Post-Christian Society in the UK

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Or, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”
by Anya Glew

I THINK we all heard the words of the former Archibishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who described the UK as a “post-Christian country”, and said that the era of widespread worship was over. This subject was covered in The New Scientist issue of 3rd May, and I found their article to be very thought-provoking.

For example, the author of the article writes: “It is clear that the UK’s past was dominated by Christianity – with a strong streak of paganism – but its present is non-religious. Just under half of British adults profess no religious affiliation; Christians of all denominations are in a minority. That drift away from religion is an interesting phenomenon. The UK isn’t becoming a country of committed atheists. Most of the unaffiliated neither accept nor reject religion: they simply don’t care about it”.

These statements made me think about the position of the Christian church in the UK, and although this subject is very big and cannot be covered in a short article, I decided to share some of my thoughts with you.

First of all, I remembered the words which God said to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3): “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. I believe that this idea could illustrate that indifference towards the Christian religion which we are observing now in the society.

Unfortunately, indifference sometimes is much worse than an active opposition. I think that a person who is dynamically and passionately moving in one direction can be turned to move into another direction – at least he is moving and has a deep interest in the idea of moving! I am talking about the above-mentioned “committed atheists”.

Let’s take the example of Paul: he was proactively persecuting Christians, but after the destiny-changing meeting with God (“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”), he turned in the opposite direction and started serving God with the same level of energy. I personally don’t have any clear ideas about how we should deal with this religious indifference, but I think we as Christians should take a closer look at this issue and try to understand the reasons behind it.

Still, the main reason why I decided to write this article is that I want to try and encourage myself and my Christian friends in the UK. The Telegraph wrote that “Calling Britain ‘post-Christian’ will only discourage the faithful”. Indeed, the very term “post-Christian” has quite a negative connotation. Something that was present has now gone to past. It can certainly cause some frustration and discouragement.  Which is the last thing we need – so, to encourage us all I decided to give you one example from the history, which, as we all sometimes say, repeats itself.

The Russian Empire (which included my native Ukraine, Georgia and other modern countries) in 1917: the communists, led by Lenin, overthrew the monarchy and declared the rule of communism. Prior to that, the position of the Christian church was very strong: there were many churches, which were attended by many people.  After the 1917 revolution thousands of churches were destroyed, a huge number of priests were arrested or executed (in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed, many more were persecuted.)

The new leaders of the country (the USSR) believed Marx’s idea that “religion is the opium of the people”, and that the authorities must promote “scientific and materialistic view of the world.” “Science” was counterposed to “religious superstition” in the media and in academic writing. As part of the “secularisation” of the society, in December 1917 the Communist Party introduced a civil marriage into the society. Does it look similar to something we are observing now?

I know that there are a lot of differences between Russia in 1917 and the UK in 2014. However, there are a lot of similar features which could constitute the idea of a “post-Christian” society in the USSR.  So to me it looks like it’s not a totally new situation. The good news is that the Christian church there, albeit having few member and living “underground”, survived through more than 70 years of the Communist regime and is now getting strong again.

I suspect that the number “70” might spoil my attempt to encourage you – nevertheless, I believe (and you might correct me here) that God didn’t tell us to create a Christian society in the country where we live, but He told us to be a part of His church: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27), and I believe that He will lead His church (the body of Christ) through  any social and historical changes it faces today.


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