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Monday, October 3, 2022

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Queen’s funeral gets straight Christianity into the papers

ABOUT the late Queen’s funeral there is little to say that isn’t obvious. One might be made uneasy by the crawling tone of some of the coverage — the Speaker describing it on television as “the most important event in the history of the world” — but the service itself was emotional, not sentimental. The plain, incredible promises of resurrection are much more realistic about death than the sentimental pap that undertakers offer as routine, even if most viewers will have shrunk from them.

The service got a remarkable amount of straight Christianity into the papers. Robert Hutton, the excellent sketch writer for The Critic magazine, was properly impressed: “It would be easy, at such a moment, to give a brief talk about the good that the Queen had done in her life and then move on, instantly forgotten, to the next beautiful anthem. But a gauntlet had been thrown down by the woman in the coffin. Would Justin Welby pick it up?

“He would. ‘The pattern for many leaders is to be exalted in life and forgotten after death,’ he told a room packed with the world’s most exalted people. ‘The pattern for all who serve God — famous or obscure, respected or ignored — is that death is the door to glory.’

“We looked out over the abbey, filled with so many people who had clung so very hard to power and privilege, who had used one to secure the other and whose very presence was a sign of their success at it. Was it too much to hope that some of them had, briefly, felt uncomfortable?”

ELSEWHERE, life went on. Several American papers covered a Pew Foundation report that suggests that Christians will make up less than half the US population in 50 years’ time, when the “nones” will be as numerous. The Washington Post’s summary was that “Currently, about a third (31 percent) of Christians become disaffiliated before they turn 30, according to Pew Research. Twenty-one percent of nones become Christian as young adults. Should those switching rates remain stable, Christians would make up 46 percent of the population by 2070, while nones would comprise 41 percent.”

What is remarkable in that is the very high conversion rate of Nones to Christianity in their young adulthood. Nothing like that is happening here, at least that I know of. Similarly, the average Christian in the US is a sprightly 43, though, of course, Nones are, on average, ten years younger.

But what is the Christianity to which they are moving? Here, there is a chilling picture of Trumpist revivalism from Rolling Stone magazine: “Standing at stage-right, surveying the festivities this July night in Virginia Beach, is a tall, bespectacled 41-year-old man named Clay Clark. With cropped blond hair and a toothy grin, he steps up to the lectern between each act, standing near a variety show gong. ‘Alright, ladies and gentlemen, how many of you believe Jesus is king? How many of you believe that Donald J. Trump is their president?’ Whoops from the pews. ‘How many of you believe that Michael Flynn is America’s general?’ More applause. ‘And how many of you believe in the power of prayer?’

“Equal parts tent revival, campaign rally, and three-ring circus, this is the latest stop on the ReAwaken America Tour, a monthly pageant that fills megachurches across the country. Inside the tent the election was stolen from Trump; the pandemic is a horrific hoax; and a cabal of Luciferian cultists, including George Soros, seek world domination. There are End Times oracles, exorcists, multilevel marketers, New Agey health gurus, naturopathic bodybuilders, and QAnon crusaders all swaying together under one tent.”

Or, if that is too vulgar, consider this anguished letter to The Washington Post’s agony aunt: “What do I do if the recently divorced female rector of my church is openly flirting with my husband at a church retreat? I have described to several close friends her comments to my husband, and they agree that the comments appear to be flirtatious and are inappropriate.

“Another church is always an option, but he is a member of the vestry, so it’s a little complicated. Or I could ignore it and continue to be happily married, but it is annoying. Any advice would be much appreciated.”

Carolyn Hax, the advice columnist, plays a very straight bat to this. “It’s also okay not to play the trust-me-on-this card here — not yet. This seems to have happened only once, so maybe a lonely person let her guard down and a kind but oblivious person failed to pick up on that? So you can choose not to speak up, or even give it another thought, unless it happens again.”

I should imagine that the appearance of the letter in a paper that all three of the participants (and the rest of the congregation) almost certainly read would have resolved the whole situation without another word spoken.

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