Tuesday 2 May 2017

What Christian church for an Englishman? A personal view

William Wildblood has written a thought-provoking piece at his Meeting the Masters blog


which covers a lot of ground but contains the following observation

Each religion has its own mythology and really you cannot adopt this. It has to be part of you, and that is definitely the case where Hinduism is concerned. I do think you have to be Indian to be a Hindu. Traditionally that is the case anyway. To be sure, you can take the philosophical aspect and leave the mythical side alone but then you will remain outside the religion as a whole so your interaction with it will always be slightly, or even very, artificial. It will be like reading a poem in translation. Of course, you can get something from it but you are not reading the real poem.

This set me thinking about a similar thing I feel about Christian churches in relation to England; and in this I can only speak personally about how things seem to me.

A few years ago I was set to become Eastern Orthodox - specifically Russian; but I changed my mind. There were several reasons; but one was that it felt like an exotic alien import, and I could not shake-off a feeling that it was 'artifical' and my participation had an element of play-acting about it.

I feel rather similarly about even Roman Catholicism. Probably due to the period when the church was more-or-less suppressed in England; Roman Catholicism - here-and-now - has what seems to me a non-English and alien flavour; emphasised by the fact that so many of its priests and religious have been either Irish, or else trained abroad.

Englishness is a major reason why I stuck with the Church of England for some years, despite that it is a substantially corrupt, secular and overall anti-Christian organisation - it simply feels more natural, and I don't feel self-conscious about it.

At present I don't attend any church regularly - but the one I am associated-with is a kind of 'dissident' C of E conservative evangelical church - always at loggerheads with the hierarchy, but trying to hold-onto its Anglican heritage (which nowadays involves mostly working with theologically-traditional Bishops from Africa, Asia and South America).

There are of course other English churches with roots going back some hundreds of years, sometimes to the Reformation - but most of these are liberalised and secularised (e.g. Quakers, Methodists, most Baptists).

The situation with churches is a microcosm of the larger social scene - all the traditional English institutions have been, in past decades, in effect hollowed-out from within - and their vocational leadership replaced by Leftist quasi-political careerist managers and public relations consultants. (Mostly Franco/ Euro-philes and anti-Brexit - to boot!)

My spiritual hopes are located in the past and the future - but not the present; nonetheless it is in the present that I must live and function; and I have concluded, eventually, that church affiliation - while potentially helpful in many ways, is not essential for a serious Christian.

I feel myself aligned with the likes of the poet Blake, Owen Barfield, William Arkle, and William Wildblood; as unorthodox Christians apparently having the destiny of ploughing a mostly solitary furrow; sustained mainly by reading, thinking, prayer and meditation - and a spiritual rather than social communion.

Working, by various means, for a future imagined, ideal and genuinely English Christianity.



William Wildblood said...

That’s illustrious company you’ve put me in there, Bruce! But seriously I do think there are a lot of people nowadays who would love to find true church standing for a real spiritual religion but can’t because, as you so rightly say, ‘most English churches with historical roots are liberalised and secularised.’ That sums up my feelings on this matter.

But perhaps in order to develop our own spiritual sensibility from within this is a necessary part of the process of divinization. Little external support and no community to sustain us means we must work harder if we want to make the grade. We must work harder but might make correspondingly greater progress. Or we might not but the opportunity is there.

Don said...

There is a real thirst for Christian companionship that is difficult to find alone. I am naturally a loner but I know a peace when I do pray with others even saying a brief Our Father or Grace at dinner.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Don - There is much in that - but it is a long way from full engagement with a church.

David Balfour said...

I note that the LDS church is not considered as part of the discussion and I am curious why it does not stand as a clear and desirable contender among churches for modern western Christians. Perhaps it is an American religion but it certainly has universal appeal and has grown well multinationally including UK.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David- I don't know enough to comment on that question.