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Book of lamentations: An intimate look at Anglicanism
The Economist ^ | Nov 2012 | Economist

Posted on 12/04/2012 2:32:38 AM PST by Cronos

TO ENGLISHMEN of Roger Scruton’s 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 Larkin’s 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 Scruton’s work has a spurtive, poetic quality to it. Justifications of Anglican doctrine lie beside the author’s 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 pauper’s 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.” Larkin’s churchgoer only enters the church “Once I am sure there’s nothing going on”. Mr Scruton, a man prone to bouts of lamentation, has produced a delightfully short chronicle of the church’s decline. But in telling the history of tiffs, fudges and rifts, he only leaves the reader thinking: well, no wonder.


TOPICS: Current Events; Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: anglican
Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England. By Roger Scruton. Atlantic; 199 pages; £20. To be published in America in February; $32.95. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

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....

1 posted on 12/04/2012 2:32:43 AM PST by Cronos
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To: Cronos

Another great topic treated by Roger Scruton.


2 posted on 12/04/2012 3:31:42 AM PST by ConservativeDude
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