The very first thing out of their mouths:
“The world would be a better place without religion.”
One of the next things they said after I asked what have their experiences been with Christians:
“I haven’t really had any experiences with Christians.”
Here in the States we constantly hear that England is a Post-Christian world. Broadly speaking, yes, that is what I saw. But what I also saw that shocked me was the extreme passion the Christians had! Every service I went to was a true celebration, and I haven’t been to one of those services in a long time here in America. Until I saw evangelical English services did I realize that American services have become so routine and institutionalized. The freedom and joy, the tears and the hands that were being waved at the English services I was at was beyond refreshing for me to be a part of. But here is the larger point:
Since Christians (especially non-Anglican) are such a small percentage of people in England, it seemed to me that they were more concerned about keeping their tribe that is already on the inside, than they were continuing to build their tribe from the outside in. They have been oppressed. No doubt about it. They have been looked at as irrelevant solely based on their belief in God. 100% correct. I just feel that those bullets they’ve taken has made them a little gun shy to actually engage culture with the belief they can still hold on to their belief system.
Now anyone can look at America and point the finger right back at us for caring more about preaching to the saved than preaching to the non-believers. True. And that is what I’m fighting for the American church to reclaim our identity as authentic Christ-ones; that our Jesus just isn’t inside the four walls of a church building! But the main difference that stuck out to me though, was that from the numbers of straight conservative Christians I talked to in England about the gay community I continued to receive two profound answers that were very consistent among almost everyone I talked to (I’m going to paraphrase here):
Gays and lesbians are such an ingrained part of mainstream culture that their sexuality isn’t a big deal and we’re (Christians) are already over it.
The church isn’t giving the younger generation any theological or practical framework on how to properly engage this topic, and because of that the next generation is scared to say what they believe because they know it won’t be accepted; or they are torn because since there is no framework, how can a traditional interpretation of Scripture actually be lived out in culture when their examples are either dodging the question all together because they don’t want to make a scene or they’re a part of a small minority that thrives on making a scene?
And from my perspective, therein lies the great debate within conservative Christendom in England. Which route is the church going to take – they’re over it (?), are they going to dig their heals in like American Christians have and fight (?), or are they going to try to figure out how to peacefully and productively engage a growing population of people that doesn’t need conservative Christianity to exist?
What are your thoughts?