Thursday, 30 May 2013

Towards a Post-Christian England?

In a timely interview Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a Church of England bishop of Pakistani background, explains why some young people in Britain are increasingly drawn to Islam and are ignorant or even contemptuous of Christianity and the Christian heritage of England. To understand the full import of what Bishop Nazir-Ali is saying below, one must understand that many British schools are actually Church of England schools run with state funding in which the teaching of religion is a school subject. In these schools and the state schools, the bishop suggests, Christianity is no longer presented as a viable option for today's youth, mainly due to the political incorrectness of such a view in a multi-faith society. The 2011 UK census recorded a continuing precipitous decline Christianity in the UK, particularly in adherence to the established Church of England, which could see Anglicanism become a minority faith in the land of its origin within a generation. Bishop Nazir-Ali's diagnosis of what ails the Church of England is that essentially it has "lost its salt" and has no voice with which to speak to secular England. There is a warning here for all church bodies in Western societies: churches which soften their teachings in order to blend in with secular society in the misguided attempt remain "relevant" actually accelerate their irrelevance.    

"British schools are helping to boost Islamism with politically correct lessons that tell black pupils that slavery was entirely the fault of English and Americans, and omit the long and vicious history of Arab slave trading, according to an influential Church of England bishop.In an exclusive interview for our Telegram podcast, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali – a Pakistani-born scholar who resigned as Bishop of Rochester in 2009 in order to train Christians facing persecution – says "the Churches have generally capitulated to secular culture and therefore cannot bring a distinctive voice to public debate".They have neglected human relations, especially the family, in favour of "welfarism" that teaches that the state should provide all the goods that citizens need. All this adds up to the slow death of people's sense of themselves as spiritual beings – and this affects "even people who go to church".Bishop Nazir-Ali, a theological conservative who opposes the ordination of actively gay clergy, is now president of Oxtrad, which "prepares Christians for ministry in situations where the Church is under pressure and in danger of persecution". He claims that, in addition to ignoring the current persecution of Christians in the Islamic world, secular Britain brushes aside historical evidence of Muslim aggression."If you ignore what really happened to give a lopsided view of history in the interests of political correctness, you can't blame [young] people if they move to something else that has a less critical view of itself," he says. Christianity appears so apologetic that students naturally gravitate towards self-confident Islam. Meanwhile, "the Churches' engagement with the secular world becomes capitulation to it".As an example of political correctness in schools, the bishop discusses the way black pupils are taught about slavery.He says: "If you teach black people from African or the Caribbean that slavery was perpetrated on them [only] by England and the whites in the United States, they are then given a narrative that Islam is the great liberator from slavery – without mentioning that the Arab slave traders were on the east coast of Africa and West Africa before the British and the Americans."You are never told about how in the attempt to end the slave trade, the evangelicals from the Churches were opposed by Arab slave traders. I have walked along the path that Livingstone took, and as churches were built along that path the Arab slave traders were burning them down."Religious education in British schools offers "a smorgasbord approach in which you set out all the exotic things that people can taste but you don't give them a vantage point from which to assess what they are experiencing," says Bishop Nazir-Ali.""It would have been quite possible to take the Christian faith as a point of departure for studying other faiths in a constructive and open way, but this is not being done, so you can't blame young people for growing up without any kind of orientation."

Text from Damien Thompson's blog. The interview can be listened to here.


Damo said...

I think freedom of speech or multifaith options should end at the classroom door,I Think Kids need to be taught what they aught to believe and not a smorgasboard of what they might believe,and the only Good basis for what they aught to believe is The Bible and the Christain Faith,

Stephen K said...

Pastor Mark, I think there’s both an injustice and a mistake in characterising the modern disenchantment with traditional or orthodox Christianity as due to the “softening” of doctrine: the injustice comes from the sweeping assertion that modernism is somehow about appeasement, and that everyone who rejects the traditional Christian vocabulary is somehow soft; and the mistake lies in thinking that the solution to secularism and modernism (by whatever name) is in stamping one’s foot up and down and insisting ever more rigorously on the traditional formulae.

Actually, modernism is hard, not soft: it flatly rejects the traditional religious definitions. It is not about appeasement of the unorthodox or unbeliever: it earnestly promotes a different kind of belief because it is the position people hold when they are no longer persuaded by the orthodox or traditional.

Why do people always assume that other people who reject their beliefs or system are either stupid, blind, wilful or dishonest? Why do they not acknowledge that what may seem perfectly coherent or relevant to them is not to others?

I don’t care for Mr Thompson’s waspish dismissals myself: he comes across as all sharp edge and no steel. But the bottom line is - as an example - he doesn’t persuade me.

Christianity comes in various shapes and sizes as you well know and its power for any given person lies in a mysterious confluence of events and experience that have Jesus as the centre or focus. Even people who see Jesus as a radical ethical revolutionary but not more, clearly feel the pull or fascination of him. If people wish, for themselves, to hold rigidly to a physical world where water changes to wine and five loaves and two fishes keep multiplying in the baskets and a stinking dead Lazarus is brought back to life, and, moreover, to insist that these things are the reason for having resurrectional hope (i.e. because they validate the belief in Jesus as God), then they must at least expect that many people are going to reject such a metaphysical regime. We live in one of several ages where things are questioned, doubted, not experienced, not what they seem to be. The least dedicated Christian traditionalists of all stripes could do to acknowledge is that their religious privilege is a sense and a product of their own conviction, without sensible existence outside of it.

I don’t insist traditionalists are wrong; I insist they are wrong to insist everyone else is.