Readers feedbacks are always welcome. Simply because they are never dull.
Columnists may moan occasionally about the size of their mailbox or the mailbag, but the truth is we like it really.
It reminds us that someone out there is reading our views on life and whatever else we write about, however trivial they are, and bothering to respond. One mail I recently got from a reader in Cameroon said that “ I may not always agree with you, but your articles on President’s Obama to Africa and your take on Roman Catholicism were very informative “.
Another mail that comes to mind is one from a Chadian living in Brussels. He wanted to know why I have not kept to my earlier promises of writing about China, religion in Britain and several other subjects I had mentioned and promised to write about over the past few months. I felt embarrassed.
But there were plenty of encouraging and sometimes entertaining letters and emails. Sure I had a couple of more cynical and rude mails, and last week, when I wrote about Catholicism, I had expected a sizeable mailbox. What I had not expected was the tsunami of correspondence attacking the death of Christianity in England, and the socials ills that is eating away the fabric of British society.
I must say, that the correspondences were well informed and, provoking in their thoughts about the future of the United Kingdom. But one particular cheering email came from a Senegalese reader who recently converted into Christianity in Wales; which is part of the United Kingdom. She wanted to know “what has happened to the traditional church doctrine (in the United Kingdom) that European and American missionaries took to Mother Africa many years ago?”
She said her conversion had been a difficult adjustment in an environment that one witnesses daily, the eroding of the Christian faith more so, when her family remains devoted to Islam.
In England and Wales, church attendances are falling at traditional churches, but are booming in unlikely places, including the mosques across the country.
A recent research revealed that nearly two-thirds of teenagers in the United Kingdom don’t believe in God and think that reality television (African Idol or Big Brother) is far more important than religion.
The survey showed that 66 percent of teenagers, especially in England, do not believe a deity exists while 50 percent have never prayed and 16 percent have never been to church. Shockingly teenagers rated family, friends, money, music and even reality shows above faith.
According to another research conducted by the influential EU-Funded European Social Survey, Britain is one of the least religious nations in Europe.
The research revealed that only 12 percent of all Britons feel they “belong” to a church, compared with 52 percent in France. The report also found that the UK has one of the highest rates of “fuzzy faith”- or people who have an abstract belief in God and an ill-defined loyalty to Christian traditions
Professor David Voas, of Manchester University’s Institute for Social Change, who led the project, said the UK was involved in a “long process of disestablishment”, with Christianity being written out of laws and political institutions.
“Christian faith will soon have no role among our traditional establishments or lawmakers,” he said. “It remains to be seen for example, how much longer bishops will be allowed to sit in the House of Lords”.
He added: “Fuzzy faith is a staging post on the road to non-religion. Adults still have childhood memories of being taken to church, and they maintain a nostalgic affection for Christianity but that is dying out.
“They still go along with the some kind of religious identity but they’re not passing it on to the next generation, and people who aren’t raised in a religion don’t generally start one as adults.”
However, Professor Linda Woodhead, of Lancaster University, who is leading a long-term £8.5 million government research programme on the role of religion in society, dispute Prof Voas conclusions.
“Just because you’re not religious, it doesn’t mean you’re not spiritual or moral,” she said. “A lot of people simply don’t want to take the whole package of religion on board.
But the Professor has some strong backing from the establishment: the former head of the Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor earlier this year observed that Britain has become a pagan country, creating a vacuum in which people will believe in anything and everything.
“Christianity as a culture has been gravely diminished in this land,” the Cardinal said. However, the way in which Christian people had to face the new world did not mean the Christian voice has been vanquished.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who recently retired as the head of the Catholic Church in England will be first Archbishop of Westminster since the Reformation to retire, previous archbishops have died in office.
Another prominent conservative Church leader, The Rt Rev Michael Nazir Ali speaking about the cultural and social failings of the British society said that “Shakespeare or Milton could not have been written without the English translation of the Bible and the publication of the Common Prayer, while great paintings and pieces of music were inspired by Christianity and made to be showcased in churches and cathedrals”.
Yet he claimed that many today are ignorant of the religious background to our culture.
Dr Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, said: “What amazes me is how people in this country don’t take account of the brute fact that the bible and the prayer book have shaped so much of its literary and cultural achievements.
“Without the translation of the Bible into English and the creation of the prayer book, it would have been impossible to have a Donne or a Shakespeare or a Milton.
“Certainly with art, poetry and music, people aren’t exposed to the Biblical root of what has inspired people to create theses themes. There should be better interpretation of things.
“With music, you can listen to hour upon hour of Classic FM but nobody tells you what the piece means. A lot of this music was written for worship.
“Some reference to the act that it was written in the context of worship would be very welcome; otherwise this amnesia will make the culture more and more shallow.”
In defence of his argument, the bishop also pointed out that many modern artists and authors, regardless of their personal beliefs, use religious themes in their work. He cited as an example the Ian McEwan novel Atonement, later made into a film starring Keira Knightley, which takes its title from the Christian ideas of humans being recoiled with God through the death of Jesus Christ.
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali has also warned that the marginalisation of Christianity in British life has created a moral vacuum that radical Islam is threatening to fill. He argues that the policy of multi-culturalism, far from uniting society, has led to its further segregation by emphasising religious distinctiveness rather than integration.
In what many within the political and social establishments described as very “powerful”, Dr Nazil-Ali, said, the decline of Christianity produced a lack of “transcendental principles” which has left the door open for the “comprehensive” claims of radical Islam. The bishop said Christianity had knitted together a “rabble of mutually hostile tribes” to create British identity
He forcefully argued that the loss of what he called the Christian consensus had led to the breakdown of the family, abuse of drugs and alcohol and a loss of respect for other people within the British Society.
To challenge Dr Nazil-Ali’s position one has to proved that he is wrong that in fewer than 50 years, Britain has changed from being a society with an acknowledged Christian basis to one which is increasingly described by politicians and the media as “multifaith”
One reason for this is the arrival of large numbers of people of other faiths to the United Kingdom. Their arrival has coincided with the end of the Empire which brought about a widespread questioning of Britain’s role.
On the one hand, the British were losing confidence in the Christian vision which underlay most of the achievements and values of the culture and, on the other; they sought to accommodate the newer arrivals on the basis of a novel philosophy of “multiculturalism”.
“Multiculturalism means that people should be facilitated in living as separate communities, continuing to communicate in their own languages and having minimum need for building healthy relationship with the majority.
Next week I will tell you how these communities worship today in Britain….
By Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay Jnr