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My recent posts have concerned putting Christ back into Christmas.
Yet, even during late Georgian and Victorian times, the British considered Christmas more of a time for revelry than our Lord.
The first Christmas cards, which artist John Calcott Horsley created for Sir Henry Cole in the 1840s, show the priorities of the day. His card (see the illustration at the beginning of this article from Greetings Today) has a huge, jolly Christmas pudding in the middle surrounded by six illustrations (and another of a cake). Two of the six illustrations show men manhandling women. I cannot make out what the others depict, except for one featuring three musicians.
This is another one of Horsley’s cards:
Greetings Today says it was criticised for promoting drunkenness, particularly with the little girl in the middle drinking wine which her mother has given her.
These cards were advertised at the time as follows:
A Christmas Congratulation Card: or picture emblematical of Old English Festivity to Perpetuate kind recollections between Dear Friends.
It should be noted that religious Christmas cards did not appear until some years later.
The charitable scenes flanking the left and right hand sides of the card are in line with John the Baptist’s exhortations in Luke 3:11: give food and clothing to the needy.
My British readers will also be interested to see ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Christmas’. I recently went to a charity card sale. A volunteer saleslady said to an elderly lady customer, ‘But it’s a beautiful design. Are you sure you don’t want to buy it?’ The customer replied emphatically, ‘It’s not for our generation. The message says “Merry Christmas”. That won’t do. It’s “Happy Christmas”. Sorry.’
The Evangelical Alliance has results from a series of British surveys on Christmas from 2010 through 2014. It’s a lengthy, fascinating article, well worth reading — even if one isn’t British. What follows is a sampler.
The meaning of Christmas
If the original seasonal cards reflected mainstream British thought in the 19th century, things have hardly progressed since then:
– 83% agreed that Christmas is a about spending time with family and friends.
– 41% agreed that Christmas is a about celebrating that God loves humanity. 24% disagreed with this.
– 51% agreed with the statement “The birth of Jesus is irrelevant to my Christmas” whilst 46% disagreed with the statement.
– 36% said they would be attending a Christmas service. 62% said they would not be going to a service, 2% were unsure.
A survey commissioned by The Children’s Society in 2010 found that only 10% of adults think that its religious meaning is the most important thing about Christmas. Only 4% of 25-34 year olds thought the religious aspect was important whilst 20% of those over 60’s years feel that it is the key aspect of Christmas. 67% of all adults said spending time with family was the most important thing about Christmas.
Expectations from church services
A number of secular Britons go to a choral or Christmas service. The ones with whom I have spoken say these church attendances evoke childhood memories or they go for the aesthetics (e.g. music, architecture).
Occasional churchgoers who occasionally attend Worcester and Lichfield Cathedral at Christmas say:
– 94% said their motivation was the music.
– 75% said they wanted to be reminded of the Christmas story.
– 55% said they wanted to worship God.
This is what they expect of the service and what they believe:
– 78% said they prefer the service to be candlelit.
– 76% said they prefer traditional rather than modern hymns.
– 94% said they expected the service to be uplifting.
– 58% believed in the birth took place in a stable.
– 57% believe in the role of the shepherds.
– 55% in the wise men.
– 42% in the virgin birth.
Worldly priorities reign
Very few Christmas cards recall the Nativity scene or the Magi.
In 2011, of single cards for purchase, Morrison’s supermarket carried the highest percentage … at 1.7%.
Regarding multipacks of cards, Tesco and Sainsbury’s offered the highest proportion at 20% and 23% respectively.
Concerning presents, 30% of Britons say they will be unable to afford as nice a Christmas in 2014 compared with 2013. Just over one quarter (26%) say they spend more than they can afford.
When we look at Christmas in a worldly way, we lose sight of God, Jesus Christ and the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that an unusual amount of violence and arguments takes place.
Divorces begin to spike soon after Twelfth Night on January 6:
The enforced intimacy of Christmas, coupled with the start of a new year is thought to be the main trigger.
On the other hand, it’s not all bad news on the marital front:
Church of England released figures in January 2012 that show their dedicated weddings website, set up to encourage couples to marry in church have been at their highest compared to receives the highest number of monthly enquiries in January.
Drunkenness, drug abuse, domestic violence, arguments, family feuds and more will be rife in another ten days’ time. As a result some people, especially children and adolescents, have never experienced a joyous Christmas.
In closing, let us remember the unchurched and the unbelievers in our Christmas prayers this year. May they come to appreciate the fulsomeness of God’s grace, supremely manifest in His only begotten Son.
On December 2, 2014, Britain’s Evangelical Alliance examined a survey done by Netmums which found that the traditional nativity play is being rapidly replaced with secular themes:
Parenting website Netmums, who surveyed 2,000 parents, expressed concern that the traditional nativity scene is being modernised or traded for ‘winter celebrations’ and that religious figures are being replaced with characters such as Elvis Presley, spacemen, punk fairies and footballers. Christmas carols are often swapped for pop songs.
Netmums co-founder Siobhan Freegard said parents were concerned Christmas traditions were being sidelined and many schools have no presentation of the Christmas story at all.
