it does make us ask questions. What have we to offer?

* * *

A troll comment came in, which I deleted. Nevertheless, his question was germane: So is the ACC growing? If so where and how many? My answer is that we have no claims of exemption from the general rule. Perhaps we are growing in African and Asia, but certainly not in England where the troll in question lives. That being said, we have a nice little community in Wales, and every soul coming to us is valued and is an encouragement to us all.

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13 Responses to British Christianity in the Hole…

  1. Patricius says:

    Christianity will survive; it has to because of its Divine origin. But it will only survive in some dark, narrow and far-sundered places, secret and unknown. I suppose it’s like all the Romano-British treasures dug up in the 20th century around places like Fishbourne. When the legions departed, the people buried their treasures hoping for better times. They never came and the treasures were unearthed by farmers and archaeologists centuries later as relics of a lost time. Maybe our chalices and patens will face the same fate?

  2. Matthew C says:

    I don’t believe it. The Catholic parish I attend is packed every Sunday

    • So Damian Thompson’s article only applies to Anglicanism and everything is great in that (Roman) Catholic parish. So everything is well and I’m very happy to hear it.

    • Dale says:

      In the city I now live in, with over 35000, almost the whole population is Catholic, virtually everyone. There is only one Catholic church with one priest, who also serves another parish over thirty miles away. Needless to say, the church here is packed every Sunday. But if one considers that with 30000 members and the building holds about two-hundred, packed three times every Sunday, including that very strange aberration of a Saturday evening mass, that constitutes about 600 people. Where are the other 24 thousand? So judging the downturn in church attendance by stating, “well my parish is packed every Sunday…is problematic.”

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “Politics will never again roll back the ‘liberal’ agenda or enforce a religion in which they do not believe” somehow, among other things, makes me think I ought to reread (or perhaps audiobook-listen-to ?) Chesterton’s Flying Inn. And what religions not-exactly-thoroughly-believed-in have been adventitiously enforced hitherto, to what ends (also among other things)? “Humanitarianism is secularised and” also cheerfully ‘eu’-thanatizes “the sick” and ‘unwanted’ by the millions, while selectively ignoring other millions of the “hungry and war-torn” – which is not to say Christians will be deigned a look-in, even should they (unexpectedly?) be effectively organized with lots of resources. “What have we to offer?” As much of that rare occasional sliding in between the cracks as possible, indeed, for one thing. A pre-Constantinian proper evasion, and also, proper acceptance, of martyrdom, as circumstances present themselves in a time of increasing high-tech Gleichschaltung (with, who knows, more cracks than might be expected).

  4. Neil Hailstone says:

    ‘Politics will never again roll back the liberal agenda’ It can and it does. There are many examples .One striking and extreme case would be the demise of the Weimar Republic.
    Changing the subject, when I attend RC services they are very well attended and have many young people in the congregations. When I attend Anglo Catholic Mass the congregations are of a fair size but the age profile concerns me. Predominantly the elderly among whom I am numbered.

    There are many well attended and growing Independent churches around here in the UK and overseas. They seem also to attract the younger generations. I am constructively critical of that particular movement but I won’t go into that here.

    The demise of the Christian faith has been endlessly predicted since it was divinely brought into existence. My view is that the current fashion for writing us off arising from within certain sections of the christian church is insular and inward looking. ‘Prepare to Meet thy Doom’ belongs more appropriately to a certain type of street preacher rather than any serious analysis of the current state of the faith or of the future of Christ’s Catholic Church.

  5. Neil Hailstone says:

    Selected quotes written by the Pope Emeritus during his ministry as Cardinal Joseph Rattzinger which are relevant to this discussion.
    ‘From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge – a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity.’

    ‘But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her centre: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world’
    ‘The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right’

    ‘But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualised and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely.
    If they have completely lost sight of God they will feel the horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.’

    ‘And so it seems certain that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But we can be equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already,but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power that she was until recently, but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death’.

    • ed pacht says:

      Thanks, Neil!
      These words of Benedict stirred me when he first uttered them, and a repetition at this time is a very bracing remedy for the despair that one might otherwise accept. When two opposing camps each distort the Gospel to support their own desire for worldly power, it is no wonder that people find no reason to enlist in either. I have long felt that the only hope for Christianity (a hope we must believe to be true if the gates of hell are not ultimately to prevail) is for the Pharisees of both the left and the right to wither away and for a little flock without worldly strength to carry on the message of salvation. Benedict said it well – better, I suspect, than he thought.

  6. Edmond says:

    Try googling “st Paul’s cathedral easter 1800”. You get an American Conservative article noting that only 6 people received communion at st Paul’s on easter in 1800 and noted the decline of the number of services in C of E churches in the late 1700’s.

    • Many things were bad by the end of the 18th century and the French Revolution marked the end of that era. It is true that there were revivals in Europe and in the Anglo-Saxon countries with various “illuminated” variations of Protestantism. I look at the revival of Catholicism in France, but it didn’t do much for the little except in parishes where you had someone like the Curé d’Ars. It coincided with the Oxford Movement, but France went more the way of the old bourgeois establishment and England’s revival was much more popular with both Methodism and emerging Anglo-Catholicism in the cities. The 19th century revival could only last until 1914, and in fits and bursts through the 20’s and 30’s and then in the 1950’s.

      I look for parallels with the situation of 200 years ago, Romanticism, the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the beginnings of social reforms and resistance to the kind of unbridled technological progress we know today. If Christianity could align with a resistance movement against the “aristocracy” of big business, banking, “state capitalism”, “caviar socialism”, etc., there may be an opening for Christianity.

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