A brief news item today heralded the apocalyptic musings of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. According to a FOX News Report, the former Anglican Archbishop, then second only to the Queen as Head of the Church of England, commented: “Christianity is just a ‘generation away from extinction’ in Britain unless churches have a breakthrough in attracting young people.” Further, the Archbishop opines, “So many people do not see the average church as a place where great things happen,” he said. “To sit in a cold church looking at the back of other peoples’ heads is surely not the best place to meet exciting people and to hear prophetic words.”
An interesting view into the mind of a prominent Anglican. To his credit, the Archbishop warned against “gimmicks”–something not apparent in the Fox News Report. Indeed, he hits on some very critical notions, most importantly, that the human person is striving for a more profound spiritual life. All well and good; yet, my criticism is that God is more and more left out of the picture and the point of religion seems to be the self. The purpose of going to church is to “meet exciting people” and “hear prophetic words.” Sounds like a sophisticated dating site.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the mind of many bishops in the Catholic Church as well. What happened to the First Commandment? The false gods today seem to be “full churches” or “exciting people” or a self-referential standard of “what works.” I suppose this shouldn’t surprise us in the instant case. After all, the very origin of the Anglican Church was based upon a man-centered standard and not one that had God at the center–ultimately a violation of the First Commandment. But I digress. While there is nothing wrong with youth outreach–true youth outreach which challenges and raises youngsters up–the model presented by prelates oftentimes shows how out-of-touch they are with their flocks: most shenanigans at “Youth Masses” are routinely laughed at by the young. They are the graspings of aging hipsters or uncatechized twenty-somethings whose standards are about knee-high. Indeed, if this was the liturgy or the way doctrine was presented to Agnes or Lucy 1800 years ago, I suspect that they would not have willingly gone to their deaths for Christ. Young people want solemnity, sanctity and mystery in the liturgy–something that will give them a taste of heaven, not the banalities of late-20th century youth groups. They want bishops who are straight shooters on doctrine and morality and who are fearless men, willing to take on the ruling elite. (Thanks be to God we’ve had such men as popes these last number of years–popes who have, consequently, attracted the young!) Most importantly, young people want the confidence that the Church is not a human institution, but one that is divine. Imperfect humans make it up, yes, but Christ is the head and the Holy Spirit is its soul and therefore it is the one thing that will outlast all others. How can bishops provide that confidence when many of them seem to think like adolescents?
Then again, in the instant case, this is the natural conclusion to the heresy brought forth by Henry VIII and his wicked counselors.
UPDATE: To be fair to Lord Carey, as so often happens in the media, his words were not exactly as reported. If the Telegraph article is to be trusted over Fox News (which is a safe guess given the proximity to the subject of the article) the Archbishop said, “But to sit in a cold church, looking at the back of people’s heads, is perhaps not considered the most exciting place to meet new people and hear prophetic words.” Much less a dating site advertisement as I say above. Shame on Fox News for sloppy reporting if this is the case. Indeed, Lord Carey, happily, seems to be more a cultural warrior than I originally gave him credit for. Yet, my criticism stands insofar as the Archbishop is speaking of his church as no more than a social service agency devoid of any supernatural or divine content–a danger that Catholic bishops continually fall into. The latter being more devastating as the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ.