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?
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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.