Christianity free Cathedrals

During a recent tour of Salisbury Cathedral a blogger noticed that not once was there any mention of Christianity or of Jesus as the motivation behind the creation of the extraordinary edifice. That noticeable lack of conversation about religion and about Christianity in England is suggested as part of a much larger problem that is contributing to a sea-change in morality in England.

Ron Dreher, in his BeliefNet column “Crunchy Con” writes of the situation in England:

Even in political conversations that haven’t touched on religion explicitly, people have told me that the binge drinking and public drunkenness, and the inability of the legal system to stand up to crime, is eating away at the confidence ordinary English people have in their country and its culture. I keep having a depressing number of Dalrymplian discussions with decent English folk who feel as if things are falling apart, and nobody knows what to do about it.

Many of the Christians I’ve spoken to are bitter about what they regard as the moral cowardice of the clergy in the face of the social crisis overtaking Britain. One fed-up Anglican I talked to here back in June said that the clergy are all knotted up over homosexuality, while the Church of England is about to go under for good. I don’t even know where this particular Anglican stood on the question of homosexuality per se; he was appalled, though, that the Christian faith in England seemed to be on its last legs, and the establishment showed no real sense of crisis, or how things might be turned around. Similarly, I spoke with a Christian the other day who observed that church attendance in his city had dwindled to nearly nothing, but that the city’s bishop spent his time campaigning overseas for fashionable Third World causes. This Christian indicated to me that it’s not that these causes were bad in themselves, but rather that this particular bishop was uninterested in caring for and evangelizing among his own withering flock, which struck this Christian as simply nuts.

“Why is it that the young women of this country dress like Paris Hilton?” one older woman said to me the other day. The gentleman at our table said that something has happened to their country in the past 10 years, in which young British people seem to be losing their moorings. Later, we walked past a nightclub in a fashionable part of town, relatively early in the evening. There were 30 or 40 young people outside smoking (you can’t smoke inside British clubs and pubs anymore). Every single one of the women looked like streetwalkers. I mean it, they really were wearing get-ups that only a short time ago would have marked them as prostitutes. One of my companions said as we approached the group, “It’s early yet, but in a few hours, this corner will be full of drunks fighting and yelling and breaking glass.” Mind you, this was in the town’s high street, near expensive shops.

What struck me about my companion’s remark was not so much the observation itself but the manner in which he made it. It was calm and even-tempered, but that made it all the more affecting in my hearing. That tone said to me: We’re losing this country, and may have already lost it.

Now mind you, the accusation that the Church of England has nothing to say to the real ills of English society is frequently echoed in criticism of the Episcopal Church’s lack of real engagement with American society.

Is this a fair criticism of either? If so, what should we be doing instead?

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