My friend Keri Williams (whose excellent blog I recommend highly) pointed me to a link which made the prefect even of holiday topic. According to a recent survey, more people in the UK believe in aliens than believe in God. My immediate reaction was rather similar to that of my co-author Chalecdon when the hymn ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ is played in his church.
The I looked at it, and the ‘research’ was commissioned by a video-game company, and it was only of 1300 or so Britons, but it is, we are assured, representative of British opinion:
Nick Pope, formerly of the British Government’s Ministry of Defense UFO Project, said he believes the survey results. “Just 20 years ago, religion was a huge part of life in the U.K., and this shows just how much attitudes have changed,”
Well, that last part is certainly right, alas. Quite how accurate it is to say that more believe in aliens than in God might be a moot point, but that belief in God has declined, is declining, and is set to go on declining seems absolutely plain. Yet, in the most recent national census, more than 37 million people in England and Wales identified themselves as Christian, and there are more than 184 ‘religious affiliations’ listed. So there is some disjunction somewhere, as that is about two thirds of the people in the country.
Some of the discrepancy comes from the fact that census forms ask you to put your religion, and many seem to write in ‘Christian’ without ever darkening the doors of a church. But to me, in an optimistic frame of mind, that suggests that there is no great opposition to the Faith, simply an ignorance of it. It suggests that however many people believe in aliens, there are more with a residual belief in God, even if they do not know much about Him or what He does and is.
Having committed myself to some work in evangelisation, that is an encouragement. But it does raise a question to which I have no answer. Why have our churches let it reach this state? What have they been doing – or rather, what have they not been doing – and why?
When I read of the work of the great John Wesley, and of other preachers of the past, I wonder where they are today, and where their latter-day successors have vanished to? Is it simply that our modern churches feel too unconfident in their own beliefs that they do not try to evangelise for Christ? If they remain on the backfoot, hoping for some hole and corner existence where they are allowed to eke out their lives in peace, that is what they will get – if they are lucky. But how unlike the Apostles is that?
Andrew and John did not know what baptism they would have to undergo in Christ, but they followed Him and drank of that cup. St. Paul endured all for His Lord. We endure so little in the West, and think, sometimes, we are persecuted. We aren’t, not really, because no one takes us seriously enough to do that to us.
There is a great mission field out there in the UK – and all those people who believe in aliens are part of it.