Monday, October 24, 2011

All The Young Dudes

I have been re-reading a book I bought earlier this year, The Post-Christian Mind by Harry Blamires, published in 2001. Blamires is an Anglican and a former pupil of CS Lewis. He tries to write in the same cool, analytical style, but he lacks the Lewisian ability to get to the root of things.

As one of the Amazon reviews pointed out, his ideal of Christianity seems to be the Anglicanism of his youth-- a fault he shares with Peter Hitchens, another critic of modern liberalism and secularism.

Nevertheless, there are some admirable points made. In one chapter, "The old and the new", he questions whether "appealing to the youth" by (for instance) substituting rock music for traditional hymns is really the way to revive Christian worship in Britain:

Study photographs in the press of rows and rows of young people rapturously acclaiming the latest idol of the pop world. In that environment exultant youth abounds. But what about their elders? Where are they? The audience is all but devoid of them. Do we want to see this repeated in our churches? Do we want a brand of Christian worship from which mature men and women drop off in their thosuands as they grow into sober adulthood? It would seem that many of our clergy do. They appear not to have experienced what so many families know all about-- the way the adolescent who keeps a feverish eye on the pop charts and chases after the latest appropriate CDs and cassettes can develop into the classical music enthusiast when taste matures and childish things are put away.

As Pope Benedict said in a recent speech in Germany, "It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith".

I am always pleased to see young people who are passionate about their religious faith. I wasn't, at their age. There are many admirable virtues associated with youth-- generosity, exuberance, idealism (of a particular sort), optimism (again of a particular sort)-- but I tend to believe the deeper virtues come with age. Just as infants love bright colours and sweet tastes, only coming to prefer more subtle sensations as they mature, so young people's view of life can err towards the obvious. It is the obvious mistake to assume that religion is simply make-believe and a kind of conspiracy of self-delusion; Thomas Aquinas (or so I have read) begins his proofs of God's existence by asking, "Is there a God? It would seem not." It is the obvious mistake to assume that the individual knows what is best for him and the restraints of tradition and community are shackles; only in later life do we realize they are liberating. It is the obvious mistake to assume that maturity is becoming less child-like (as teenagers do), and not becoming more child-like (as middle-aged people do when they learn not to roll their eyes at the prospect of building snowmen or bonfires). Youth is the first thought; but first thoughts are rarely best.

Of course we should preach the Gospel to youth. But we should never pander to youth.

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