Philobiblon: "The Death of Christian Britain"

Friday, October 22, 2004

"The Death of Christian Britain"

On a more cheerful note, I've just finished a fascinating book of this title, by C.G. Brown.

Its thesis is that what it calls the "secularisation" theory, that Britain, and indeed most of the West, has gradually been becoming less and less "Christian", a trend claimed to date back at least to the beginnings of industrialisation and significant urbanisation, is wrong.

Instead, it argues that while there was a significant change about 1800, when piety became "feminised", Christianity continued to have a stranglehold, in large part through its ability to define "respectable" femininity. In fact it was at its strongest in the first decade of the 20th century, and enjoyed a post-WWII resurgence that took it to only just below that peak again, a reflection of and adjunct to the attempt to push women back into the home.

This only, suddenly, broke down during the 1960s, with a "cultural revolution", which it lays down to "the pop record" and later feminism. It makes an interesting point: "The lyrics of all of the 49 songs copyrighted by the Beatles during 1963-4 were about boy-girl romance. Beatles lyrics then changed radically, with romance dropping to ... a mere 5 per cent of 1967 output ... displaced by lyrical themes influenced by amongst other things the anti-war movement, drugs, nihilism, existentialism, nostalgia and eastern mysticism." (p. 178)

It quotes the Moral Welfare Committee of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, which initially was quite optimistic about sexual permissiveness: "If the sanctions of commandment and convention are gone, people are set free to respond to goodness for its own sake ... not by the fear of lost respectability." Finally, however, it concluded: "It is the promiscuous girl who is the real problem here." (p. 180)

The book says, broadly, the church was right in that conclusion. Go girl!

(Routledge, 2001)


Anonymous Dion Muntz said...

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1/07/2006 01:36:00 pm  

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