God in austerity Britain
As recession looms, the Church of England is active and vocal, but in the wrong way
Dec 10th 2011
CONSIDERING that Britain is a deeply secular country, there is a lot of God about this Christmas. Austerity is a part of the explanation. With the core cultural activity of modern Britain—shopping for stuff—losing its lustre, there are hints of a nation groping for something more profound.
For millions, austerity Christmas will include a dose of carols. The trend has been noticeable for a couple of years. The great cathedrals expect to be packed on Christmas Eve. Charity services, family services, carols by candlelight and sing-along concerts abound. A London church, St Martin-in-the-Fields, is offering “carols for shoppers”, while across town the grand organ of the Royal Albert Hall, a 9,997-pipe monster, will pound through some two dozen carol concerts in December.
Anglican voices are prominent in less cosy contexts, too. On December 6th the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, made front-page news with a commentary on the riots that gripped English towns last August. Too many young people feel they have nothing to lose, the archbishop argued, decrying consumerism and government cuts to youth services. A fortnight earlier, 18 Anglican bishops wrote a joint letter condemning plans for a per-household benefits cap (intended to ensure that welfare recipients do no better than the average working family). This risked being “profoundly unjust” to poor families with children, said the bishops. the rest