I recently finished reading the Death of Christian Britian by Callum G. Brown. I thought this was a great work for what it was meant to be, i.e., a secular view of the decline and death of Christianity in Britain . The author’s goal was to prove that the current secularization theory is incorrect and the decline and death is due to gender issues which began in 1800 and culminated in the 1960’s. Although one chapter is devoted to the statistics the author rather attempted to prove his point through discursive Christianity. In other words, what was happening and transitioning in society in the realm of Christianity (hopefully I am expressing in such a way as to agree with the author). The first several chapters elaborate on Christianity and how it affected the lives of the people through this time period in the nation’s history based on oral and written interviews as well as other forms of the media. The meat of the book starts in chapter six and there begins the most thought provoking portion of this work. I don’t want to steal the thunder here so I won’t elaborate other than to say that the full engagement of Christianity, in its broadest sense, is clearly tied to the female gender. When women’s attitudes towards Christianity changed in the 1960’s away from a virtuous “Christian” lifestyle this was the final death blow to Christianity as a whole in the UK . And to this point I would agree (at least to a certain level).
What I find most interesting is some of the areas not touched upon by the author (in his defense this was not meant to be a biblical study.) On page 196 the author states that Before 1800, Christian piety was a 'he'. From 1800 to 1960, it became a 'she'. If that is so and I believe it is, then men are really to blame for the death of Christianity. As men are called by God to be leaders, in the home and church and society, then they are to blame for the long, slow steady decline of true Christianity (in the narrow sense). As many of the author’s observations and conclusions are true for Britain they are also true for the USA as I believe this is as well. As long as men remain weak & passive this problem will continue to erode Christianity in the USA and allow other religions to rise and become increasingly influential. This we already see in our own observations and in the popularity of this issue in the blogosphere.
I found it equally interesting in connection with this issue some of the peripheral “Christian” norms for Sabbath keeping and how they negatively affected the male view on religiosity. For instance, women and especially young girls enjoyed the process of dressing up for Sunday observances. Quite the opposite, boys hated the whole process as the boys were required, in most homes, to wear either a sailor suit or an Eton suit. Add to this the norms of no games or horseplay and subdued behavior; boys grew up disliking religion and Christianity in particular.
I’ll leave it to you, the prospective reader, to delve into this work. I believe you’ll find it absorbing as it’s not just a boring statistical study. I would wholeheartedly endorse this work for anyone interested in modern Christian history such as myself. As with any work of this kind there were areas wherein I disagreed. Nevertheless, it was well worth the time and study.
I think some good follow up books to read on this subject (one I find fascinating ) would be Evangelicalism Divided: A record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 – 2000 by Iain Murray; Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920 by Clifford Putney; Religion and Society in Scotland Since 1707 by Callum G. Brown.