March 07, 2006

Christianity and its Discontents

I've been watching with interest over the past few weeks and notice the amount of debate on Warwick Blogs about Christianity has been increasing quite steadily.

I'm guessing there's a few factors involved in this sudden interest:
– the Christian Focus week on campus this term
– delayed reaction to the Jerry Springer musical and the Danish cartoons
– evangelicalism and its increasing efficacy
– increased interest in the abortion issue

But I'm particularly interested by the number of TV documentaries studying the new role of Christianity in British society.

First there was Richard Dawkins' polemical The Root of All Evil? a couple of months ago – a programme I enjoyed, although it was hurrendously biased and could have been less one-sided. And yesterday evening was Rod Liddle's Dispatches documentary about evangelicalism and its role in the new City Academies.

Rod Liddle's documentary was probably a more accomplished piece, as it had a lot more journalistic rigour, and Liddle came at the subject as a Christian himself, albeit one worried by the rise of evangelical Christianity.

He noted the involvement of the owner of the Reg Vardy car dealership in City Academies in the North of England. There, the school ethos is driven by Vardy's Christian values, but in a slightly cynical fashion and also in a comprehensive school. The key problem here was that people within the school's catchment area that disliked its Christian principles had no alternative but to send their children there.

Exclusions at the school were sixteen times higher than any other local school, and evolution was taught alongside creationism, a practice which is technically illegal. Parents were understandably angry.

It wasn't so much a damning criticism of Christian beliefs as a criticism of the government's blatant scramble for cash that provided the motive for City Academies.

I don't think there's been a particular resurgence in the ability of Christian groups to spread their message, although the slow rise of evangelicalism is a notable long-term trend. So why is there this sudden reaction to a force that has been around for so long, and used to be such an integral part of British life?

I'd suggest that many of Christianity's critics are becoming more vocal now because there's a sense of urgency following the failure of multi-culturalism in the UK. For if cultures are to be successfully sewn together, wouldn't a neutralisation of religious beliefs enable greater cohesion?

Alternatively, is this attempt to neuter Christianity a way of making followers of other religions appear more radical to the casual observer?

I hope that if it is deliberate, then the neutralisation of religion in British society is because of the first reason, not the latter. But in attempting to soften the impact of Christianity, its critics need to remember that such a tactic may provide greater impetus for the more radical sections of that religion, notably evangelicals.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. I watched both programmes as well and thought they were equally biased. As someone who's been to a Catholic (ok so it's not evangelical) school I found a lot of Liddle's criticism to be unfounded and unconstructive, and the 'it's ok I can speak out I'm a Christian too' crap did not wash. For example, his portrayal of one little man protesting against the Jerry Springer Opera is dwarfed when we consider the cartoon protests on the streets of London last month containing placards demanding infidel's heads on plates. Why is Christianity so often singled out for attack while other religions are staunchly defended for worse behaviour? Because it is a dieing religion in this country, and everyone loves to kick something when it's down because they're not brave enough to do anything about the wider issues something like the rise of evangelical Christianity is symptomatic of.
    e.g. What was the slating of the no-sex-before-marriage movement all about? A totally sexually permissive society can be tied into a certain number of social issues and problems (teenage pregnancy and single parent families, an unstoppable rash of STDs, an unhealthy booze culture, etc). If religion can be used by young people as a refuge from peer pressure, then why discourage it? If he could have been constructive I might have had time for his opinions. Not to mention the fact that he was totally hypocritical in criticising things he was himself demonstrating through his utter condemnation.
    Phewph! Rant over

    08 Mar 2006, 02:02

  2. Robert Robinson

    I find it totally unpalitable that polticions and those in charge of political correctness have allowed there to be such a strong influence by a minority; the minority have become the majority by virtue of human rights.

    I am a Christian and I find that the portraail of Jesus in the GS stage show to be what one can say is offensive, how ironic, the media will not allow publication of mohammed, yet they slate and try to disprove Jesus who is as a matter of fact an historical figure by Jesephus.

    The CITV allowed the mother in my parents are aliens to be tied by herself to a 7 or 8 foot cross to only be told by her daughter that she ment cross aerobics. I find both G S and my parents are aliens to be offencive.

    If any body else saw this I would advise you to get in contact with OFCOM, my email is

    21 Mar 2006, 15:53

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