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Bonnie Prince Charles and the End of Christendom

Bonnie Prince Charles and the End of Christendom

by Peter Jones

If you listen carefully, you can hear the old "Christian" world cracking and splintering into a thousand little pieces. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, there seems little hope of it ever being put back together again. My American readers can be forgiven for treating the latest Prince Charles scandals as little more than a further minor hiccup in the colorful saga of the British Royal family soap opera.

However, as the Prince of Wales and Lady Camilla Parker Bowles, like "commoners," sneak into a registry office in the Town Hall of Windsor, just down the road from the pubs and burger bars, to formalize their long-term adulterous relationship, something of great import will occur.

Do not miss the moment. This civil ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace rather than a minister of the Gospel, tramples all over centuries of constitutional, ecclesiastical history, like muddy boots on a freshly-cleaned carpet. This "secular" marriage will certainly bring an end to the history of the Monarch as Head of the Church, and of the Crown as having any special, exemplary role in society.

It will, at the same time, demonstrate the impotence of the Anglican Church to stop the rot. The reason we pay them the big bucks we do is because the Crown has exercised a role of social stability and ethical dependability. Crowns are iconic and totemic. They symbolize what a culture holds dear.

Past members gave leadership in moral courage in times of national crisis, and even royal weaknesses helped keep British upper lips stiff-Edward VIII was obliged to abdicate his throne because of his determination to marry the divorced Mrs Simpson; Princess Margaret did not marry the man she loved because he too was divorced-in this way, even negatively, the leadership role of the monarchy was preserved.

With Charles and Camilla everything changes. Charles intends to do as he wishes, just as he chose to commit adultery during his marriage to Diana, because in today's world, personal "happiness" trumps any sense of moral duty. One is reminded of the farce of another April 05 marriage between Mary Kay Letourneau, the 34 year old married teacher, mother of four who 10 years ago engaged in sex with Vili Fualaau, her then 12 year old student, produced two children with him, and did 8 years in jail.

A friend recently said: this is "long overdue. It's going to be fabulous, seeing them get hitched finally." If the monarchy is losing all credibility, so is the established Church of England. Anglicanism is rent asunder by controversy- over female bishops, divorce and, of course, homosexual bishops.

For many years significant churchmen have rejected the authority of the Bible, and even the God of the Bible, such that the Church now cannot speak with a clear voice in these times of spiritual and moral confusion. People are doing what they think is right in their own eyes, and Christianity, as a social structure, is fast becoming a spent force, with nothing to say. Little wonder ecclesiastical observers and church historians say "Britain is showing the world how religion as we known it can die," or, "we are one generation from extinction."

Will it happen? Contemporary sociologists speak of "the subjectivist turn of modern Western culture." They show that "the turn" is a turning away from life as "established roles" and "given orders of things" to states of consciousness, to the importance of the inner self as the norm of behavior and to the high priority of "subjective wellbeing."

Of these kinds of people, Charles will be a most appropriate King-and more so than you think! This sociological "turn" has immediate religious implications. It can also be described as a turn from religion to spirituality, that is, from religion understood as giving norms of transcendent meaning, to a kind of spirituality which celebrates subjective experience. This, they say, is "a tectonic shift on the sacred landscape that will prove even more significant than the Protestant Reformation."

If the Protestant Parliament of Cromwell cut the head off a previous Charles (I-1649), another Charles, the present Prince, intends to decapitate himself-and with him, the place of the Church in society-by rejecting the Monarch's time-honored role as secular Head of the Church.

Charles went on record some time ago announcing that he would refuse the title "Defender of the Faith" and use, instead, "Defender of faiths." Where did that come from? Some years ago I was sent a book on Prince Charles, with the shocking title: Prince Charles: The Sustainable Prince: Who Will Rule the New World Order? I dismissed it as another hot-house conspiracy theory, though I did note the documentation showing how, as a young man, Charles rejected Christianity and was deeply influenced by the South African "New Age" thinker, Laurens van der Post. Charles went on to study Buddhism and Hinduism and has made public speeches about our inseparable spiritual connection with Nature.

However, I dismissed it as without much importance. The recent sociological study above describes the "nose-dive decline" of the Church in Britain since the Sixties. It shows that right now in Great Britain only 23% believe in a personal God; 44% [like Prince Charles] believe in "some sort of spirit or life force." How appropriate that Charles would be the monarch who oversees and indeed brings about, by his behavior, the formal deconstruction of traditional British Christianity.

We are not surprised, I hear you say. That is godless Europe. But not so fast! These British sociologists state that there is more evidence for the spiritual revolution in the USA than in Britain." On the one hand, church attendance in the USA has fallen from 40% in the 60s to 22-24% today; on the other hand, in 2003, for instance, there were 15 million yoga practitioners, and 35.3 million Americans who said they intended to take it up in the near future.

In North America, we might smile at British Establishment Christianity, but many here are incensed when the Ten Commandments, crosses or other Christian symbols are removed from government property-which is happening all the time.

In different but parallel ways, however, on both sides of the Pond, we are witnessing the end of a time when most people have simply assumed that Christianity provided the deep structure for civic society. Here is a soap we need watch very seriously, because the latest Royal escapade likely will sound the death-knell of Western sociological Christianity everywhere.

Peter Jones in Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet

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