What to learn from the census

January 2023 Magazine

What were you doing on 21st March 2021? It’s hard to think back unless you keep a diary. We’d just reached the first anniversary of the first Covid lockdown. There were many restrictions including the rule of six or two households meeting outdoors. Churches still could not meet ‘in person’ and so we were using Zoom for a live service and provided a shorter YouTube recording for people to view.  All very well if you had the technology to join this way. Yet it was this day that data for the 2021 Census was gathered!

It wasn’t until December 2022 that the Census results were published. For many it provided ammunition to say down with religion! A decline was seen in the number identifying with being Christian and an increase in those who specified their religion as ‘none.’ 

What do we make of this? For those who had only ever made a nodding agreement with the church I guess the lines have been drawn more clearly. But if we think about those who are trying to follow Jesus daily by a life of trust and obedience then it is an encouragement as they are still with us!

The large number is likely due to our Western values being rooted in Christian faith. This is the topic of an impressive book by the author Tom Holland called ‘Dominion – The Making Of The Western Mind’ (2019, Little, Brown).  He shows how Christian values have touched so many things from our laws to our literature. It provides an answer to questions like why do we care for the vulnerable? Why do we protect children? Why object to corruption? Why believe in human rights? There is a link between a loss of Christian faith and increasing fragility of our society, an increasingly consumerist mindset, the rise of individualism, and ruthless competition being the norm.

What can possibly change the downwards trend of society? Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8v34-38).

If you would like to think about this further, then do join ‘Hope Explored’ – just three sessions to look at how following Jesus changes everything.

                                        Paul Kingman