So why ‘Part 3′…? Well, I guess this is an extension of two blog posts I wrote back in 2008. So if you’re interested, you can read Part 1 and/or Part 2 here. Essentially, the blog posts focused on how Easter as a religious or spiritual festival had seemed to have completely disappeared, almost without it even being noticed.
I’m not the only one to think like this. An editorial in last week’s The Spectator noted much the same albeit from a seemingly much more ‘Christian’ point of view. For The Spectator though:
“Unlike Christmas, [Easter is] a story that doesn’t lend itself to much commercial fuss: no kings or presents. Easter is a story of sacrifice, torture, abandonment and death — and, through it all, triumph over that death. Even in the 21st century; despite all the chocolate eggs, Easter gives us pause.”
To be honest, I’m not sure that Easter gives many of us “pause”, a phrase that in itself sounds somewhat archaic.
“Christmas is ruined”
Noting that teenagers have a tendency to be over-dramatic, I didn’t panic. When she had calmed down, I asked her why it was ruined.
“Because our RS teacher told me that basically none of the Christmas story happened the way I thought it had…!”
She followed this up by non-ironically asking:
“Can you believe it…?”
This reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago about people’s understanding of the Christmas Story. In it, I asked how many people did not know that the ‘Christmas Story’ in the New Testament of the Bible is neither complete nor consistent across the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)?
It’s funny what things we seem to take on board without question as indeed those things also that we seem to think are ‘made up’. Take for instance today and the buzz about the potential end of the world as predicted by the Mayans however many years ago. Really, was it ever going to happen today? Probably not, but still – for some at least – there seems to be a sense of disappointment that ‘something’ didn’t happen. Remember Y2K anyone?
Whilst we seem to have a penchant for believing in our impending doom, whether a meteor colliding with the earth, a ‘Contagion-like’ plague killing us off or a zombie apocalypse being imminent, we don’t seem to apply the same rules to these as we do ‘religion’.
Having said that, there are some things that we seem to accept without question. Take for instance Christmas Day itself. According to Boney M, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ was born on Christmas Day. And as we know, that’s 25th December isn’t it?
In all honesty, probably not.
Research undertaken by scientists from a few years ago suggested that ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ was more likely to have been born on June 17th. As the Daily Mail reported it at the time:
“It may not be too late to send the presents back…”
Despite that, we don’t seem to have a campaign to have Christmas Day changed, especially not from the more zealous atheists and humanists who normally try and get everything changed that’s even tenuously religious. In fact, why don’t the atheists and humanists start a campaign to get Christmas re-branded as ‘Winterval’? Maybe they remember the Birmingham City Council farce from 1997. To be fair, no-one needs that all over again !
According to the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke, Caesar Augustus had issued a decree that a census should be undertaken across the entire Roman Empire. It was against this backdrop that Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem: most will know what happened next.
The census at the time of Caesar Augustus would have been quite different to those that take place today. Instead of trying to keep track of adult males fit for military service, today’s census provide politicians, policymakers and academics – as well as many others – with information and data about the many and varied attributes of the population.
In contemporary Britain, we have a census every ten years. Data from the most recent – the Census 2011 – was released earlier this week and what it presents is clear evidence that the ethnic and religious make-up of Britain in the twenty-first century is changing. But whilst Britain is changing, are we clear about how and what impact it will have?
As a child growing up in the 1970s, I enjoyed many Christmases when the Christmas song was at its peak. Slade, Mud, Wizzard, Boney M…the list goes on. All since having entered into British cultural folklore.
One song that my family never liked – possibly because it was unlike most other Christmas songs – was Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas”. Because of this, I took on my family’s dislike of the song, growing up believing that in some way it wasn’t a proper Christmas song, whatever that might mean. Despite this, I clung onto this view for many years.
Having been a parent myself for twenty years, I’ve continued the tradition of listening to Christmas songs. This has taken places in various guises but has featured heavily in the kitchen and the car. Sadly, I normally start this tradition at the start of November meaning that by mid-November everyone’s sick and tired of them. And with each new technological advance, so the format of the listening experience changes: C90, CD and Continue reading
You can read the article on the University website by clicking here.
The piece is also reproduced below:
This week as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science 2011, I will be hosting the event, “Faith in the City: communities, regeneration, interaction”. The event sets out to explore the way in which faith inspires and influences people to live, work and act in the diverse, vibrant urban space that is today’s Birmingham. Despite Alastair Campbell stating the British “don’t do God”, the event is interesting to many.
Faith – whether one has it or not – is more important and topical today than it has been for decades. As the theology think-tank Theos recently noted, “religious identity is a feature of national and international affairs today in a way that was unexpected, indeed unimaginable, just twenty years ago”.
This is not to suggest that faith and religion are any less contentious or emotive than they have ever been, on the contrary. But what it does show is the timeliness and relevance of faith to Britain, and British people, in the 21st century.
Subjectively referencing the 2001 Census, an overwhelming majority of British people identify themselves as Christian (71.6%). These figures can however be misleading as there is a disparity between identification and practice with only about 2% of the population regularly attending church. Grace Davie describes this as ‘believing without belonging’. For her, the majority of Britons are increasingly drifting away from traditional institutional forms of religion to more personal forms of faith and spirituality.
However, identification remains. Last month’s Integrated Household Survey reaffirms that three Britons identify themselves as Christian for every one that does not. Perhaps surprisingly, this is also true amongst the young: 59% of 16-24 year-olds and 60% of under-16s identify themselves as being Christian.
Maybe this accounts for the reason that, since the turn of the century, more new churches than Starbucks have opened across the UK, more Britons believe in heaven now than they did in 1970, and the number of adult Christian baptisms is rising year-on-year. And even though overall church attendance remains in decline, that decline is slowing. Today, a third of all churches are reporting growth.