This survey has been making the rounds in British media and reflects the sad state of affairs in our nation today.
To help educate children and adults about this feast day, the Evangelical Alliance, in association with the Church of England, the Bible Society and other religious organisations, is running a campaign called Christmas Starts with Christ. It has many useful resources.
Francis Goodwin heads the campaign. He says (emphasis mine):
The UK has become the most secular nation in the West as one of our surveys show that 51 per cent of adults did not think that the birth of Christ has any meaning for their Christmas; perhaps many of our teachers are among this 51 per cent. The time is overdue for Christians to remind the nation of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
This is not new, and the Evangelical Alliance will be familiar with a BBC Christmas survey of children taken in 2006 (emphasis in the original):
Fewer than half of children aged seven to 11 think Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, a survey suggests.
Some 44% thought it was about Jesus, while 29% said it was about thinking of other people, and 24% said it was about giving rather than receiving gifts.
The Telegraph has more about the Netmums survey. Emphasis mine below:
Only a third of schools now stage a full traditional nativity complete with Mary and Joseph, inn-keepers, shepherds and magi, according to the survey.
Meanwhile one in eight [parents] had said their children’s school had dropped the Christmas story altogether for a modern alternative without religious references.
One in 14 said the school now opts for a fully secular event with neutral titles such as “Winter Celebration” or “Seasonal Play”.
A handful of those polled also said they had seen pan-religious school Christmas plays incorporating references to the Muslim festival Eid, the Jewish Hanukkah or Hindu Diwali.
Granted, it’s a small number and, yes, the traditional nativity play still edges out a syncretic play. Yet, it represents a slippery slope.
With Christmas break coming, let’s make sure our children understand the Christmas story. You can find more resources by church denomination here:
The short film in the Paperless Christmas link — The Adventures of Mary and Joseph — is particularly good!
The online world is certainly a global one.
It is through the Internet that many introverts have found a voice. Perhaps they started with a formal blog and moved to Twitter. Maybe it started earlier with the first fora for universities or computer games.
It is difficult to quantify how many introverts have made their mark in the online world either through their own sites, Twitter or via comments on others’ blogs.
Liz from Successful and Outstanding Bloggers says (emphasis in the original, violet highlights mine):
I interviewed bloggers daily for over a year. It became clear within a short time that the bloggers I spoke with overwhelmingly described themselves as independent introverts. That seemed to make sense then. Blogging is a writing task that requires reflection. Now I wonder whether that was then and the folks who chose to participate.
Now I see the changes in myself and some of those interviewees as I look across the web. It took me a long time to get to Twitter, but now … beware following me. I tweet a lot when I’m there.
Many of us have been slow to adopt Twitter then become very chatty as we get comfortable there.
Janet from Janet’s Notebook writes:
Blogging is the most fitting for an introvert, like me. Janet being an introvert? That’s a revelation, isn’t it? I’m friendly and bubbly, however, fundamentally I’m an introvert. I enjoy solitude. The world is a busy place designed for extroverts. When I need to communicate, I communicate in the most comfortable form that suits my characters well, through the power of words.
Cassie Paton of [witty title here] quotes a man describing the sort of person who puts fingertips to keyboard:
“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” – John Green
It’s no coincidence that many bloggers are introverts.
John Doyle of Business 2 Community observes in his article, ‘8 Reasons Why Introverts Rule the Interactive Age’:
7. Introverts are extremely comfortable with online relationships. Lock an extrovert in a room with nothing but a laptop and Internet service and pretty soon you’ll be replacing the door he kicked open. Introverts, on the other hand, can practically live online. For some it is the solution to a lifetime of wanting to share ideas, thoughts, and dreams with close friends … who are nowhere near them. As a result, the Internet has transformed many introverts into the Dale Carnegies of the online world. They share ideas, connect friends, and share the best websites–all while sitting in their yoga pants and sweatshirt in the safety and comfort of their bedroom.
8. Introverts invented the Internet.
Finally, The Economist interviewed American columnist Jonathan Rauch about politics, journalism and introversion. When asked:
How does your introversion affect you as an interviewer, a writer, an editor?
I suspect a lot of bloggers may be introverts, because blogging is great if you like to sit in front of the internet all day. If not for my aversion to specialising in one subject, I probably would have been an academic historian, because I think it would have suited me to work in libraries back before there was an internet. (In a way, the internet is a library that talks back.) Reporting doesn’t come naturally to me, since I have to screw up my energy level every time I pick up the phone. So that’s something of a handicap. I’ll never be a natural journalist.
On the other hand, introverts are good questioners and attentive listeners. After a thoughtful, probing interview that I feel has touched marrow, I feel exhilaration, along with exhaustion. As if a tough hike had been rewarded with a new vista. I’m not a great hiker but I do enjoy the views.
Yet, we still do not seem to have quantifiable evidence that many or most people with significant online presence are introverts.
Therefore, following up on my reader underground pewster‘s suggestion, why not take a survey and find out? I was going to do this in 2015 but cannot think of a clever way to easily fit it in by itself. So why not add it on to the end of this series of posts on introversion?
This, by the way, is far from a definitive survey. If underground pewster also wishes to undertake one, I would welcome a comparison of our results!
