The Lectio Letter - Issue #62 - Are we on our way to a Post-Christian Britain? Thoughts on the 2022 Census
For the first time fewer than half of people in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian, the Census 2021 has revealed.
The proportion of people who said they were Christian was 46.2%, down from 59.3% in the last census in 2011.
In contrast the number who said they had no religion increased to 37.2% of the population, up from a quarter.
— BBC Article: Less than half of England and Wales population Christian, Census 2021 shows
'I don't believe in God, but I miss him.'
—Julian Barnes, Nothing to be Frightened of
“We need fundamental reforms to become a true secular democracy – one that reflects the reality of our irreligious and diverse people and is fit for the 21st century.”
— Stephen Evans, National Secular Society
I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.
I have no love
except it come from Thee.
Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind.
— Wendell Berry, This Day, Collected and New Sabbath Poems
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This time around, my article is reflecting on the Census information released at the end of last year that for the first time, less than half of the population of the U.K. described themselves as Christian.
This produced an abundance of headlines describing the steady march of secularism which was triumphing in its ascent to a post-Christian Britain.
In response, some British Christians anxiously responded with their own version of CultureWarLite™, decrying the societal shift and its seeming threat to cultural power Christians have long enjoyed.
I reflect in the article about how, despite the ‘click-bait’ headlines, this still shares the quote extraordinary news that around 33 million people do still identify as Christian.
Secondly, the scope of the survey doesn’t give key information on how this downward trend relates to the wider social trends away from voluntary institutions that have traditionally built group identities.
Finally, I offer some reasons why I don’t think this is the alarm bell some have taken it to be and that the Church should “keep on keeping on” being a humble presence for good in each community. Rather than grieving the loss of societal privilege which may occur, we might hopefully embrace the opportunities that come from being a faithful remnant.
Since last year, Rachel, our colleague Machiel, my brother-in-law Stuart and I have been training to do the Cape Town Cycle Race in support of “Children of Promise” the ministry we help lead which supports Children in Masiphumelele.
It’s 110km with 1200m of hills and we are hoping to raise R380,000 | £18,500 | €20,500 | $22,400 - If you feel led to give, we’d be so grateful and you can do that here.
Also, if you are on the app Strava, you can keep up with our training here.
After sending out the last book review edition, my friend John Arndt forwarded me another list (I’m a big fan of book lists, so send them my way).
After lamenting my lack of reading novels, I spotted one, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke which I’ve seen recommended a number of times;
The novel is set in a parallel universe made up of an infinite number of halls and vestibules, which triggers a gradual loss of memory and identity in newcomers. The story is told through the research notes of the eponymous narrator, who reconstructs the story of his own arrival as he explores this world.
There is a brilliant twist in the story as around halfway through you come to realise that this world is not quite as disconnected from our own as you may have thought.
What this novel really succeeds at is well-timed intrigue, drop-feeding just enough suspicion and information to spur you on.
Beneath the narrative though are questions about religion, loneliness, epistemology trust and friendship. I managed to read it in two days in the gaps of waiting in cars and after dinner. Well worth it.
Laura Mvula did a downbeat cover of Coldplay’s Song “Magic” which I’ve been enjoying
The cookbook comes from a successful Indian food restaurant which we first visited in Edinburgh, but it has spots in London too.
The challenge of making dishes from this book though is that they have ‘starter’ ingredients. Basically, they are recipes that go into recipes.
An example is the Onion-Tomato Masala which goes into their Mattar curry, Chole and fantastic Indian breakfast beans.
The base of it is a process of caramelising onions in an Indian way, that is, with lots of oil. When I’ve caramelised onions in the past (in a way I presume to be rooted in French cookery). I fried onions until they begin to brown and then added water to extend the cooking process. The Indian way seemingly is to effectively deep fry them, but don’t be intimidated…
You begin with 300ml of vegetable oil in a pan that you are confident is as nonstick as possible. We have a good nonstick wok that worked well for this.
Then take 1.2 kg of white onions and finally diced them (I gave them a couple of pulses in a food processor so that the consistency was even, but you could still see it had not yet become a paste).
Put the onions into the vegetable oil and begin stirring. It is absolutely crucial that the onions do not burn, but initially, they release so much liquid to cool down the oil that this doesn't happen. The cookbook demands that if they do burn then you throw them out and start again as the purpose of this onion tomato base is to add depth of flavour to all the other recipes we use it within. You then go on to stir these for about 45 minutes until they become dark brown (but not burnt).
At this point add 35 g of garlic and 35 g of ginger that have been blended into a fine paste with some oil. In about 2 to 5 minutes, this should also turn slightly brown.
Next add 1 1/2 teaspoons of chilli powder, 30 g of tomato purée/paste in about 2 teaspoons of salt, and continue to sauté for two minutes.
Finally, you can add 600 g of chopped tomatoes.
They need to be good quality so we bought full Roma tomatoes and blended them but I think if you can find good-quality can tomatoes that should be fine too.
Then continue to stir this for about 20 minutes very regularly as the tomatoes break down and caramelise to in the oil.
If things begin to get too dry, you can also add water, but in my experience, the water from the tomatoes and onions keeps the whole thing relatively soupy.
This makes around 650 g of this onion-tomato masala (And it smells delightful as you cook it). Then let it cool and store it in 100 g pouches for use in the other recipes.
Look out in the next couple of Lectio’s where I’ll include recipes that use this Masala!
Are we on our way to a Post-Christian Britain? Thoughts on the 2022 Census
At the end of last year, the BBC reported that for the first time, fewer than half of people in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian. This was published by the Office for National Statistics in their 10-yearly census.
Some of you, reading this are living, working, and trying to faithfully follow Jesus in the U.K and this likely strikes as a deep discouragement.
It arrives as another chapter title of a secular narrative which seems to signal an inevitably post-Christian future.
While this narrative is proclaimed by the media as the inevitable outcome of the progress of secularism, I want to encourage you that there are plenty of reasons for hope and to consider some other factors surrounding the ONS numbers.
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