Nelson Jones–God's Peculiar People, the question of British identity and the established Church

These days relatively few people in the UK, whatever their religious affiliations, feel much attachment to this style of Protestant identity, or if they do it is one of nostalgia rather than of belief. It’s no accident that some of the strongest supporters of the King James Bible are atheists like Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens. As for anti-Catholicism, that is going out of fashion even in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the fierce attachment of Ulster unionists to traditional expressions of Protestant British identity have long been a source of bemusement and embarrassment on the mainland. That version of Britishness now seems frankly un-British to most Brits, whose remaining anti-Catholic instincts are sated by laughing at some papal pronouncement on birth control or observing the (let’s face, it, deserved) predicament of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Modern Britain is, of course, secular (indeed irreligious) in tone and institutionally committed to embracing many different faiths. Indeed, Catholic Emancipation in 1829, when most of the laws discriminating against Catholics were done away with, can be seen as the first of many steps away from a Protestant society and towards a multi-faith one. Only a bare majority of the population now describe themselves as Christian; increasingly “None” has begun to replace “C of E” as the default option of the unsure when asked about their religious affiliation. Millions of us no longer know the words to once-familiar hymns or have more than the basic knowledge of Christian doctrines. It’s unlikely that Michael Gove’s generous gift of a King James Bible to every school in the land will do much to stem the tide of apathy.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

2 comments on “Nelson Jones–God's Peculiar People, the question of British identity and the established Church

  1. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Well, it has to be said that the Church of England is considerably less Protestant than it was in my youth. We have seen the rise of the liberal catholics into a stranglehold on the hierachy. They are useless at bringing people into church, but they are able politically at hijacking the efforts of other people. They seem to have their sights set on HTB at the moment.

    Since my youth, ‘Parish Communion’ has been brought in to many churches which used to have morning prayer [Matins]. You will find references to saints and Mary, even as the prayers are for the ‘inclusion’ of all people. It is disjointed and dysfunctional, and has had the unfortunate side effect that if there is a shortage of priests, that services are in trouble, because you need a priest in order to have a Sunday full of communion services. With 40 percent of clergy retiring in the next 10 years this is now coming home to roost.

    Nowadays, you get one or two bible readings if you are lucky, rather than the rich mix of OT, NT, Epistle and a couple of psalms of the old morning prayer service.

    At the other end, the charismatics have come in with their Pentecostalist experientialism. Again there are fewer bible readings, no liturgy, save for fun now and again and as a new ‘experience’ for people.

    The Church of England is less Protestant, because they really do not know what the word means, and if they don’t, then why should people in general society? You can thank Rowan Williams and his black shirts for that.

  2. MichaelA says:

    [blockquote] “By speaking out on behalf of faith, forming alliances with other churches and religious groups, it risks losing that comforting and liberal image that has, until now, made it a source of national unity rather than division. It risks losing that vague connection with the people without which it ceases to be in any proper sense a national church and becoming once more a bastion of religious conservatism and even prejudice.” [/blockquote]
    Typical self-serving tripe from the New Statespersun. If the Church of England follows the advice of NS, its extinction is guaranteed – the warning signs are already there.

    If it wants to survive CofE needs to go even further down the road that frightens NS: speak out strongly on moral issues, make alliances with other Christian groups (which really just means speaking out together with them on important issues) and take a public stand for faith. That will bring in far more parishioners, and far more public support, than it will ever lose.

    One simple example should prove the point: Who has more public support, the Queen or the Archbishop of Canterbury? And which one of them has a more traditional attitude to religion.