Article in Stretton Focus, January 2018
Towards the end of last year some statistics were published in the media about religious identity. They read that some 53% of people in a survey identified themselves as non-religious and among young people it was higher at 71%. Apart from the usual suspicion about damn lies and statistics, we do not know e.g. what people mean by ‘religion’, or which kind of religious experience they have had, and are now rejecting. Nonetheless, it is not so long since most people would automatically write C of E in the box that asked for their religion. This change is something that churches might be alarmed about, but maybe they should be glad.
Perhaps people in our society have found their own voice to express how they really want to respond to that question; there is no more need for deference; no need to be ashamed in admitting that religion does not feature in their lives. It is a new thing when an entertaining speaker on humanism can be invited to speak to a gathering of faith people at which he states that there is no place for chaplains in secular institutions such as hospitals and prisons. Surprisingly, there is not a ripple of disapproval or challenge from his audience.
On the other hand, and there almost always is another (hand), many thousands of people, young and old, found time and considerable energy, gathered in groups around the entire country raising collectively some 50 millions of pounds during ‘Children in Need’. To this, can be said that there are many thousands of people across the country working all year round to raise funds for charities for home and abroad, while Children in Need is but one week in the year. Among all this effort there are many people from many religions. We may conclude that the motivation to be interested, to care, to observe with compassion the sufferings of people and respond positively, has many inspirations, besides the religious. The Christian story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ and ‘Who is my neighbour’ has echoes here.
Though church attendance in most places has declined, the Judaeo-Christian values that have shaped our cultures, mainly through stories, for millennia are still found within modern society, now joined by Muslim values. The big quest for so many millions, maybe even all of us, is not for meaning and ultimate truth, but for survival, often at the very basic level, a much more human one and at the same time spiritual. When we see, which we can more than ever before, the urgency of a reaching out for life, from people and families in a desperate state, it is both awesome and inspiring. Children in Need is more than being bystanders in entertainment. There is a joy among those who participate in being part of the raising up of people in life. There is an obvious conversation to be had with the whole community about the making of a better world for all.