So, we are told, 40% of people surveyed think Jesus is mythical. It made me wonder about the survey – surely it couldn’t be all the old ‘regulars’ on the old Holy Smoke site on the Telegraph, where we used to have a variety of folk opining to that effect, quite often waxing eloquently about Bronze Age Goatherds and ‘sky fairies’? Probably not, but if so, it indicates that they were just the tip of an iceberg of ignorance so vast that one is tempted to wonder how it got so large? As an old school-master, I can say a little to that brief.
When I started back in the early sixties, every day started, as required by law, with an ‘act of Christian worship’. And it was Christian. Our head was a Methodist lay preacher, and he did a grand job, always giving the boys a five minute sermon of great wisdom; he was a wise old bird and had been dealing with boys since the late 1920s; he knew what interested them and how to get across to them – his piece on ‘God the great umpire’ always went down well with the sporty boys – as well as getting across to them the importance of ‘fair play’. By the time I’d finished just over a decade ago, it was more of an act, with not much worship about it, and nothing really Christian. That reflected the way it went generally. The plain fact was that by the end, and really from some point in the late 70s, the number of active Christians in my old profession went into decline. Religious Education teaching was always the poor relation at College, and the fact that I did it as a ‘minor’ so to say, meant I ended up teaching as much of it as I did my own subject – English latterly.
At least as worrying as the figure of 40% not believing Jesus existed, was the statistic that folk talking to other folk about their faith was liable to put them off it. I think if someone adopted the language of one of the clergy quoted in the article about ‘journeys into faith’, I’d be put off, so one piece of advice would be to the effect that the language of the ‘new evangelisation’ sounds like gobbledygook to most ordinary folk. If you can’t answer the question of what it is you need to be saved from and why Jesus is the answer, you are not getting to first base. Christianity is not a branch of psychotherapy, neither is it the route to a quiet life or to riches. In a world devoted to materialism, it is not surprising that many don’t understand Christianity.
In all of this there is a question hovering – what have the churches not done which has created this situation? The article comes close to suggesting it is better to say nothing, as that outs off fewer people – but I don’t think you can spread the Gospel by thought and mime. Whatever the Churches have been doing, it has failed in many ways if the situation is as described. But I don’t think that is fair, as it ignores the Evangelicals in every church who are the ones who have not only kept the flame alive, but spread it. So, perhaps the piece os just more click-bait from a newpaper which used to be worth reading.