July 22nd, 2010

never there

A History of Christianity; Pop Britannia

The next episode of A History of Christianity followed up the Reformation by looking at how Protestantism has evolved since then - it was called "The Evangelical Explosion" & primarily looked at what happened as Protestants & Protestantism moved away from Northern Europe. But the story of that expansion started in Germany with the Moravian community who were the first to be evangelical in the modern sense - instead of missionary work being the job of the trained clergy, the Moravians encouraged everyone to evangelise & spread the word of God. And they encouraged an emotional connection to God. This community was instrumental in inspiring John Wesley in his creation of the Methodist movement & spread like wildfire in the US, particularly after church & state were separated. MacCulloch made the point that once the state wasn't dictating the form of Christianity people had to follow then churches not only diversified but also advertised themselves more - evangelised more. The second half of the programme looked more at the Church outside of where the Europeans brought it - indeed on of the themes of Christianity spreading through Africa was that while white, European missionaries were trying to spread the Word it wasn't gaining many converts. Not just because of cultural differences, but also the slave trade & other impositions of colonialism had poisoned relationships between Africans and the Europeans (rather understandably). But once there were African converts running African churches (not just being preached to by Europeans) the religion evolved into something more a part of the local culture & spread much more quickly. I think the stats he quoted were that 10% of Africans were Christian in 1900, but by 2000 up to 50% were. And the programme finished up by a look at how the Church is developing in South Korea - the Yoido Full Gospel Church has an emphasis on being touched by the Holy Spirit & on wealth & prosperity for those who are saved in this life, not just the next - which is a distinct shift of emphasis from the Western Protestant Christianity that it has grown out of.

(And as my bias is towards my upbringing as High Church Anglican, all the churches shown in this programme felt pretty alien and different, with the emphasis on being visibly touched emotionally by God rather than on the ritual of worship. Which I guess people from outside my tradition see as stifling. And it's kinda interesting to me on a personal level that despite not being a churchgoer any more, & defining myself as agnostic, I still have such a strong preference for type of service & branch of Christianity.)

The next programme of the evening was the first episode of Pop Britannia, which I don't think I even knew we'd recorded. This episode covered the 50s - pre-Beatles rock'n'roll. Quite a lot of coverage of how the "establishment" of the entertainment industry thought it was just a fad that would pass quickly - so moving their young stars on into more "proper" entertainment jobs after they made their names as rock'n'roll singers. Coz that was what you did - you sang a bit, you did a bit of acting, you performed in variety shows, you were an all-round entertainer. Also weird to see was the styles that were considered "edgy" in the 50s, which just look terribly polite now. Partly, obviously, because shorn of their cultural context they're just "things ones parents might have worn".