By Fred C. Melton
While in conversation with a local English merchant, I received the pointed comment, “You Christians are a dying race” to which sadly replied, “Only in England, Sir, only in England.” I then assured him that although the world community did not reflect it, the number of fundamental Bible believing people were on the increase while the traditional or “orthodox” groups were indeed waning badly. This brought him rather skeptically to the subject of why “fundamentalism” was so much stronger in southern America than in southern England (the English know much more about America than Americans know about England).
Comparatively speaking, the whole religious atmosphere throughout Europe is non-religious, even anti-religious, except where Catholicism is predominate. Children being raised in such a community learn quickly to either be apathetic or cynical toward all religions. In any country where a -state religion” prevails, zeal, individualism and leadership are stifled. State religions are simply an effort to emulate such closed communities as Old Testament Israel or Catholicism, but fail completely because precious few of their citizens are the slightest bit inclined to be obedient believers, nor do they ever intend to become so. Men should have learned by now that God does not wish anyone to be a Christian against his will.
Compulsory Religious Education
A pathetic effort to force “orthodox” religious views upon English school children through the state educational systems has been disastrous from the very start. Conventional attitudes might be seen in a simulated teacher’s meeting to select a “religious instruction” teacher. Headmaster: “Well, who is going to teach the R.I. class this year?” -(silence)- Headmaster to English Teacher: “What about you taking it this time, Mr._______? English Teacher: “Sir, I’m just too busy this year, I’m terribly sorry but could you get someone else?” Headmaster to the Science Teacher: “How about you, Mr._________? Science Teacher:
Wel-l-l, Oh, very well, I suppose we must be fair about this matter.” Many such teachers neither understand nor believe the Bible.
My own son’s teacher at the moment believes and teaches both modern miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and the millennial reign of Christ on earth. Consequently, students are presented with Bible truths intermingled with error in such a way that they neither believe nor respect the Word of God. The common complaint about religion in England is that it is boring and hypocritical. The former arrogance and the modern apathy of the clergy have taken a terrible toll upon the potentially religious. The average Englishman sincerely believes that he knows just about all there is to know about religion and often ridicules the “gullibility of the naive Americans.”
Attitude of Brethren Toward Children
I’m afraid that our own brethren in England have adopted much of the traditional sectarian attitude toward the teaching of children. It is widely held by religious groups in England today that Sunday Bible classes are only for children while the assemblies are only for adults. The “closed communion” concept among the churches of Christ here has tended to further isolate the children from the morning assemblies. I recall that one visiting child at a morning worship service was seen putting a “tupence” into the collection plate. Some of the brethren were quite alarmed at this because as they reasoned, “these children are not vet Christians and only Christians are permitted to contribute to the Lord’s church.”
When Bible classes are held for children, it is usually in the afternoon, while the mother often stays home Sunday evening “because of the children.” Consequently, our own brethren are losing their children to the world at an alarming rate. If such attitudes and influences continue in the Lord’s church, we shall indeed become a “dead race.” The age of the average member of the Lord’s church in England is now well over 50 years old with a few voting people hanging on for dear life.
What is the Answer?
The answer is, of course, to thoroughly Indoctrinate our children in the teachings of Christ, both in the church and at home. Parents must set an example of belief and faithfulness for their children to follow. The Lord’s church in America should heed the warning of their English brethren’s plight and-watch out for your children! Even as God has said to Israel, who were His people at that time, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou has forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hosea 4:6) Dear God, don’t forget our children.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 42, pp. 6-7
August 30, 1973