Skip to comments.Book of lamentations: An intimate look at Anglicanism
Posted on 12/04/2012 2:32:38 AM PST by Cronos
TO ENGLISHMEN of Roger Scrutons generation (he is 68), religion was as unmentionable as sex or love or hygiene. The clumsy soul who stops by a country church in Philip Larkins 1955 poem, Church Going, speaks of an awkward reverence. This seems to be what Anglicanism means for many: God, as depicted in church services, is an Englishman, uncomfortable in the presence of enthusiasm, reluctant to make a fuss, but trapped into making public speeches, ..
Mr Scrutons work has a spurtive, poetic quality to it. Justifications of Anglican doctrine lie beside the authors thoughts on his village church. Literary quotations follow portraits of theologians, thinkers and architects. A short sketch of John Milton, would-be Royalist who abhorred authority, is placed next to a profile of Thomas Hobbes, a paupers son who promoted tyranny.
The church that emerges is not one that unifies the nation, as English historians commonly suppose. It splits the country, and then steadily loses supporters because of its middle-of-the-road Christianity. The Elizabethan religious settlement, sometimes hailed as a canny compromise that keeps the peace, does not prevent England being riven apart by religious conflict in the 17th century. The civil war is not purely a class struggle, says Mr Scruton. The most heated parliamentary squabbles were about faith and were inspired by faith, he says. The Book of Revelation was as poisonous in Stuart England as The Communist Manifesto was in Romanov Russia.
The Church of England, once professed to be katholikos (universal), soon became Anglicanism, one sect of many. Low-church revivalists like John Wesley disliked how comfortably clergymen lived in 18th-century England. High-church folk like John Henry Newman and Augustus Pugin, who helped design the Houses of Parliament, preferred sacraments and showy chapels. John Ruskin scorned Pugin for allowing himself to be stitched into a new creed by the gold threads on priests petticoats. Nevertheless, says Mr Scruton, Wesley and Newman were the two greatest apostles of Christ that the Church of England has produced, and it could contain neither of them.
Zealotry turned into apathy. As George Orwell wrote in 1941, The common people [of England] are without definite religious belief, and have been so for centuries. Larkins churchgoer only enters the church Once I am sure theres nothing going on. Mr Scruton, a man prone to bouts of lamentation, has produced a delightfully short chronicle of the churchs decline. But in telling the history of tiffs, fudges and rifts, he only leaves the reader thinking: well, no wonder.
from the article: As George Orwell wrote in 1941, The common people [of England] are without definite religious belief, and have been so for centuries. -- ever since Henry 8....
Another great topic treated by Roger Scruton.