This inaugural survey of mine will be open for at least a month, perhaps longer. Answer just one question anonymously, comment — if you wish — and/or see the results based on this test.
Thank you in advance for your time! I shall report on the results in due course.
End of series
On October 5, 2014, the Observer reported its latest survey findings on drug use in Britain. The paper last conducted a poll on the subject in 2008.
A summary of the survey follows:
– The percentage of people living in Britain who have tried illegal drugs is 31% (up from 28%).
– Both sexes are equally likely to use drugs (fewer women had in 2008).
– Just over one-fifth — 21% — of people who have ever tried illegal drugs are still taking them today.
– More people living in Scotland have tried drugs — 35% — than in other parts of the UK.
– Nearly one quarter — 23% — of survey respondents use some form of illegal drug daily. However, 55% of current users partake less than once a month.
– The overwhelming majority of drug users — 84% — indulge at home.
– The median starting age for experimentation is 19, although 41% of current users started between the ages of 16 and 18.
– Most young drug users will stop at the age of 26. Women tend to stop drug use earlier than men.
– The most popular drugs in the UK are marijuana (93%), amphetamines (34%), cocaine (29%), ecstasy (25%), magic mushrooms (22%) and LSD (20%).
– Marijuana was the first drug 82% of users tried. N.B.: Fifty per cent of dope smokers shy away from other drugs.
– If drugs were decriminalised in Britain, 16% of those surveyed who had never used illegal drugs would consider doing so.
– If drugs were decriminalised, first-time users (aforementioned 16%) would choose marijuana (81%), cocaine (28%), ecstasy (28%), magic mushrooms (22%), amphetamines (20%) and LSD (19%).
There are more data at the link. The article is nicely laid out and worth a read.
It is likely, particularly given the Liberal Democrats’ push for decriminalisation at their party conference last week, that this subject will run and run.
More on drugs tomorrow.
State school supporters — including left-leaning ‘committed Christians’ — often downplay the questionable influence that sex education has on students.
Yet, such plans and lessons have long been part of school curriculum in varying degrees. Four or five decades ago it was generally an annual hour-long talk given by Scouting leaders and/or nurses to classrooms of respective sexes. In Catholic school, we were aged between 10 and 12 at the time. These were optional and permission letters were sent home to parents reassuring them about the nature of the talk yet giving them an opt-out if they objected. The adults giving the talks were members of the churches connected to the schools. No questions were asked of any opt-outs. The parents of nearly all the pupils I knew allowed them to attend the talks.
The lectures, complete with a short slide show from toiletries companies, showed biological diagrams of male and female ‘plumbing’ and described what we could soon expect to experience: changes in our bodies, our emotions and an interest in the opposite sex. Girls learned about menstruation, sanitary protection and the importance of keeping track of their menses using a small calendar.
That said, at the time, there were a few state schools which promoted a mixed class of sex education which lasted for several weeks. The children were also aged between 10 and 12. There is a YouTube video of one of these classes from the mid-1960s. If I find it again, I’ll post it.
As concerned parents predicted at the time, it would all get out of hand. And, now that my generation are becoming grandparents, so it has come to pass.
In 2011, Washington, DC schools decided to implement an examination on matters sexual for students. This was scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2012. In January 2012, prior to implementation, more details emerged about the guidelines for the course, aimed at primary and middle school students from age seven upwards (emphases mine):
A new set of sexual education guidelines have been released by a coalition of health and education groups, which says that young elementary school students should use the proper names for body parts and, by the end of fifth grade, know that sexual orientation is “the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender.”
The non-binding recommendations by Advocates for Youth to states and school districts are to be used to formulate school curricula for each age level, with the goal of giving schools the opportunity to build a foundation that in the long term will better help teens as they grow into adults, writes Kimberly Hefling at the Associated Press.
One of the reasons why the guidelines were collated was because of the inconsistency in the teaching of sex education in schools.
By the end of second grade, the guidelines say students should use the correct body part names for the male and female anatomy. By fifth grade, the guidelines say students should be able to define sexual harassment and abuse.
When they leave middle school, they should be able to differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, and those leaving eighth grade to also be able to evaluate the effectiveness of abstinence, condoms and other “safer sex methods” and know how emergency contraception works.
Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Education Abstinence Association, said she does not agree with the topics and goals of the standards:
“This should be a program about health, rather than agendas that have nothing to do with optimal sexual health decision-making,” Huber said.
“Controversial topics are best reserved for conversations between parent and child, not in the classroom.”
Wow. DC’s schools haven’t been the only ones journeying down this path. Certain schools in Europe also helped youngsters feel comfortable with their sexual parts as long ago as the early 1970s. Some regular readers might recall one of my posts on French Socialists from 2011. In it I described Daniel ‘Dany’ Cohn-Bendit’s career after he was deported from France back to Germany for ten years after his activities in the 1968 Paris demonstrations. Cohn-Bendit, incidentally, currently serves as an MEP (EELV [Green] Party) — Member of the European Parliament.
