Wednesday, December 09, 2015

"Use it or lose it," Religion Included

"Use it or lose it." We have probably all heard this expression, which is used in many different contexts. It applies to budgets and physical fitness and just about anything else you might imagine. How about religion?

A report has just been issued by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life in Great Britain, in which a panel of political and religious leaders conclude that the country is now more secular than Christian. Other religions and those with no religion at all need to be acknowledged in rites and institutions.
Key recommendations include:
  • The creation of a  Magna Carta-style secular statement of values governing public life as an alternative to the much proclaimed but little understood adherence to “British values “
  • The scrapping of religious assemblies for schoolchildren, along with the segregation of children by faith at schools throughout the land.
  •   An end to the dominance of  26 Anglican male bishops in the House of Lords (the British Parliament’s Upper House) and their replacement with Muslim imams, Jewish rabbis and other non-Christian clerics.
  • The complete overhaul of the coronation service for the next monarch (Charles, Prince of Wales) so that leaders of faiths other than Christianity play major roles.
This is a big deal in a nation where the Church of England is so closely tied by tradition to the monarchy. In the wartime film Mrs. Miniver both the announcement of World War II and the climax are set in the local parish church, and the vicar applies Psalm 91 (“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day”) to the dark days ahead. The hymns, too, are chosen for dark times: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and “Onward Christian Soldiers,” the latter defiantly sung at the climax in a bombed-out church.
Yet since the end of the Second World War the CofE has shrunk drastically and only a small portion of the population attends worship except for "hatch, match, and dispatch." Even there, the shift to other rituals is dramatic.
Once again we see the secularization of a society, much like our own, although often people will invoke "Christian values," even if they rarely darken the door of a place of worship.
Whenever I see these stories I am reminded of how important it is to maintain our witness, as a loving, caring Christian alternative in a secular world. That's the way Christianity began, and where we are again.

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