Sermons and Battle Hymns: Protestant Popular Culture in Modern Scotland

Sermons and Battle Hymns: Protestant Popular Culture in Modern Scotland

Sermons and Battle Hymns: Protestant Popular Culture in Modern Scotland

Sermons and Battle Hymns: Protestant Popular Culture in Modern Scotland

Excerpt

There is widespread and understandable wariness about anything with a religious label in contemporary Scotland. Prevalent in the consciousness of many people are the ugliness of sectarian bigotry, the proximity of strife-torn Ulster, and pejorative notions of Calvinist joylessness, papal authoritarianism, and evangelical gimmickry and charlatanism. Secularism holds sway and has done so since around the First World War. Long gone are the days when Presbyterianism defined the Scots to each other and indeed to an international audience. But its decline in importance has been a gradual one accompanied by surprisingly little anti-clericalism even from those radical political quarters where such reaction might have been anticipated. As Presbyterianism has had to cede much of its influence to Freud, Marx and the apostles of latter-day consumerism, it is clear that a religion that exercised a powerful sway over national life for an unbroken three hundred years still commands considerable residual influence. The centrality of Protestantism to Scotland's historical development and its significance as a determinant of identity in modern Scottish life can easily be downgraded because difficulties many have faced in coming to terms with this legacy have not made it a topic of debate or systematic enquiry. Too ready an acceptance at face value of religious decline can result in the forfeiting of an important conceptual tool in the task of dissecting the Scottish state of mind and the nation's social, cultural and political preoccupations and complexities.

Five years ago Angus Calder, in a review essay on the state of Scottish history, 1 stated: 'Dialectically, our religious heritage accounts for all distinctiveness in our culture: Hume and Burns, reacting thoroughly against Calvinism, may tower over orthodox contemporaries, but who can read Byron, or Carlyle or Stevenson or MacDiarmid or Grassic Gibbon without perceiving their various

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