* By Lounge Lizard
A few days ago, the Anglican Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali warned that Christianity in the UK had collapsed.
He said that in its place, Britain had become gripped by the doctrine of "endless self-indulgence" which had led to the destruction of family life, rising levels of drug abuse and drunkenness and mindless violence on the streets.
The bishop warns that the modern politicians' catchphrases of respect and tolerance will not be strong enough to prevent this collapse of traditional virtues, and said radical Islam is now moving in to fill the void created by the decline of Christianity.
The decline of the Anglican Communion almost everywhere except Africa has been extraordinary.
According to the 2006 Census, Anglicans now comprise only 12.1% of the population of Melbourne. In the UK, an editorial in The Church of England Newspaper noted that if present trends continue, England will be an Islamic nation in thirty years time, which moved Mark Steyn to remark:
Strange to witness one of the oldest and most successful of nations commit suicide without even being aware of what it's doing.
Of course, it's not just the Anglicans. The decline of the Uniting Church in Australia has been massive. When it was formed in 1977 by way of a merger between the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational denominations, it was a major denomination. However, by the time of the 2006 census, those claiming to be affiliated to it had declined to a mere 5.7% of the population. It is not without relevance that over the years many of its leaders engaged in left-of-centre political and social activism. One senior office-holder, the Rev. Dorothy McRae-McMahon, proclaimed that she was living in a lesbian relationship and asserted that this had God's blessing.
Nothing seems to restrain some churchmen from jumping onto whatever social activist bandwagon is currently in fashion, the latest being "climate change." The Very Rev Gordon Mursell, Bishop of Stafford, recently compared people who ignore the effects of climate change to the Austrian child sex monster Josef Fritzl. In Australia, Bishop George Browning of the Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn has opined that "Jesus had an awful lot to say about the rich taking what belonged to the poor and the heritage of children, and as he spoke about both these things, he spoke about climate change" and that "People of belief should be in the vanguard of this movement." Is this a drift from Christianity to neo-pantheism?
All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible.
It is clear that among many of the young and idealistic in the West, this new secular religion has replaced Christianity.
When I lived in Los Angeles in 1970, I was surprised to find that my local free suburban newspaper carried numerous advertisements for fortune tellers of one kind or another, readers of tea leaves, tarot cards or palms, spiritualists who could commune with the dead and various other oddball religious types. There they all were, competing for space with advertisements for garden services and adult bookshops. In those days, there was nothing like it in Australia.
It struck me then that when you abandon traditional religion, its place is immediately taken by cults and superstitions. Today, it strikes me that in a desire to remain "relevant", the churches themselves are in the forefront of this abandonment.
Marketing people tell us that it is essential to convey the idea that your product or service is different from its competitors. The churches cannot promote current ecological fashions, conveying the same message although trying to dress it up in slightly different clothes, without detracting from what was previously their core message. The wages for substituting trendy social activism for religion is irrelevancy.
Dr Nazir-Ali may oppose the English church's capitulation to fashionable multicultural mush, but most churchmen support its insidious embrace, as demonstrated recently by the appointment of a bishop for "Urban Life and Faith", whose remit is to "encourage and resource partnerships between the Church of England, Government and other national agencies working to improve the quality of life and well-being of urban communities" and "help in developing work with ecumenical partners and other faiths."
This tender concern for everything other than Christianity has led to a major dispute within the church between the majority in the current hierarchy and a minority who still want to promote the core Christian message. The London Telegraph of May 26 carried a report entitled Church of England row over Muslim conversion:
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, accused the Church of failing in its duty to "welcome people of other faiths" ahead of a motion at July's General Synod in York urging a strategy for evangelising Muslims.
However, his comments were condemned by senior figures within the Church. The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the former Bishop of Hulme and the newly appointed Bishop of Urban Life and Faith, said: "Both the Bishop of Rochester's reported comments and the synod private members' motion show no sensitivity to the need for good inter-faith relations. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are learning to respect one another's paths to God and to live in harmony. This demand for the evangelisation of people of other faiths contributes nothing to our communities."
A Church of England spokesman added: "We have a mission-focused Christian presence in every community, including those where there are a large number of Muslims. That engagement is based on the provisions of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought, conscience and religion."
It is extraordinary that the Church supports the proposition that its missionary efforts must now be subject to conventions which are, at their root, the product of an intellectual elite that is at best neutral towards Christianity and at worst hostile towards it.
As The Currency Lad, a blogger who happens to be a Christian, states in a recent post on this issue:
If this attitude is entrenched enough to become the socio-theological norm in the Church of England, it follows the communion will become a dead branch of Christianity. .....evangelisation in the great urban centres of late antiquity was a major factor in the growth of Christianity. The very word pagan, in fact, derives from a description of heathen country bumpkins. To replace even the desire for true faith evangelisation with syncretistic multiculturalism would indicate the hillbillies are now running Church of England Town.
It is a tragedy of our time that the Anglican Church now appears to be rotten at its very core, although that is only to be expected when it has a holy fool as its purported leader.
* Lounge Lizard is a consultant with qualifications in accounting, finance and business management and experience ranging from the design of accounting systems to the privatisation of government business enterprises. Now winding down to retirement, he may often be found relaxing in a deep armchair at his club, where he is always willing to provide sound advice on matters social, economic and political to those less well informed. If provoked, he may transmogrify into a Right-Wing Death Beast, in which form he is a danger to all post-modernists, cultural relativists and lefties generally lurking in the vicinity. When this happens, such benighted souls are advised to flee or risk a nervous breakdown from their inability to counter the incontrovertible logic and factual accuracy of his arguments.