However, in the 1970s he worked as a teaching assistant in Germany. In 1975:
Dany wrote a book called Le Grand Bazar, in which he described his teacher’s aide experiences at the crèche. This is a quote from the book, wherein he describes his sexualisation of his young charges, who ranged from the ages of 1 to 6:
It happened on several occasions that certain kids opened my fly and started to tickle me. I reacted in a certain manner, depending on the circumstances. I would ask them, ‘Why don’t you play together? Why did you choose me — me — instead of the other kids?’ But they would insist, and I would caress them all the same.
In 1982, Dany appeared on the much-watched (and much-missed) highbrow television show, Apostrophes, which discussed the latest books. He said:
You know, a kid’s sexuality, it’s absolutely fantastic … When a little girl, five years old, starts to undress you, it’s fantastic!
Combine all this highly questionable and, to my mind, indecent, interest in children’s sexuality with today’s increasingly unstable home life — single-parent household, boyfriend or deviant relative on the prowl, violence, crime as well as other unhealthy factors for children — and we can end up with millions of maladjusted youths. Sex, naturally, will be at the forefront of their thoughts.
A 2003 study of adolescent girls from homes where the father was absent in the United States and New Zealand concluded:
father absence was an overriding risk factor for early sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy. Conversely, father presence was a major protective factor against early sexual outcomes, even if other risk factors were present. These findings may support social policies that encourage fathers to form and remain in families with their children (unless the marriage is highly conflictual or violent; Amato & Booth, 1997).
I sincerely hope that school curriculum anywhere will exclude frank discussions of the following activities — this link is a must read for every parent and guardian, even if they concern the NHS and not schools — yet, somehow, I think what is in that URL will be discussed in the classroom.
We also have the issue of paedophilia, which is likely to gain more traction as activists seek to normalise it. Earlier this month, a resolution made its way to the legislature in the State of California. Whilst it is not about paedophilia in so many words — ‘sexual orientation’, rather — the author of the article shot back at her critics with this:
Elsewhere, a gay man, Doug Mainwaring (pron. ‘Mannering’), has written about why he opposes gay marriage. Here is part of what he has to say:
We are in the middle of a fierce battle that is no longer about rights. It is about a single word, “marriage.”
Two men or two women together is, in truth, nothing like a man and a woman creating a life and a family together. Same-sex relationships are certainly very legitimate, rewarding pursuits, leading to happiness for many, but they are wholly different in experience and nature.
Gay and lesbian activists, and more importantly, the progressives urging them on, seek to redefine marriage in order to achieve an ideological agenda that ultimately seeks to undefine families as nothing more than one of an array of equally desirable “social units,” and thus open the door to the increase of government’s role in our lives.
And while same-sex marriage proponents suggest that the government should perhaps just stay out of their private lives, the fact is, now that children are being engineered for gay and lesbian couples, a process that involves multiple other adults who have potential legal custody claims on these children, the potential for government’s involvement in these same-sex marriage households is staggering.
Solomon only had to split the baby in two. In the future, judges may have to decide how to split children into three, four, or five equal pieces. In Florida, a judge recently ordered that the birth certificate of a child must show a total of three parents—a lesbian couple and a gay man (the sperm-providing hairdresser of one of the lesbian moms). Expect much more of this to come.
Now we can better understand why half of French society is so concerned about the state of play with regard to same-sex marriage and with it the right to adoption and assisted reproduction.
As we begin Holy Week, many people calling themselves Christian do not know about Easter.
Although it seems hard to believe, our fellow ‘believers’ cannot explain what happens on the most important feast of the Church year.
A few years ago, I worked with a supposedly Eastern Orthodox woman in England who said, ‘My son came home from nursery school where they had a lesson about Easter. The women told the children that Christ died on the Cross.’
I asked, ‘And what else?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘What happened after He died on the Cross? Did they explain?’
‘I’m not following you,’ she said.
‘Did the women tell the children about Easter?’
‘I’m not sure. All Easter means to me is that we passed around coloured eggs in church. Kind of a sharing thing. I don’t know why. It was very stinky and messy. Stupid, really.’
‘Okay,’ I said, ‘so I guess your son does not know that Christ rose from the dead and without that there is no salvation.’
‘No, I don’t think they went into that.’
From the look on her face, I had the distinct impression that I was telling her something new — that Christ rose from the dead.
However, she is not alone — read more here from my 2010 post which examines a Barna survey about our general ignorance about Easter.
Yes, Christians were surveyed. Be prepared for a shock.
Although somewhat pessimistic — or ‘realistic’, as I prefer to think of it — I see a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Western countries.
Early in December Britain’s National Centre for Social Research released its latest findings in their British Social Attitudes Survey. The survey shows that more of us are moving away from communitarianism and collectivism.
The Telegraph provides a few highlights (emphases mine):
More than half of Britons believe unemployment benefits are too high and that they discouraged those out of work from finding new jobs, research has suggested.
I believe the current allowance is approximately £60 a week, which is just enough for modest weekly grocery shopping and incidentals. Remember that working people pay into this fund in case they are made redundant. However, long-term unemployed benefits are sometimes a different story. That said, the media should try not to conflate the two.
And there is more:
Support for rising taxes to fund public services has also weakened as has opposition to private health and schooling, the report found …
Britons are increasingly looking to themselves for solutions to social problems rather than the Government, it found.
