Christianity and Social Service in Modern Britain: The Disinherited Spirit

Christianity and Social Service in Modern Britain: The Disinherited Spirit

Christianity and Social Service in Modern Britain: The Disinherited Spirit

Christianity and Social Service in Modern Britain: The Disinherited Spirit

Synopsis

An elegantly written study that charts the relationship between Christianity and social service in Britain since the eighteenth century and presents a challenging new interpretation of the links between Christian decline and democratic traditions.

Excerpt

This book springs from a longstanding scholarly interest in the history of Christianity. While I have no personal religious faith, my research has left me with a respect for the religious temper and its role in society and politics. in a study of British Christianity, which concentrates on Protestant traditions in particular, I hope I will be forgiven for not including more material on other faiths. the evolution of religion in British society is a phenomenon with many creeds, not all of which can be encompassed in this book. Jews have a strong tradition of social reform, for example, which in many ways is comparable to Christianity. But the Jewish community, although influential, has never constituted as much as 1 per cent of the population of Britain. Similarly, there were only an estimated 23,000 Muslims in Britain in 1951, though they now make up about 3 per cent of the population and play an increasingly important role in the nation’s religious life. Between November 1996 and November 2001, the Charity Commissioners registered 385 Islamic and Muslim societies. the role that institutions of Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths play in the future will be well worth watching.

This is an interpretive study, which seeks to contribute to the history of social service, religious decline, and democratic traditions. It makes no claims to have exhausted the subject of Christian charity in modern British history, which is inexhaustible in any case. the thinking behind this book has been influenced by the rediscovery of civil society after the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989, which has reshaped the context in which voluntary institutions are seen and studied. the rethinking of politics after the events of 1989 made me more sensitive to the relationship of Christian societies and democracy in Britain. This issue interested the Victorians, who admired the democratic nature of self-governing institutions, but it faded in the twentieth century with the growth of government and the decline of . . .

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