CAPITALISM AND CHRISTIANITY IN BRITAIN IN THE 20Th CENTURY
By Michael Skywood Clifford
A reporter once asked Mahatma Ghandi what he thought of civilisation in the west. “I think it would be a good idea,” he said. The same answer might apply to the question, “What do you think of Christianity in the West?”
Most of the Western Christian ‘democracies’ have lost much of their Christian culture. Even though many of the words and images still remain, secularism and materialism dominate – especially in Britain today, and its people tend to bow more to the god of greed than the God of the gospels. Napoleon once accused the British of being a nation of shopkeepers, would he call us a nation of supermarket goers now?
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s original spiritual advisor explains how frustrated he is about how society has changed in the USA.
“If you notice, Jesus taught us to pray, and I speak as a Christian minister – I realize that the country is not all Christian – but just in terms of the principles that I believe cut across interfaith lines and boundaries is in the prayer. The model prayer the Lord taught us as the Lord’s disciples has no first person singular pronoun. It’s ‘our,’ ‘we,’ ‘us.’ That got lost.
Prior to the first World War, Christianity had been the bedrock, the mantle and soil of Britain. From Christianity we fuelled our wisdom, our rituals, our traditions, our melodies, our manners, our fairness, our sense of duty, our honesty and our sense of family and community.
Indeed, the beginning of the Working Class movement and the Labour Party were crafted out of a combination of chapel and communism, from mysticism and Marxism. The combined agenda was unashamedly to create a fairer society, to look after the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, the aged and to care for each other. The working classes rebelled against being in service to the rich, or being exploited in filthy work, they looked around at the class system and saw the low social mobility and the terrible inequality of wealth in Great Britain.
The influence of Christian education
These days a lot of people hate Christianity – to wit, the propaganda against it has been ferocious and effective! – but my premise is that only two things fight unfettered capitalism: 1. Christianity (and perhaps other major world religions of an ethical tradition) and: 2. Socialism. Eradicate these and unbridled barbarism and Fascism result. This is because ordinary people lose an important part of their political and ethical education and also because the rulers – instead of providing for the poor, the sick and the vulnerable – see only mammon and status for themselves and regard all below them as Darwinian failures. Such is the terror of Social Darwinism which is replacing Christianity.
Christians believed that every young child must be taught about both the evil in the world and the potential evil they carry within themselves. This has been criticised as a bizarre and a cruel practice, a practice that will frighten children and give them nightmares. Yet – even though the child may pass through a phase of this – the basic theory is that when a child is aware of evil, the child seeks to do good. She becomes aware of her own short comings, and he takes his sinful self and tries to improve it, to heal it. Christian educators believe it is important to catch a child’s sense of ethics when they are young, because by the time teenage-hood has arrived it is too late to lay a good bedrock for learning if it is not already there.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15
Very few schools in the UK now teach the seven virtues: Chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility, nor the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, nor the twelve fruits of the spirit: Charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity – and if they do they are full!
If the seven deadly sins were better known would we be astonished by Britain in the 21st Century?
1)Wrath – Britain is involved in three appalling wars.
2) Avarice – Britain’s culture of decency and neighbourliness is dissolving into a culture of turbo materialism.
3) Sloth – unemployment is rife and there are few jobs for young people and multitudes of TV channels (pushing out rubbish) are on all day for people to slump in front of.
4) Pride – the hero in today’s society is the celebrity, the supermodel, the sports star, the pop star. All of who actually produce very little of sustainable value but who get enormous pay outs because they represent certain products and ‘the aspiration to be rich’. Whatever happened to real heroes with genuine virtues?
5) Lust – pornography abounds in advertisements, television programmes, publications, the internet, etc. Sexual exploitation. Sex has become a commodity to be traded not simply an expression of love.
6) Envy – is used continually to convince people to buy products to ‘keep up with the Jones’, or maybe just to Lord it over them (encouraged by the gutter press).
7) Gluttony – obesity is becoming an epidemic. The Office for National Statistics claims that high incidences of obesity were found in urban areas including Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, and Newcastle-Upon Tyne, Sunderland, Leeds, Huddersfield, Coventry, Nottingham, Derby, Middlesborough, Reading, Portsmouth and areas of inner London (2010).
Wisdom says that children should learn by example of their elders. Some fine examples we have in the UK for our minors to follow – the bankers gambling away their customers money and justice not being done or being seen to be done; the press bugging telephones; MPs fiddling their expenses and a PM and a chancellor who used to smash up hotels!
Indeed Pope Benedict’s state visit to Britain caused controversy in 2010 after a senior aide called Britain a “Third World country”. Cardinal Walter Kasper, 77, was pulled out of the historic trip after making a series of embarrassing remarks. He was quoted in a magazine saying Britain was marked by “a new and aggressive atheism”. The cardinal also said: “When you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country.”
