Everything is Bigger than Jesus in England

Randall Stephens

A review essay in the July 2 issue of the TLS is well worth the read (though it doesn't appear to be on-line). It gives some perspective on whatever counts as "secularization" in the United States. Theo Hobson discusses Cole Moreton's Is God Still an Englishman? How We Lost Our Faith (but Found New Soul); Peter Hitchens' The Rage Against God; Richard Harries' Faith in Politics: Rediscovering the Christian Roots of Our Political Values; and, weirdly, Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity.

"The English inhabit the ruins of the greatest national religion of modern times," argues Hobson. "The nation's exceptionally close fusion of religion and politics has been crumbling for nearly two centuries, but refuses to collapse and die. It still gives good pomp; the anointed monarch retains a sacramental buzz. This ruin cannot be repaired or restored without two centuries of liberalism being reversed. But nor can it be simply condemned: the country's constitution rests on it, as does English identity."

May 2008 essay in the Sunday Times began with these lines: "Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation, research published today suggests." Roughly 6% of the population attended church in 2006.

Theodicy anyone? How could a loving God allow England's team to go down in defeat year after year since 1966?

I like what William Butler Yeats had to say on compromise and hedging bets in the divine. "You know what the Englishman's idea of compromise is?" he wrote with a flourish of sarcasm. "He says, Some people say there is a God. Some people say there is no God. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two statements."