When I was at Grammar School in the 1960’s the demolition of Christianity had already started. Assemblies were perfunctory – a hymn, a Bible reading, and a couple of prayers. There was one period of Religious Education for every class, often ‘single-sex’ while the other half of the class was doing P.E. For text books we had a set of dog-eared Authorised Version Bibles – and that was it. The Head of Sixth Form regularly ran down Christianity, telling anti-religious jokes, mocking the RE teacher and predicting the demise of the Faith within fifty years.
In the 1960’s the new liberal establishment, especially the media and celebrities, decided that it had had enough of the Christian religion, and subjected it to mockery, stereotyping, and endless criticism. The multi-faith agenda was promoted in schools and local councils, not because the establishment was in the least interested in other religions as an alternative to Christianity, but because it was a way of bashing the Church. So the pathetic teaching of the Christian Faith was replaced in schools by the ignorant and uninformed teaching of ‘other faiths’. As a youngster I knew that the school brand of Christianity had little in common with the faith and life of the Church which I was coming to know and love. And my guess is that young Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Jews feel much the same about the way their faith is approached in school.
Charles Clarke, former Education Secretary, was interviewed on the Today programme this morning (15 June 2015). He made a number of fascinating statements, asserting that religion is very important for many people in our country today; that the quality of Religious Education in schools is not good, and teachers are not properly informed; that RE is helpful in encouraging people to respect and honour religious belief. But all of these things were have been true for the last fifty years. So why the sudden interest in RE now?
There were two remarks that were especially significant, I thought. The first was that, among the people he had been talking to, Mr Clarke had found several ‘Church of England bishops’ who were keen on an ‘inclusive’ approach including in worship and prayer. Is this really so, or is it an example of the good old C of E being cajoled into adopting the ‘British values’ which politicians are always now talking about, but have so far failed to identify. His second significant point, was that it was important to have RE teachers who could teach what religion is, and what it is not. I think he means that teachers would assert that, for example, Islam does not condone violence against other people, and that therefore ISIL is not true to Islam. But can someone who is not a believer really talk, as it were, from within, about the reality of religious belief? And if a class of year 9, say, have a discussion about ‘gay marriage’ will the Jewish or Catholic or Muslim position be described as homophobic by other students, or by the teacher, and how will parents react when their children go home and repeat what was said?
Just how far will this new RE go? When the C of E General Synod turned down proposals to allow women to be bishops, Members of Parliament expressed their outrage at such ‘inequality’. Will there now be pressure on the Muslim Council to introduce women imams? And most Catholic adoption agencies were closed when they indicated that they could not, in conscience, place children with same-sex couples. Are orthodox Jews going to have to face the same choice? The secular establishment has got used to bullying the Church into conformity, but is it now willing to use the same techniques with other faiths? All the signs are that it is not, and that it is desperately looking for other ways.
In fact it has been largely indifferent to ‘immigrant’ religions while such groups have been small and insignificant, while using them to remove the perceived ‘privileges’ of Christianity. Like my Head of Sixth Form, they swallowed the lie that the Christian Faith was rapidly dying out, and assumed that all other religions would quickly follow them, as people realised just how much happier and fulfilled they were with secularism. The experiment has been a dismal failure. A new generation is looking for something better to live by. It amazes me that the secular establishment, having worked for fifty years to destroy our Christian culture and belief, is surprised at the weird and dangerous philosophies which are attracting the naïve and inexperienced.