Some attempt to rekindle Christianity’s fire after a slow wane since the Reformation came in the early 1800s with the Oxford Movement. However Christian attendance began to seriously decline at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Financial panics were common. Black Friday 1869, the Panic of 1873, the Paris Bourse crash of 1882, the Panic of 1884, the Panic of 1893, the Panic of 1896, the Panic of 1901 and the Panic of October 1907.
In the UK, serious riots broke out towards the end of the first decade (1910 – 1920 is historically known as ‘the Great Unrest’) where the clashes between police and the rioters ended in many deaths.
Militancy across the UK had increased from 1907. Riots occurred in Belfast as carters, coal porters and dockers went on strike over low wages. The Scottish miners’ dispute of 1909 and the cotton, boilermakers and miners strikes of 1910 preceded further serious unrest, commencing in 1910 with the miners’ strike in Tonypandy, South Wales when 12,000 miners struck for better pay and conditions against the Cambrian Coal Combine. Then 15,000 workers went on strike in the wool trade industry in Yorkshire, and further riots had occurred as a result of a strike by steel workers at Shotton on Deeside.
In August 1911 a transport worker’s strike began in Southampton for improved working conditions. The union’s demands were met in a few days and members returned to work, but in Liverpool the strike continued.
On 13 August, about 80,000 men and women marched to St George’s Hall. Scuffles broke out between protesters and police. At that time, 186 people were hospitalised, and 96 people arrested. Two days and nights of rioting followed with troops on the streets, there were 3,500 troops stationed in Liverpool and a gunboat on the river. On 15 August, prison vans, containing 90 of those convicted for involvement in the riots and escorted by Hussars, were attacked as they made their way down Vauxhall Road to Walton Jail. The regiment shot two men dead and wounded three others.
However, largely due to the Llanelli train strike, the government was unable to move their troops around Britain so a settlement was reached.
Over the summer of 1911 various groups had gone out on strike. Then came the first world war, and generations of young men were massacred. The establishment had thwarted the potential revolution by killing most of the young men of Britain
More financial mayhem followed in 1914. At the beginning of World War I, the US Treasury secretary William Gibbs closed the New York Stock Exchange to stop the sale of dollar-denominated securities. Then the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board embraced the “Too Big to Fail” doctrine orchestrating a bailout of New York banks by flooding the nation with paper currency.
The Great War and its impact
Nietzsche had written in the 19th century that ‘God is dead’. After the Great War many survivors of WWI felt that ‘a loving God’ had died in the trenches.
Christianity may have declined because people had simply lost faith; they no longer believed any more. My contention is that this tendency to reject Christianity has since been accelerated by the state and the power elite. There has been a increasing policy thoughout this century to denigrate Christianity through the media and various agencies and to seriously weaken its influence especially within the British working classes.
In the 19th Century, capitalist mass industrialists had found Christianity especially useful in forming passive employees – happy to accept their lowly station in this world and to strive for perfection in the next – who were too meek to complain about workers’ rights.
But at the turn of the 20th Century, capitalists began to see that Christianity was also a force that was beginning to work against them.
They realised it also formed people with a sense of ethics, duty and purpose. The religion emphasising both individual and collective conscience, self improvement and the repression of the selfish ego. It was communal: ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’.
Christianity was suspected because it gathered people together in church on Sundays (collective action?) because it gave the workers a philosophy (questioning mind?) because it gave the workers a sense of community (not selfish individualism), it gave the Christian a sense of control and self denial (not good for bingeing on consumerism), and it questioned values (what is good? what is bad?)
They didn’t want people meditating on proverbs in the Bible like:
As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people. Prov: 28:15
When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase. Prov: 28:28
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. Prov 29:2
It was time to restrict Christianity and dumb everyone down.
The rise of the working class in Britain
These positive ethical/ political qualities of the church, together with the rise of trade unions, church groups and the Fabian Party went on to create a Socialist movement for working people. In 1926, the British government came under serious pressure from the Christian Socialist Working Class movement with a general strike. However the Trade Union Congress backed down, giving in to the government after nine days, thereby thwarting a Socialist Revolution, similar to a white Russian Revolution in 1917, which was within sight.
However, over the next 30 years, from the early 30s through to the 60s, the combination of hard-line Communists, Trade Unions, Educationalists and the Christian Socialists went on to have a series of successes: Nationalisation of transport and power (much of it created for efficiency in the war) and the creation of National Health Service. Also Slum clearance, the curbing of Rachmanism, the building of council houses for the homeless. In the sixties the explosion of polytechnics, educational institutions and the Open University.
Christianity not good for consumerism
However the attack on Christianity intensified after World War II. Church attendance in the UK continued downwards and the media, books and films were abundant with the secular gods of the ECONOMY, of Freud and psychoanalysis.
The Sixties arrived and the wisdom of the Bible was overturned. Thou shalt not kill; abortion was legalised. A man should not lie with another man; homosexuality was legalised.
