MADPRIEST’S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

I've just watched a TV documentary in which Cherie Blair investigated the decline of the Christian faith in Western Europe as opposed to the increasing influence of Christianity in the USA. She made the point that, in her opinion, the contemporary success of the churches in the USA is due, to a large extent, to the fact that so many US churches aligned themselves with the civil rights movement in the US during the 1960s and 1970s.

I think she may have a point. Furthermore, it seems to me that even the churches vocally and actively opposed to universal human rights during those decades have benefited from the fact that so many churches were aligned with those civil rights movements, especially in respect of racial matters.

If this is true then Rowan Williams, by being so hostile towards human rights issues, in particular that of gay, female and working class equality, has not only damaged a church already on its last legs in England but has also made sure it misses out on a bonanza similar to that experienced by the US churches. And what a stupid missiological decision he has made. We were going out of business. His conservatism was never going to stop that because the C. of E. was conservative to begin with and rapidly failing. If Williams had aligned his denomination with the civil rights movements of early 21st. Century England it may not have rescued the church from decline. But it was worth a shot as the "do nothing" option has already proved itself to be a policy only capable of destroying the church. Ironically, those homophobes, misogynists and snobs who have scared Williams into betraying his friends and his own integrity, will go down with the sinking ship. If their bigotry, bluster and blatant resort to blackmail and threats had, in stead of rendering Williams an impotent coward, infused him with a zeal to reform and a willingness to publicly stand along side the oppressed, they would, if the US is anything to go by, have had a brighter future in England along with the orthodox Anglicanism that Williams, if taking such a prophetic line, would have represented and truly led.

Comments

MADPRIEST’S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY — 16 Comments

  1. Well, you’ve certainly made a good point, MadPriest, but I don’t think I agree with Mrs. Blair.

    The churches that are growing in the US are, for the most part, NOT the ones that alligned themselves with the civil rights movement.

  2. I agree, Ellie and I try to address that in my second paragraph. When you consider how much the growing churches owe to black pentecostalism, if only in style, and also consider how reactionary and downright bigoted so many black Christians can be, I think maybe the hypothesis still stands.

  3. Yes, you do have a point there.

    Not very awake and still caffeine deprived!

    Interestingly, I didn’t go to church this morning – partially because I just didn’t feel up to coping with the entire passion narrative for the gospel reading. (I’m using your recorded sermon as my “church” for the day…)

    SO, I think I agree with your post below about Palm Sunday and all the rest of it.

    Yes, you may scold me for having a lie in. I deserve it (the scolding, I mean) because I know it’s against the rules (skipping mass, I mean).

  4. Odd, isn’t it, that Rowan the hairy leftie and ideologue of the Christian socialist movement has become such a retrograde wuss since actually achieving “power”?

  5. Ah, but I’m no fool, Ellie. If you read the last sentence of paragraph two you will notice, “But signed up members of the faith should put the commitments of their faith before all other social commitments MOST of the time.”

    We all deserve a holiday now and then. And as us career Christians have to work on Sundays we should get the odd Sunday off. So, your lie in is perfectly acceptable to the Lord, Ellie.

  6. Hi Ellie –
    Your statement: “The churches that are growing in the US are, for the most part, NOT the ones that alligned themselves with the civil rights movement,” provokes me to ask where that assertion has been documented.

    I keep hearing people say that, but it’s not what I observe. I have visited many parishes that are active in antiracism work, reach out to various marginalized groups, and have been active in a host of issues from health care to rebuilding in the wake of natural disasters. They may not be growing at the rate of megachurches, but many of them have reversed the trend from decline in the 1970’s and 1980’s to steady and sustained growth. It’s not headline-grabbling, though. And I can’t claim to visit a statistically significant population of churches.

    But still – can someone point me to the data that actually support this statement?

  7. I’m not so sure.
    I see an across the board decline in active church membership in this country. Even the Southern Baptists, once the model for conservative success, by their own admission are losing members faster than they can bring new ones in.

    I blame this on, not only the accelerating secularization of American life, but also on the hegemony of evangelical Christianity in our politics and public life, and the increasing identification of Christianity (rightly or wrongly) with right wing politics.

    Maybe the truth is that we are only a few steps behind our European cousins. Christianity declines here, but at a slower rate.

  8. Cherie Blair’s analysis is simplistic, at best. Religious involvement in the US is shaped by movements that go all of the way to the Great Revival in the 19th Century and are tied strongly to regional and socioeconomic issues.

    But Cherie seems to have missed the mark by a mile on this one with a rather simplistic stab about the US.

    Why is it that some (note that I said some) Brits and the French are always so drawn to simplistic explanations of America? Both times I lived in the UK I was always blown away by the amazingly silly things about America from people who had no experience here other than what they saw on the television and a second hand report from an aunt who visited Disney Land in Florida once.

    and no, I don’t put up with silly claims made by uninformed Americans about Europe.

  9. Q. Why is it that some (note that I said some) Brits and the French are always so drawn to simplistic explanations of America?

    A. who had no experience here other than what they saw on the television

    Oi! You make the friggin’ stuff.

  10. Hi, Mary-Cauliflower.

    By “churches” I do not mean individual parishes/congregations but actual denominations. The ones that supported civil rights in the 60s were the mainstream churches which are well known to have declined in membership or growth or both since that time.

    Many of the megachurches that are growing these days didn’t even exist back then.

    Here’s a reference I just found for you. It’s entitled “Catholics, Mormons, Assemblies of God growing;
    Mainline churches report a continuing decline”
    . (Yes, the Roman Catholics, for the most part, supported civil rights but their recent growth is likely due to to immigration.)

  11. Thanks, Ellie. I earn my bread by reading and commenting on stuff, mainly undergraduates’ technical papers. So my knee-jerk reaction to everything is, Really? Where is the data?

    And of course the Episcopal Church had a very spotty record for supporting civil rights in the 1960’s – kind of late to the party in many places.

  12. “Q. Why is it that some (note that I said some) Brits and the French are always so drawn to simplistic explanations of America?
    A. who had no experience here other than what they saw on the television
    Oi! You make the friggin’ stuff.”

    May I assume that what we see on BBC America is an accurate picture of life in the UK?

  13. and a second hand report from an aunt who visited Disney Land in Florida once.

    See, you could not rely on anything that she says because she is not even sure where she was! Disneyland is in Southern California. Walt Disney World is near Orlando, Florida.

  14. “May I assume that what we see on BBC America is an accurate picture of life in the UK?”

    Are you suggesting it isn’t, Counterlight? O please, say it isn’t so!