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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Despised and rejected, 18 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England (Paperback)
Roger Scruton has neutralised criticism of his book in advance by reminding readers that he belongs to a sect which is `despised and rejected' but happily supported by none other than Almighty God himself who will vanquish his enemies in the fulness of time. But let's criticise the book anyway.

This could have been a heartwarming book if it contained a scintilla of the love of enemies preached by Scruton's saviour. The atmosphere is waspish Toryism laced with tabloid whining about political correctness and `homosexual unions'. It's theologically significant, of course, that Scruton habitually refers to his Saviour as `Christ' - never as Jesus. The title `Christ' allows this divine figure to hover serenely above the tumult of controversy over what he was really like as a human being, or indeed whether he existed at all. Scruton asserts that Christ `founded' the Christian Church - an uncritical assertion which reveals the author's ignorance of New Testament historical scholarship. The church was founded in the second century and Christian origins were creatively retrojected into the first primarily in order to secure apostolic authority for the emerging orthodoxy - a `pipeline' back to Jesus was essential.

Halfway through the book I wondered whether Scruton is a Christian at all. The real object of his worship seems to be an idealised myth of England and the English language frozen for all time in the Book of Common Prayer, the King James Bible and the English Hymnal. He paints a somewhat lonely and forlorn picture of himself half-concealed behind a curtain as he plays the organ in his parish church of Garsdon. Towards the end of the book, however, he reveals his orthodox Christian belief in the sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for human sin (a `ritual murder' of an innocent victim) and the sacrament of Eucharist in which Christians eat the spiritual body of their slaughtered and risen saviour.

Scruton wonders what happened to the Anglican settlement which meant that every branch of the English establishment - Parliament, the Inns of Court, Oxford and Cambridge - was thoroughly Christianised and in which outsiders - Catholics, Jews and atheists - suffered a variety of impediments. The long answer is that the eighteenth century Enlightenment has gradually superseded English Christendom. The shorter answer is that the Bloomsbury group discovered sex in the 1920s and everyone else discovered it in the 1960s. Scruton argues that religion has everything to do with control of the sexual impulse and laments that we now have `contracts for mutual pleasure' instead of the `sacrament' of procreative sex inside heterosexual marriage. His view of sex is thus rendered instrumental. He cannot conceive of the theological possibility that God created sex for persons, with procreation as an occasional happy by-product.

There is much to be enjoyed in this book, not least Scruton's superb writing. I am emotionally sympathetic to his evocation of England and its artistic expression in the hymns and symphonies of Vaughan Williams and gothic shrines and cathedrals across the land. But it seems to me that what we have lost - a thoroughly Christianised kingdom - is analogous to what Islamists want. Over the course of two centuries we have cast off a de facto theocracy in favour of a liberated, life-centred secular dispensation. Christianity was invented at a time when people longed to escape from the world. It's a ritualised expression of human self-loathing, negative psychology and world-renunciation. Christians long to `die with Christ'. They are in the world but not of it. They have no real investment in this world but long for the world to come. At times they have shown a greater inclination to burn their enemies in anticipation of the coming apocalypse than to love them. Enlightenment humanism is simply the repudiation of this gloomy creed. We have lost nothing except a prison. Scruton laments the loss of the sacred but every meal can be a secular Eucharist, every home a sanctuary, every human encounter an opportunity to recognise and respect the sacred divinity, the christos, of another human person.
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Initial post: 8 Oct 2014 19:40:19 BDT
Tim Randall says:
Procreation....an occasional happy by-product!!!!! Thus the survival of the human race is an occasional happy by-product of a shag. Absurd. I rather think that our ancestors 200,000 years ago (and moving forwards) were more powerfully compelled.
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