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Shore ChapelIn his post What has gone Wrong?Chalcedon told us that the Bishop of Durham noted in 1928 that

I was reading (as one does) some addresses given by the Bishop of Durham in 1928 to his diocese. In it he laments the way in which cries of ‘equality’ are leading some to try to force the issue of women’s ordination on the Church. Foreseeing the day in which women will take on a more active political role, he makes two points: the first is that such women will not be much interested in being wives and mothers, which would mean that ‘the feminine influence which will be brought into English public life will not be the best’; and that it will lead to a ‘collapse of elementary morality’. How, he wondered, in a public disengaging from Christian knowledge, would it be possible for people to understand the real, theological objections, to the idea?

His second worry was the declining number of vocations. In 1914 Durham had had 238 assistant curate; by 1928 it had 96. During that period the number of working clergy had fallen by 142. The old ways in which the Church had kept in touch with the people, through house to house visits, was declining and must, he thought, decline further; and Church Schools, the other main point of contact, were also ceasing to be informed by a Christian ethos. Parson were, he lamented, becoming merely minister of a congregation, not of their parishes.

That  certainly rings bells with us doesn’t it, Catholic or Protestant? it’s pretty much what we’ve been saying for the last sixty years.(seems like forever though. doesn’t it?) Chalcedon’s point, and mine as well, is that these problems aren’t the result of Vatican II (although it may have exacerbated them) or even  Lambeth, which overturned the traditional Protestant teaching on contraception and such.

Historically the Protestant churches were much more pro-family than the Roman church ever was, that was one of the reasons for the (near) end of monasticism in our churches. An easy example, more than ten per cent of the women getting married in pre-revolution New England were already pregnant. Yep. Right there in the heart of Puritan-land.

Writing in The Guardian on 14 April 2015 Andrew Brown says this:

The British have lost faith in religion much faster and more completely than they have lost faith in God. The most recent survey to show this comes from Win/Gallup, which found that Britain appeared one of the most irreligious countries on earth, with only 30% calling themselves “religious”. On the other hand, only 13% said they were atheist – compare this with the Chinese figure of around 60%. It may be that the English, especially, regard atheism as a kind of religion, or at least a manifestation of an unhealthy interest in religious questions. But I think that the explanation is more complex. British Christianity is in trouble because Britain itself is disappearing.

Immigrant religion is still thriving here, whether it is Christian or Muslim. But that is because it has an entirely different relationship to the surrounding culture.

The second sort is not about conscious belief at all, but about assumptions: the things that everybody knows are true without ever needing to think about them. […]

For the past two or three hundred years, at least since the civil war, most British Christianity has been like that. Then, in the last 50 years, it fell off a cliff. In the last 30 years alone attendance at mainstream churches has just about halved. The way this has happened is also important: adults did not stop going to church, but they failed to transmit the habit to their children and now they are dying out. The culture has changed and the Christianity which was so deeply rooted in the old culture has had its roots torn up.

Without disputing his facts, because I think they’re likely close to correct, I think his analysis superficial; this came from somewhere.

I suspect some came from the heated dispute between the Protestant and the Anglo-Catholic branches of the Anglican communion, particularly around the turn of the twentieth century when the Protestant branch tried to use political power to suppress the Anglo-Catholics. in many ways it sounds more like a loss of faith in the Established Church than anything else. But it’s more than that as well, because it is affecting all Europe and to a somewhat lesser extent the United States as well.

So what did it? On Jess’ post Epithets and Wars, Francis made the comment:

[…]It has long been my opinion that Western society and culture suffered a collective nervous breakdown when faced, in 1914–1918, with the hideous reality of what its much-vaunted civilised values had led it to. And while the worst of that breakdown was to be played out in the political sphere, it was artists (in every field) who most clearly reflected it. Dadaism and Surrealism may seem to have little in common with Kipling, but (in the pieces you have quoted) there is the same fundamental loss of faith in everything which had been an unquestioned reference point in the pre-WWI world.

And we are still living with that cultural/ideological nervous breakdown. Western Christianity survived that breakdown longer than most other elements of the culture, but is now in headlong collapse as the consequences of that breakdown catch up with it. Those of us who reject the new value system which is our society’s misguided attempt at a coping mechanism are in for a rough ride.

If she’s right, and I think it a fairly strong possibility, what we are seeing is not some crisis of faith in God or even the churches, as it is simply a loss of confidence in ourselves, our societies, and especially our so-called leaders.

That it would happen about a generation after our societies tore themselves apart for the second time in thirty years is not really all that surprising, is it?

So maybe we again come back to Yeats’ and The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Perhaps Churchill’s “small men and great events” did more damage than we could perceive.