Seventy five per cent of those questioned agreed the income gap between rich and poor was too large yet only just over a third (35 per cent) believed ministers should take steps to redistribute wealth.
It also revealed that although people see child poverty as an issue the Government must tackle, 63 per cent of the 3,297 people questioned believed parents who “don’t want to work” were a reason why some children lived in poverty.
Naturally, the National Centre for Social Research is disappointed by the findings. Meanwhile, I’m smiling — finally, we’re beginning to regain some sanity as a nation!
Penny Young, the Centre’s Chief Executive is not happy:
In a time of economic austerity and social unrest, the big question coming out of this year’s report is whether we really are in it together, or just in it for ourselves?
No, Ms Young, we are trying to repair the damage done by collectivist policies, most notably those of Labour over the past 13 years.
People need to start taking care of themselves and their families again. It’s the only way we can heal our nation.
The study showed that … there was not much evidence of common interest, with almost half (45 per cent) opposing new housing, particularly in areas where it was most needed.
Despite widespread acknowledgement of housing shortages, opposition was highest where the problem was most acute, with more than half (58 per cent) against it in outer London and 50 per cent opposing new development in the South East.
Is it any wonder? We are inundated by all and sundry stretching our public resources — education, health and water — to the limit.
Also increasingly unpopular are environmental taxes — another cause for rejoicing:
The number of people prepared to pay much higher prices to safeguard the environment has fallen to just over a quarter (26 pre cent), compared to 43 per cent in 2000.
So too has the proportion willing to pay much higher taxes to protect the environment, from 31 p[er] cent to 22 p[er] cent.
Thank you, people of Great Britain!
Much of the commentary on these rather startling figures has centred on the change in economic circumstances: when people are affluent and believe that their financial future is secure, they tend to be more relaxed about tax rises (and perhaps more indulgent of spendthrift government). Now they are facing hardship and have become, as the Left would believe, “meaner” and more reluctant to part with a high proportion of their earnings.
I do not believe this to be the explanation – or, at least not the whole explanation. What has influenced this change of public mood at least as much is that the theory of public spending as the cure for all social evils has been tested to destruction (thank you Gordon Brown) and been exposed as not only fraudulent but pernicious. Government spending of the most lavish kind has not significantly improved public services, and enforced re-distribution of wealth has resulted in welfare dependency and moral decline. That is what we know now – and what we did not know back in the day when those public opinion polls that so impressed the Tories were being done.
This debate goes on in Western countries all the time: to spend or not to spend ‘for the greater common good’. From what I read on French fora, the opinion is pretty much split 50-50. A number of French socio-political commentators say that their nation is wed to Socialism in one way or another. The French people can’t imagine living without it. I’m not so sure; that, too, could well begin to change before next year’s presidential elections.
A number of Americans are still unhappy about their election results from 2008. 2012 gives them another opportunity to vote in better legislators and, perhaps, a new President.
If we get down and depressed, we can study history and recall the many cyclical swings and roundabouts. Nothing lasts forever.
A few days ago I ran across this item on the FamilyGP site in the UK highlighting a recent survey done by the Children’s Society.
The article says, in part:
Children aged between eight and 15 were quizzed about the ‘essentials’ of life for someone their age.
A list of the ten ‘must-have’ possessions was then drawn up – including iPod, pocket money, family holidays, a satellite TV, garden and “the right kind of clothes”.
After surveying 5,500 boys and girls, researchers found that those children lacking two or more of the items were “significantly more likely to be unhappy” than those given everything they wanted.
And those without five or more of the ‘must-haves’ were five times more likely to have “low levels of wellbeing”.
It is the first time children themselves have been polled about what they see as deprivation.
The mind boggles. Let us hope that this definition of ‘deprivation’ does not become a legitimate measure of ‘poverty’. Most kids in the UK, even those living under the poverty level, have access to a TV, a telephone, a council flat, hot water and heat — as well as the latest trainers and, often as not, some sort of electronic gadget.
Another recent survey in the December issue of Tatler, the British high-society magazine, profiled 250 students from public (private boarding) schools. Not available online, it can be found on pages 125-130 of the print copy. It’s a fascinating read.
I’ll largely skip the sections on what I considered to be commonplace in the US when I was growing up — e.g. alcohol consumption, drug experimentation — and give you a few excerpts about the sexual aspect of the lives these students lead.
Before I get to the findings, though, this post is not a comment on class as much as it is on today’s mentality, no doubt fostered by parents and other authority figures who still follow — and promulgate — the 1960s maxim, ‘If it feels good, do it’. We know now that such ideology comes to us courtesy of the Frankfurt School, whose influence helped give rise to youthful rebellions around Europe and the US in 1968.
Having said that, there is an element of ‘class’ to this. Those who have studied class behaviour — among them Vance Packard, Paul Fussell and Jilly Cooper — have noted that the upper and lower strata of society adopt the same mores and attitudes. The more middle classes concern themselves with propriety, reputation and closer family cohesion. Yet, the extreme mores of the upper and lower classes eventually trickle down to most of the population: ‘Everyone’s doing it’.
