Christianity in the Modern World: Changes and
Giselle Vincent and Elijah Obinna, editors
Church Times Bookshop £54
A GREAT deal is owed by anyone interested in the serious
analysis of religion to Ashgate, and especially to Sarah Lloyd, the
guiding inspiration of a remarkable publishing list. The present
book is part of an innovative series, although its title arouses
expectations of a global survey, when we are actually presented
with quite limited, if broadly indicative, empirical studies.
It is true that Jayeel Serrano Cornelio's chapter might have
been part of a global survey. It concerns the prevalence of the
"Golden Rule" among young Roman Catholics in the Philippines in the
context of majority practice, and of a Church that is ethically
conservative and politically critical, and much influenced by
Charismatic movements. This situation is replicated in global
Cornelio's chapter might be paired with an analysis by Stefania
Palmisano of new forms of monasticism in Piedmont. These emphasise
a more personal appropriation of norms, enhance the part played by
oblates, and permit the sexes to live together.
Wider issues also underlie Kinga Povedák's study of religious
"beat" music in Hungary as part of the opposition to communism,
though it was regarded with considerable suspicion by the
hierarchy. Globally, RC worship leans towards popular music at the
expense of qualitative criteria. Pål Repstad contributes an
important inquiry into what has been the relatively pious area of
Sørlandet in South-Eastern Norway to test the Woodhead/Heelas
thesis about the contrast between a self-controlling Christianity
and self-realisation in "the holistic milieu". The Free Churches
were more conservative than the State Church, but there were gentle
shifts inside Christianity towards more relaxed attitudes, and
there was no holistic milieu to speak of.
One could claim that wider issues underlie a study by Berket
Loul, John Willott, and Simon Robinson of the support given by
faith communities to asylum-seekers in Britain as they responded
creatively to dislocation and "super-diversity". The study by
Elijah Obinna of "reverse mission" conducted by the Nigerian
Redeemed Church of God in secular Edinburgh might be another: as
usual, reverse mission turned out to be negligible.
Dodeye Uduak Williams contributes another study with a Nigerian
background, focusing on the way old Yakurr rites both flourish and
lose their original liminal and transformative meanings when
performed under a Christian aegis.
That leaves studies with a quite different provenance. Tom
Hutchings discusses the pros and cons of digital religion in "The
Dis/Embodied Church: Worship, New Media and the Body", and
Sarah-Jane Page analyses data on the attitudes of young Christians
to sex in the UK. It seems that young Christians can be sharply
distinguished from others of their age by their ethical caution,
but that they share with them an attachment to stable marriage.
The Revd Dr David Martin is Emeritus Professor of Sociology
at the London School of Eonomics.