We have written in passing about the “shepherding heights” of education, religion, family, business, government/military/policing, arts/entertainment, and media. What I mean by this phrase ‘shepherding heights’ is that from these positions of power, influence, and authority – we are being discipled; we are being shepherded in terms of a narrative we live by collectively, and thus individually, and all-too-often we have allowed the story being communicated to us by these shepherding heights to influence the Church – not the other way around. The beliefs, values, aspirations, hopes, and fears you have will all be governed by your story, and that means it matters who is telling you that story and what is moulding the story you live by.
Now, I am going to proceed with this article by assuming you understand what I am referring to above, as I want to address how we have lost so many institutions founded by Christians. Consider YMCA, Boy Scouts, huge chunks of the Church of England, and countless other Christian charities and organisations that are no longer pursuing an overtly Christian agenda. More importantly, how do we begin to take them back? My working example will be nothing less than the Church of England, which I think most Christians would recognise, is tottering on more as a cultural museum than a vibrant Christian community (though there are pools of the latter that exist).
Now, of course, nothing is the result of one thing, when it comes to a sociological change. All such changes arise from a series of synergising pressures and constraints that create a change. However, I want to look at one key feature and that is recruitment. The Church of England, in response to a declining active Christian population, had fewer and fewer well-discipled Christians to choose from in terms of its priesthood. This resulted in more and more unsuitable candidates whose faith was merely a cultural love of the Church of England and or diluted by progressive politics being recruited into its ranks, which then began a feedback loop; opening the gates wider, which allowed more such folk to take up comfortable jobs within the institution. At their worst extreme, this involved some vicars only doing a 30-minute service on a Sunday – and absolutely nothing else apart from funerals, baptism, and weddings.
Then, things got worse! At some point, people who absorbed, in an unfiltered way, the worst and most toxic criticisms of the Christian faith without any kind of pushback, began to be recruited into nice comfortable positions in which they were given a house and expected to do very little above performing some cultural rituals in fancy dress, also entered into the Church. Soon, these folks, lovers of its traditions, progressives, and toxic anti-Christians started to work up the ranks of the Church. The more militant amongst them, who resented rubbing shoulders with real believers (as it reminded them what they were not, or how far off the mark they were), began to contend for the institution of the Church. They began recruiting more people like them and obstructing, as much as possible, actual believers from places of authority. This loop continued over and over again for generations until all through the Church of England huge swathes of its structures were being governed at best by someone with no faith, but who loved the institution, traditions, and customs, or at worst, folks who actively resented Christianity and the Church and wanted to change her from within; to be more progressive – and less Christian. The rot accelerated when these people eventually found themselves in charge of recruitment; this is when they could open and close the doors to those they chose.
This happened because, in the recent past, those governing the Church did not have the foresight to shrink the institution to the size of believing congregation. It saw itself as the custodian or civic ritual and an NGO to the nation rather than merely a visible head of a living body. Simply – they needed to have an organised retreat; a consolidation to preserve their identity upon which they could have built. These emptying and vacuous buildings then had to find new relevance to society, and so doubled down on the very thing that was killing their Christian identity.
Now, how do we Christians begin to reclaim institutions like the Church of England? Well, using the CofE as my example, let me show you how to reverse the rot. The first task is to enter her priesthood (at least those called to it); that means you have to get past the very politicised followers of a progressive political cult which now manages many of the gates. Once you have done that – you need to find and build alliances and networks within her institutions of like-minded Christians and educate – with wisdom and prudence those who may be sympathetic to the cause. The key places to target, to seek influence over, control of, or authority in the gatekeeping positions.
Once such a coup has been won, you then need to operate with deft. The rot is too far gone to stop it all at once; you would expose yourself too quickly if you tried to be too quick and forceful in your agenda. Initially, you need to restrict yourself to letting in as many actual committed Christians as possible, whilst trying to minimise the recruitment of the ‘other folk’ to ones who are the least political, or the least politically competent. Once your numbers increase, you can begin to shift your filtering from ‘least politically apt’ to an actual numerical minimum. These actions would have to be padded out by recruiting as many non-Christian cultural conservatives as possible who were the most politically apt, as they would be most sympathetic to our cause, and most likely to oppose the toxic progressives.
Then, office, by office, church by church, diocese by diocese – you can begin to change the make-up of the institution of the Church of England. However, this is where the crunch bit comes in; there simply is not the Christian population to sustain such a movement unless we collapse the institution behind us. Yes, that is right, to stop the same thing from happening again, we need to do what should have been done in the first place. We need to collapse the institution of the Church of England so that its size reflects what can be sustained by its believing community; many congregations are slaves to maintaining bricks and mortar.
I would be even more radical and go further. As soon as possible, such Christians should fight for the de- establishment of the Church of England. How can we have non-Christians choosing who are our Bishops as is currently happening? This is because a much smaller institution would be untenable as the established Church – which is part of the reason, I suspect – that was behind the idea of keeping it large regardless of the size of the practising Christian community. The Church could argue in the same breath to allow all Christian denominations to share in its prized place – in parliament, which would, of course, lead to calls for other faiths to have the same place. We should agree in proportion to their sizes in the population; this would help to underscore the importance of evangelism, cultural conservatism, and filling out your census form properly.
I would go further and say that this collapse of the NGO, civic ritual Church should be very consciously accompanied by a deliberate Benedict Option style re-ordering of the Christian community around active Monasteries (old or new). Create islands of Christianity in which we can live out our faith, organise our society, and control and influence our surroundings by capturing the heights listed above. Fill up the “shepherding heights” also with our ranks, and take them over. These islands can then be the place from which a new missionary impetus may emerge. At the very least, let us shrink the institution around the most Christian, and successful congregations, bolstering them with resources and people.
This strategy can be replicated again and again in countless organisations that were founded by Christians; our schools, hospitals, orphanages, charities of various kinds, and other churches; (think Methodist, Quakers). However, let us be honest. One of the biggest issues that we have as Christians is that most Christians do not want to work for Christian institutions. This is why they are shrinking or diluting to survive; which is also why most Christian organisations perform badly when they recruit based on identity, left with a poorer pool of Christians to choose from. So, I want to ask you, dear reader, the next time you apply for a job; why not try to take your skills, talents, and abilities into a Christian organisation and then work to make sure it remains one or becomes more of one than when you entered it?