Without further ado, this is what Tatler found among the nearly 250 students they interviewed:
– ‘Nearly half had had their stomachs pumped, or knew someone who had’ (p. 125)
– Eighty-eight per cent approve of homosexuality (p. 125)
– Two-thirds have had a same-sex encounter (p. 125)
– Over 75% said they had hoped to have children someday, yet ‘over 50% had taken the morning-after pill or knew someone who had’. Furthermore, nearly a third had ‘had an abortion or knew someone else who had’. (p. 125)
– Nearly two-thirds were sexually active and more than a third of them were under the age of consent (p. 125)
– Eighteen per cent have had more than four sexual partners. An additional five per cent have had more than 10. (p.125)
– Everyone received a monthly allowance, yet 31% admitted to shoplifting. (p. 128)
So, these will be our national — perhaps international — leaders of tomorrow.
Additionally — sad though it is — these are likely to be our social attitudes of tomorrow.
On February 11, 2011, the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) featured findings from the 2008 Pew Forum survey and asked researchers for more information about the Catholic ‘mass exodus’ in America.
I’m not clear on why this is still news three years after its appearance, but the interview does shed light on where disaffected Catholics go to worship after they leave Holy Mother Church.
John L Allen Jr spoke with Pew Forum Director Luis Lugo and Pew Senior Researcher Greg Smith. Before going into details of the interview, here’s what Allen had to say (emphases mine throughout):
… almost half of American adults have either switched religions or dropped their ties to religion altogether.
For Catholicism, the banner headline was that there are now 22 million ex-Catholics in America, by far the greatest net loss for any religious body. One in three Americans raised Catholic have left the church. Were it not for immigration, Catholicism in America would be contracting dramatically: for every one member the church adds, it loses four. On the other hand, the study also found that the Catholic church has a higher retention rate than other major Christian denominations, and that 2.6 percent of the adult population is composed of converts to Catholicism, representing a pool of nearly six million new Catholics.
Naturally, critics of various aspects of Catholic life, such as the sexual abuse crisis or what some see as an overly conservative ideological drift, see the defections as proof of malaise. (A prominent American theologian recently claimed the Pew data reveal a “mass exodus” from the church, which he linked to a preoccupation by some bishops with the culture wars.) Equally predictably, Catholics content with the status quo play up the good news …
Here’s the bottom line: In comparison with other religious groups in America, the Catholic church’s struggles aren’t really with pastoral care, but missionary muscle. Overall, Catholicism serves existing members fairly well, as measured by the share that chooses to stick around; what it doesn’t do nearly as well is to evangelize …
To put all that into crass capitalistic terms, in America’s highly competitive religious marketplace, the real Catholic problem isn’t customer service but new sales.
Speaking as one of those ex-Catholics, I would disagree and say that a major part of the problem is customer service. We’ll see that in the comments later in the post.
But, first, excerpts from the interview. Bold type, as in the original, indicates Allen’s questions.
What reactions do you get when you discuss these findings with Catholics?
Lugo: People are often a little befuddled when I present the full range of evidence … You have to compare it to retention rates of other religious groups, and see it in terms of retention plus recruitment. It’s the net relationship between those two factors that’s so crucial.
Everybody’s losing members in this country, some even more than Catholics … Protestants are losing lots of members too, but for every four Americans who are no longer Protestant, there are three who are Protestant today who were not raised that way. Protestantism is declining as a whole, but the recruitment rate is pretty good. Catholics are not replenishing their ranks through conversion in the same way.
There are two other key variables. One is immigration, and the other is higher-than-average fertility rates among Hispanic Catholics. If the only factor driving a religious group’s share of the population were conversion, the Catholic church would be declining.
Smith: One of the things I was struck by, especially with regard to the Catholic church, is the degree to which apparent stability masks enormous change just below the surface. If all you look at is the percentage of the population who told us they’re Catholic, it’s exactly what we’ve found for four decades, and you would think nothing much is going on. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In his recent Murray/Bacik Lecture at the University of Toledo, noted Catholic theologian Richard Gaillardetz said the Pew data confirm a “mass exodus from the church.” Is it accurate to talk about a “mass exodus”?
Lugo: In the context of American religion as a whole, it’s not really accurate. In fact, Catholic losses are right in line with what we see overall in terms of people changing affiliation in this country. Look at the fastest-growing religious group in America, the unaffiliated. Even there, half of all people who were raised without an affiliation have since joined a religion! …
What really strikes me about the Catholic numbers is on the recruitment side. The Jehovah’s Witnesses grow because they recruit even more than they lose, which is not the case for the Catholics.
Smith: It’s not fair to say there’s a “mass exodus” from Catholicism more than any other faith … But one of the points of the report is that to understand the dynamics of American religion, you have to see retention and recruitment together. It’s the churn, the ratio of leaving to joining, which matters. It’s the recruitment side that sets Catholics apart. Four people leave Catholicism for every one who joins, and there’s no other religious group where you see a similar ratio. Baptists, for example, also have more people leaving than joining, but their ratio of 2-1 is twice of what we see for Catholics.
Is the take-away not that Catholics have a problem serving existing members, but that Catholics need to ramp up their missionary efforts?
