Saturday, 18 September 2004

Saturday papers

Both The Times and the Telegraph report today that more young people in Britain believe in horoscopes than in the Bible.

Ruth Gledhill Horoscopes are new religion

Jonathan Petre The young put their faith in mysticism

Both The Times and the Guardian have columns by Rabbi Jonathan Romain (it is Jewish New Year): God, belief and action and The Bible is not a divine puzzle for our leisure time while the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times about Compassion has to coexist with a sense of human responsibility

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about St Theodore If anyone should be patron of racial harmony it is Theodore

and the Guardian has a report about another piece of Anglican history:
Defrocked rector was ‘unfairly vilified’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 September 2004 at 10:06 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Who’s surprised that “the young” prefer New Age junk to the Church?

The Church once had a corner on mysticism—churches filled with dim religious light, spooky thrilling rituals in fancy dress, the Jesus Prayer, the poetry of St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa in Ecstasy. But ever since I was young, the Church has done everything in its power to divest itself of all that juicy stuff in order to appeal to what used to be called Modern Secular Man and, in particular, to win “young people” whom it plied with guitar masses and wholesome youth group activities.

People enjoy religion—they want that thrill, the spookiness, the exotic, the elaborate mythology and symbolism. The Church ditched religion so people look for it elsewhere.

Posted by: anonymous at September 18, 2004 09:16 PM

I could not agree more with the comments of the first post by anonymous. AMEN! I live in the U.S., am turning 40 this year, and consider myself on the leading edge of Generation X, if not exactly young.

Here, a recent advertisement for the highly caffeinated and obnoxiously sweetened (even by U.S. standards) soft drink, “Mountain Dew”, juxtaposed monks in a monastery singing Gregorian Chant with a rock band at ear-splitting volume. Neither of these options are found in the modern church which seems to favor easy-listening pop rock for baby boomers. Fine for those who like
that sort of thing, but of limited appeal.

The films of interest to the young have included the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Arthurian sagas. The recent “Matrix” franchise also employs a lot of quasi-religious mystical vocabulary, although not necessarily with any vision behind it. I see the popularity of the Davinci Code in part as a thirst for a richer symbolic religious language than the language developed out of the modern reform movements of the 60s and 70s. Or possibly even of a revival of supernatural religion itself.

The modern church seems to give the impression that no one believes this mystical and supernatural stuff anymore and so we should explain it away or just junk it outright.

If so, then what a terrible loss of nerve. If Christianity is just ethics with pretty language, then one may as well read the Greek philosophers instead. They knew a lot about living life.

If not, then what a terrible job we do in expressing ourselves in any medium besides the press release and the newsletter - not exactly youth-friendly forums.

It seems today that if only the youth knew about the long tradition of Christian mysticism and the ritual that expresses it, the more the young would be involved with the church.

It seems that the new interest in fantasy / the supernatural is somewhat Romantic, in the same sense as the interest in medieval times during the 19th century. The latter was a response to the social upheaval of the industrial revolution and a longing for “the way things used to be”. It spawned the Gothic revival in church architecture and was one force that give rise to the ritual practices of the Catholic Revival (together with Tractarian interest in the ancient church and Catholic doctrine).

Given the social upheaval today, and the sense of isolation from any traditional structures on the part of the young, and the renewed popular interest in the supernatural, it seems the time is right for a revival of mysticism and ritualism in the church on a large scale.

Posted by: Rob at September 20, 2004 06:35 PM
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