Suddenly sin was a figment of the imagination the devil was silly (no longer a useful imaginary tool to keep you in check). Freud and this post war secular age was about letting it all hang out. Indulging yourself was no longer a sin. And what happened to financial prudence? Buy now pay later, credit cards, hire purchase, etcetera.
The modern monastery crushers
Worse was to come. Along came Reagan and Thatcher, the Chicago School of Economics, Milton Friedman, Rupert Murdoch and Ayn Rand. Christianity was going to get a kicking!
Later Thatcherism was perpetrated by Blair, Brown and Cameron. Each of these leaders always keen to be seen attending Christian services. The massive Christian vote was essential to them. (But by their fruit shall ye know them!)
Thatcher immediately went about reversing all the social policy improvements that has been implemented since the 1930s. She privatised services that were meant for everyone and sold them to a few fat cats in the city. All the advances of Socialist democracy in the UK since the Great War were going to be dismantled. And how did the right wing persuade the people to agree to do that? By buying up the world’s media and then brainwashing us with 24 hour rolling news.
As Murdoch printed Thatcher’s propaganda in the Sun two things were notable:
1) All socialist advocacy was removed and all public workers and apparent lefties were humiliated and vilified.
2) His market was no longer the middle class readers; the poorly educated could now be controlled by a daily diet of tabloid trivia. It was a massive dumbing down process.
In the US, in the 80s, Neo-con, Lewis Powell and the Heritage Foundation singled out that commercial TV and the judiciary should in future be influenced by Neo-com attitudes, especially TV ‘because it shaped people’s minds’. Millions of dollars were put into it. Later, in the Reagan era, the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ was thrown out, no longer was it required that TV or radio need represent two opposing viewpoints. In the Clinton era, the right wing Clear Channel radio station went from owning a few local stations to over 1100, thereby emasculating real localism and replacing it with Neo-con output.
Of course American right wing radio is big on fundamentalist Christianity. Pray to God and get a new car! It’s crass and about spend-spend-spend capitalism.
And in the late 90s, Christianity became associated publicly with a couple of devils. George Bush and Tony Blair- the biggest hypocrites and war criminals of a religion to date. This association has heavily damaged Christianity in the eyes of many.
How Christian is being undermined by the media
In the UK, over the decades, many things had been changing.
A Christian service was no longer required in school assemblies.
Many employees have been banned for wearing Christian imagery, such as a crucifix.
A nurse who prayed for a patient was disciplined.
Even this week the Daily Telegraph published a story with a reference: Doctors fear their private lives and personal beliefs will soon come under increasing scrutiny from regulators, as a Christian GP (Dr. Scott) who prayed with a patient faces a formal hearing.
The fight for the legalisation of euthanasia has a very high media count. Christians believe we are all sacred, and should not end our own life. The ruling elite would love to have suicide farms because it would save millions, and they seek to persuade the aged and sick to die with dignity. Euthanasia was legal in Nazi Germany.
The BBC, once prided globally for its impartial treatment of subjects – started to move to the right. Towards the end of the 20th Century it was slipping into becoming state TV promoting corporate and government propaganda.
Atheist Richard Dawkins became the darling of the BBC and he was given enormous air time, massive advertisements for his books, such ‘The God Delusion’, to explain his atheistic theories. No TV time was offered to people who disagreed with him.
There has been endless repeats of documentaries demeaning Christians as GAY hating bigots. Christians dislike homosexuality as a sin but they don’t dislike the person. Homophobic is a very PC word these days, what about Christophobic?
The BBC doesn’t just attack Christianity through ‘fact’ but through drama and fiction. It was the BBC who put on the Jerry Springer Opera, a so-called musical, and a blatant satire on Christ, that has Jesus dressed in nappies. The BBC would not have dared to televise such a musical if it had been lampooning Allah.
And then there is the ‘paedophilia in the Catholic Church’ story, which keeps being dug up for reheating every Easter by the news agencies. Judging by the coverage one would consider the number of priests involved to be massive, yet the figures are that 0.4% of priests have been accused (accused not found guilty) of Paedophilia. Paedophilia is a dreadful social problem that affects almost every institution in the world to some degree. Not that that excuses any priest – or anyone else – who is guilty of course.
A few months ago the BBC ran a three part documentary on Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest writers who ever lived. Towards the end of his life he was a totally committed Christian. However the documentary went on to describe his twisted personality and how Christianity completely fouled up his sex life. By the end of the documentary you saw Tolstoy as somewhat deranged. Propaganda is sometimes very subtle.
Recently the BBC devoted all their Radio 4 drama time to the novel LIFE AND FATE by Russian Jew: Vassily Grossman. They have described it as the ‘War and Peace’ of the 20th Century. It is centred around Stalingrad, and the book effectively dismisses Socialism, Christianity and depicts the horrors of the Holocaust.
And why are these days all Christians portrayed as right wing evangelicals? If you are a Christian you must follow the American tea party! Or the far right National Front in the UK.
Christian Socialism is what they seek to destroy.
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