August 5th, 2010

never there

A History of Christianity; Pop Britannia

Started off the evening with the last episode of A History of Christianity, which was about the rise of scepticism in Western Christianity & the rise of apathy & indifference to it, as well. The first half of the programme talked about the Englightenment, starting in Amsterdam with Spinoza and continuing via Newton in England to Voltaire in France. What these three had in common (and in common with the "spirit" of the age) was questioning whether God existed as described in the Bible (or as described in the Jewish faith, in Spinoza's case). Spinoza saw God as an abstract, Newton proposed that He wasn't an interventionist God & Voltaire could not see how He was a just God. These ideas (particularly Voltaire's) were taken up enthusiastically in the French Revolution (but twisted & used to justify atrocities against the Church). These seeds grew & became part of the modern (Western European) views of Christianity, helped along by the events of the first half of the 20th Century which were covered in the second half of the program. MacCulloch presented the idea that the Christian Church was implicated in the atrocities of both World Wars, including being used as part of the justification for the treatment of Jews in Germany & the Holocaust. And said that this tainted Christianity in the eyes of people, that the Church didn't just seem old fashioned & authoritarian to sceptics but also a part of things that should never have happened. He finished up the programme by looking at how the Church is adapting to become a part of modern life & have more modern sensibilities. Talking about Vatican II for the Catholic Church (whilst also mentioning the subsequent move away from those principles). And talking about churches like St Martin-in-the-Fields for the Protestant side - which has been involved in things like Amnesty International, the anti-apartheid campaigns against South Africa when that was still controversial, and where the clergy have a modern & tolerant attitude towards issues of sexuality & gender.

The second half was fairly heavy viewing, and the programme as a whole felt like it was very personal to MacCulloch, expressing his feelings about Christianity & the Church. Both the big picture horror of Auschwitz (which he visited as part of the programme) and the more personal difficulties he had as gay man coming to terms with being part of a religion that seemed intent on classifying him as evil. The first 5 programmes in the series were more interesting to me - more actual history - but this was the right way to end the series I think. Definitely felt it was all worth watching (and I shall get the book once it's out in paperback).

After a break for pudding we decided to watch something fluffy to counterbalance the more heavyweight programme we'd just watched ;) So we decided on the second episode of Pop Britannia - all about the 60s & early 70s starting with the rise of the Beatles & ending with Glam Rock (the teaser for the following episode being the rise of Punk which seems a good dividing line). Mostly I was watching for the tunes & the old footage of bands, but one theme I did notice from the reminiscing talking heads was that writing your own songs came in with the Beatles to some extent, but then even by the end of the 60s that had passed for most chart acts (pop acts I mean, but also the glam ones) - it was back to songwriters providing the managers with songs for their acts, like it had been in the 50s.