Last time I wrote about the state of religion in the UK, and the lessons Christianity can teach us regarding modern life. Today, I cover some further lessons, and some hope for the future.
Jesus spoke his mind. He said things that upset people. He said he was the son of God. He threw the money lenders out of the temple. The temple was controlled by the Roman Empire, the EU of its day. He was hounded by the Pharisees, who constantly questioned what he was saying, and wanted to silence him. We have our own Pharisees today, in the mainstream media, politicians, groups that police speech online and offline, social justice warriors, and others. They are the self-appointed gatekeepers of what is right and wrong. Constantly they seek to control what we can and cannot say, and increasingly what we can and cannot think. One of Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees was that they exhibited themselves as righteous on account of being scrupulous keepers of the law, but were in fact not righteous. Their mask of righteousness hid a secret inner world of ungodly thoughts and feelings. They were full of wickedness. If the word Nazi had existed, they would have called him a Nazi. This again is reminiscent of social justice warriors and the left today. They pretend righteousness, and label people. But deep down it is they who are unrighteous, and full of hate, both for themselves and others. Jesus challenged the established order and for this they sough to destroy him. The same can be seen today with anyone who challenges the established narrative. Trump, Brexit, Islam. Support the first two and criticise the second and you are a heretic and “Literally Hitler.” In the modern day UK it is becoming harder and harder to speak your mind. Jesus was eventually crucified by the authorities for telling people what he believed to be true. Think on this.
“The Antichrist will not be so called; otherwise he would have no followers…he will come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity and plenty not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves…” Fulton J. Sheen, Catholic Bishop, 1951.
Sound like anyone we know?
As stated previously, for many science is the new religion. And with it they are repeating the same mistakes as Christianity. One of the major complaints was Christianity refusing to change, refusing to acknowledge new discoveries. Ancient doctrine went unchallenged. Christianity did not adapt itself to the world. Those who challenged doctrine were branded heretics, and sometimes hunted down. But science can also make this mistake. For example, Galen, the famous doctor. Galen’s famous medical treatise was carried through the years, and treated as infallible. Galen did many good things, made progress in some areas, but also got things wrong. But his book became a sort of bible. You couldn’t challenge Galen.
This went on for a thousand years, and so the mistakes persisted. It wasn’t until the renaissance that people challenged Galen, and more progress in medicine could be made. There is a danger of this happening again. For some subjects, we are told, “the science is settled.” Climate change in particular springs to mind. You are not allowed to challenge climate “science”, for fear of being branded a modern-day heretic. Some countries even contemplating laws against climate change denial. There are, in fact, some pretty good theories challenging the consensus on climate change. People who treat science as their God risk falling in to the same trap as religious folk before them. No idea should be above criticism or unopen to further scrutiny, particularly a religion,
Art and culture – A Lesson from Malta
My grandfather was from Malta. Hence, I have visited many times, still have some family there, and have some insight in to the culture. Malta is a truly Christian country. 89% of people go to church. Christian culture is still in almost every facet of life. Crime rates have historically been low. Crime has increased recently, after a surge in foreigners. What happened? They joined the E.U. But I digress. Religion is at the heart of the community. Each town, village and area has a band, with a band club. The band plays on holy days feast days, and any other excuse. They parade round, the populace following, dancing and drinking. Later are usually fireworks and food. Each area has their own saint, so there is nearly always a feast somewhere. Streets and churches are decorated. On my latest trip this summer, I came across the band in Valetta, parading down the main street. A fair few monks were in tow, cans of beer in hand! Guess what? If you make things fun, people join in. I am always left in wonder and awe at the art and architecture. It has been lovingly preserved, not pulled down to make way for mosques.
Now let’s look at the turner prize winner 2016. I know what I think. I imagine you think the same.
Douglas Murray summed it up in “The Strange Death of Europe” when he said we look back on the art of the past and think “I wish I could do that.” We look at art today and think “I can do better than that” Whether you believe in it or not, there is no doubt that the divine has inspired true masterpieces of art, building and human expression and culture. Murray laments that as Christianity has decline, so has the art and culture that underpins our society in the West. We have reached a cultural dead end with atheism. If everything is random chance, what is the point of life? How are we to behave? What do we strive for? We get hubris and banality. There is a feeling of “is this it? Is this all there is?”
We reach the point, as Murray describes, where we feel we are at the end of our story. It is with religion that the human race finds true artistic creativity. It gives vent to latent spirituality, a need to make sense of the world. There is a desire to explain the human condition. The ideas that we are mortal, we are all flawed, and our time on earth is fleeting. That we are small, that there is something greater than ourselves. With this knowledge we are set free, our horizons broadened, our frame of reference expanded. With this we can create works that will last down the ages. Can you remember the turner prize winner from three years ago? Me neither.
A Lesson from Wales (Way-uls!)
In 1904 the great Welsh revival began, led by among others Evan Roberts. Church attendances grew. Crime plummeted. Young people were inspired. The revival was taken to other parts of the U.K. It didn’t stop there. It was preached as far away as California and Korea. What happened? It was at a time of social change and upheaval. Young people were disaffected. A new brand of Christianity came along, which suited the culture, the people, the place and the times. It involved keen, committed and enthusiastic leaders, many of them young. Evan Roberts was 26. It shows what can be done. Christianity is not dead. Today a new revival is needed. Young people are disaffected, they are searching for something more. Many are spiritual, but don’t connect with what they see as old-fashioned Christianity. Some sit drunken in pubs and clubs, and wonder, “Is there any more to life?” Many are fed up with the constant craziness around them, and the horrors of political correctness. Christianity may well have an appeal to them. Conservative Christian Jacob Rees-Mogg is highly popular with young voters. There is a conservative backlash from the Alt-Right and New-Right amongst generation Z, against cultural Marxism and the loony left. A conservative Christian message is being preached online, on platforms such as Twitter, 4Chan, Reddit and Gab. It may not be recognisable at first. But as with the Welsh revival, it needs to suit the people and the times. Ours is now an internet age. And we are all a product of our times. We may not get huge church numbers, but that doesn’t mean the message is not heard. We need to think differently on how to engage and reach people. Now is the time of our own change and social upheaval. Now is the time for our own revival, and our own renaissance, after a time of malaise and lacklustre. Christianity is still relevant, and its message still echoes down the ages.
© jonathon_davies 2017