Lugo: In terms of sheer numbers, that’s right …
I know that all the RCIA people will probably be mad, because they’re already over-burdened, but your question nails it: The most striking thing about Catholicism in America isn’t that it’s losing people, but that it’s not recruiting them as successfully as other groups. I should add that … the 2.6 percent of American adults who are converts to Catholicism is a huge pool of folks, so it’s not like nothing is going on.
What do we know about why those 22 million ex-Catholics left the church?
Lugo: It’s very interesting, because we have to break it down between those who have joined the ranks of the unaffiliated and those who have become Protestants … it’s by no means clear … whether the church ought to become more liberal or more conservative! Bear in mind that among those becoming Protestants, a majority are Evangelicals. One out of ten Evangelicals in America today is a former Catholic, and many of those folks say the Catholic church isn’t conservative enough.
Smith: It’s impossible to say in broad strokes why people leave, because it depends on where they’re headed. Among former Catholics who are now unaffiliated, 65 percent say they just stopped believing the religion’s teachings … 58 percent say they were unhappy with the teaching on things like abortion and homosexuality, and 48 percent or so were unhappy with the teaching on birth control. However, even more say they just gradually drifted away. 71 percent of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated say that.
Lugo: For that group … Many were already fairly “secularized” before they stopped identifying as Catholics …
Smith: For those who have become Protestants, 71 percent say their spiritual needs weren’t being met … More than half of those who are now Evangelical cite Catholic teaching about the Bible as a factor … most say that the Catholic church does not view the Bible literally enough …
Lugo: We also find that where ex-Catholic Evangelicals tend to cite reasons of belief and theology, those in mainline Protestant churches tend to be influenced more by what we might call “life cycle” factors, such as marrying someone of a different faith, or they didn’t like the priest at their parish, and so on.
For those who leave the church, when do they do so?
Smith: In 2008 we did a follow-up survey, and we found that switching is something that usually happens early in life. Most who left Catholicism did so prior to reaching the age of 24 …
Catholic membership is being replenished largely through Hispanic immigration. Are those Hispanics likely to remain Catholic?
Smith: People often assume that fewer Latinos leave Catholicism as compared to non-Latinos. There’s something to that, although the difference is not as large as you might expect. Among non-Hispanics who were raised Catholic, 66 percent are still Catholic. Among Hispanics raised Catholic, it’s 73 percent … Among those who have left, it’s just like the non-Hispanic Catholics — roughly half are now unaffiliated and half have become Protestants, mostly Evangelicals.
Now, to two of the comments, which really nail the issue.
First, from Mary Margaret Cannon (page 1 of the comments — sorry, no permalink — caps in the original):
… I believe: …
1. From a marketing perspective (as crude as that may sound) … Catholics literally threw off external “signs” of their Catholic identity at the time of Vatican II — Manifested chiefly by avowed religious who tossed aside habits and collars — at the very same time Americans were rushing to embrace “logos” and “brands”, in a pattern which has grown exponentially over these decades …
2. For the last dozen years or so, we’ve been most definitely moving into another age — not merely “collecting” things we like — but CONNECTING with those we identify with. Hence — the skyrocketing success of social networking places like Facebook …
3. The “problem” of Church membership isn’t as much about “conservative” vs. “liberal” — it’s about which experience — IF ANY — offers people the chance to connect with one another FIRST and foremost, so that they can then connect with God …
Having traveled all over America and having attended Catholic Masses in countless churches — contrast this push from Fundamentalist Churches to “reach out”, with the mumbled responses and lackluster welcomes (if any at all) as you walk in the door at a huge number of Catholic Churches. . . .Small wonder that younger people are slipping out the back door, in search for an experience of connection and joy, belonging and promise.
If we really REALLY want to turn around the numbers — however anyone interprets them — the answer is clear: …
Instead of concentrating on rewriting the Roman Missal (sorry — not a segue or a rant — just an observation) — it’s a huge pity that the following 3 SIMPLE elements are not added to every Sunday Mass (at least), at every single Catholic church in America:
1. Take 1 minute (literally) of every homily to EXPLAIN the origins of Catholic rituals like genuflecting (a fascinating story) — or the origins of the 12 Days of Christmas Song — or why bells were/are rung during the Consecration. People DON”T KNOW this stuff any more — But it’s fun, it’s trivia and it INFORMS the congregation — AND it helps the congregation CONNECT to 20 centuries of Christians before us. It helps Catholics understand that there IS a reason for everything we do — that it’s not just because “father said so”.
2. Devote 3 minutes (literally) during every Communion meditation to the “personal testimony” of a Catholic-in-the-pews, to tell a quick story of how Jesus is working in his/her life. (Take a look at the denominations attracting ex-Catholics: they all celebrate personal testimony/witness — enabling people to lift one another up in encouragement, enabling people to get to know one another, lessening a sense of “embarrassment” that faith should somehow be “private”, enabling people to connect with one another AND with the Church as a whole. THIS IS EVANGELIZATION and Catholics need to do it first and foremost in our own houses of worship — then, we can spread the Good News more effectively than ever.
3. I’m 56 years old, with several fabulous relatives who are avowed religious & I’ve had friends my whole life who are priests and nuns. I cannot ever remember a time when a priest gave a homily where he shared his own faith journey — where he openly shared his own desert experience and how God walked him through the desert. But, Why????? …
At the end of the day, this isn’t a perplexing problem of stemming the tide of defections. It’s not about the scandals (as much as I abhor them) or about whether the Church is “conservative” or “liberal”.
All we have to do is incorporate new ways to connect, to share, to “see” Jesus in our daily lives — and if we build that Church, they will come at a run …
And, from page 2 of the comments, Patrick Buckley:
… I was in the seminary when Vatican II started up, and I was there when Pope Paul VI gave his famous encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (of Human Life) … Nonetheless, many priests had been expecting the opposite decision, and rebelled and in the privacy of confession told many Catholics that is was okay to use the pill.
Next: mortification by abstaining from meat on Fridays was abolished and people were told to do their own mortification privately. Guess what? Nobody did. I certainly didn’t and happily ate hamburger and steak on Fridays from then on. Also, full abstinence and fasting were dropped to almost nothing in Lent. No penance to remind us that we are sinful beings who need to regularly practice the rites of self-control …
Next: the Church dropped it’s emphasis on the Rosary during the months of October and May (the month of Mary). Soon, nobody was praying the Rosary …
Next: the change of Confession to Reconciliation. One could go to Confession in the 50’s and early 60’s, spend some time before confession reviewing our sins, confess them, and receive some sort of penance. The whole time spent was not much, and therefore, I was much more inclined to attend confession regularly. But……….after Vatican II “reconciliation” greatly lengthened the time in the confessional from an average of 2 minutes to 15 minutes … Four people per hour, and there were no longer 2 priests to hear confession but only 1 priest in a parish with 4000 people! It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that it was impossible to hear even 1 confession per year for each of the parishioners. So, general confession had to take place, and pretty [soon] individual confession dropped even more.
Finally, sermons became bland; we had one priest for 10 years who spent most of his sermon making light jokes and entertaining us. My kids despised him, and all 7 dropped away from the church for many of the above reasons. I have had 3 that have come back partway, but that’s no consolation. All difficult topics were avoided from the altar. The priests explained to me that their sermons had to confine their topics to the 3 readings, but they no introduced none or very little relevant matter regarding the moral dissolution of our society during that period …
They could have preached that Catholicism is and has been under attack since year one. They never gave any historical background to why our faith is so important. They never mentioned the anti-[C]atholic[is]m of Napoleon, Mao, Stalin-Lenin, Planned Parenthood, and indicated that if we fell morally, the forces of anti-God authortarianism would take the place of the Church.
Next: the rol[e] of CCD—Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine or the teaching of the Faith to our children has been another disaster. While it’s fine and dandy to tell 1st-4th graders that Jesus loves us, it ‘s a qualitatively different matter when you then fail to instruct the children about Catholic Doctrine in detail and give reasons “why” it is truthful and divinely inspired. Instead, right up thru 12th grade, the main intent is to “entertain” the youth first during the first 20 minutes with games …
Our current and best priest at our Parish in the last 35 years is our current priest– a convert from Presbyterianism, whose father is indeed a pastor in that faith … He includes Church history from the first 2 centuries of our Church that explain many of our Doctrines, and he uses Latin words and then defines them into English for purposes of clarity …
Kent/Renton Washington locale
My purpose in compiling this post is less a call to or criticism of Catholicism than it is a warning to Christians around the world: if we don’t bring up children properly in the faith or have appropriate pastors willing to preach Scripture and doctrine from the pulpit, then we must accept the consequences.
Regardless of what we think about Catholicism, we have been warned about being lax and lukewarm.
The UK Government’s Office for National Statistics recently issued results of a survey which explodes myths about Britain left, right and centre. Those interested in more detail can find more on the Integrated Household Survey page.
I published the religious affiliations yesterday, but in case you missed that post, here they are again:
– 71.4% of Britons are Christian
– 20.5% have no religion
– 1.5% are Hindu
– 0.7% are Sikh
– 0.6% are Jewish
– 0.4% are Buddhist
– 4.2% are Muslim
– 1.1% follow another faith
So, only one-fifth have no religion. Secularists demand all sorts of concessions and have pronounced this a non-religious country for many years. This influences other world faiths to believe that we are heathens and pagans. Not true!
Statistics on sexual orientation are equally revealing:
– 94.8% of Britons are heterosexual
– 1.0% are gay or lesbian
– 0.5% are bisexual
– 3.7% were unsure or did not wish to respond
The survey also has a racial breakdown.
The Daily Mail tells us that the Integrated Household Survey is the furthest reaching survey of its kind to date:
It was compiled by putting new questions to individuals who already take part in six existing large-scale surveys.
As a result the ONS has managed to draw answers from a large number.
In total, the new Integrated Household Survey can cover 450,000, hundreds of times the size of databases commonly used in research.
The questions on sexuality were put to 247,623, of whom 238,206 provided an answer.
By contrast, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles which last tried to make a count of the gay population in 2000, used a database of 12,000.