Archive for the ‘Eurooppa’ category

SECULARISATION IN EUROPE: A GENERATIONAL SHIFT

December 2, 2011

At the recent meeting of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Mission Commission I presented a 25 minutes overview of several of the main features of Europe that we have been researching and which impact the mission of the Churches. One of those concerns work on the generational impact of the 20-29 year olds on trends relating to secularisation.

Six questions from the European Values Study (1980 and repeated in 1989, 1999 and 2008, the latter including 47 countries) form the basis for our ‘Nova Index of European Secularity’:

  1. Do you believe in God?
  2. How important is religion in your life?
  3. Are you religious, non-religious or atheist?
  4. How often do you attend religious services?
  5. How much confidence do you have in the church?
  6. 6. How often do you pray?

From these measures we believe that the 2008 data points to a ‘developing post-Christendom identity’, characteristic of people who have previously been, or who remain, ‘Christian’ but who presently have no institutional affiliation (or a very diluted form of it). The data represents a shift from ‘Christendom’ religiosity to ‘post-Christendom’ spirituality, rather than from ‘Christendom’ non-religiosity towards ‘post-Christendom’ spirituality. The newly ‘spiritual’ are not on a journey towards faith but instead are on a journey away from church affiliation. Whether this data represents a deepening of secularity or a mutation of religiosity deserves closer and more rigorous attention and debate.

The EVS data indicates a markedly irreligious generation of 50-69 year olds, best characterised as ‘ideologically hostile’ to religiosity. This generation is now beginning to retire from influential roles in the media, politics, education, and the arts. The havoc that these ‘lost generations’ have wreaked – in constructing a narrative of hard secularism – may finally be waning.

Our initial analysis supports the findings of other social scientists who suggest that the current generation of 20-29 year olds is reportedly less hostile to religion and religiosity but that this may be little more than a generation best characterised as ‘benignly indifferent’ to religiosity. This more ‘open generation’ may prove to be more amenable to creating the space necessary for a discussion of religion and religiosity within the media, politics, education, and the arts.

Where post-ideological commitments like this are held relatively lightly there may yet be scope for a considered exploration of the public value of religious belief and practice.

Is the game over?

November 15, 2011
Jeff Fountain, author of the ‘weekly word’ and Director of the Schuman Centre, is happy for us to post a copy of his latest reflections (14 nov 2011) on the future of the EU and the contribution that spiritual/Christian values can make to ensuring a future for the Union.


Europe’s financial crises continued this past week, fueling further speculation about the breakup of the Eurozone, if not of the whole European Union. One sign carried by the ‘occupy’ protestors raised the pertinent question: is the game over?

Back in 1992, the retiring president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors (pictured), challenged religious leaders to find a soul for Europe. By that, he said he meant a spirituality and meaning. Then he warned, if within ten years that quest had failed, the game would be up

We are nearly a whole decade past Delors’ deadline. Is the game indeed then over?

Today’s headlines would convince many that the European experiment is imploding. America, China, Japan and Britain watch anxiously as Merkel and Sarkozy try to rescue the shaky south from drowning in interest rates. Record high rates have finally, finally, dislodged the Italian incumbent from his self-made fortress, to the relief of the markets. 

The Greek premier has also been pushed aside this past week. Both Mediterranean countries now have interim governments with seasoned European veterans trying to steady the helm. Lucas Papademos in Athens was  vice president of the European Central Bank, 2002-2010. Mario Monti in Rome was a European Commissioner, 1995-2004. 

Chaos

The ECB probably played a major role in the chaos of the past weeks in a strategic move to dislodge Berlusconi. Interest rates had been suppressed in Italy by ECB’s purchase of Italian government bonds. Last week, these purchases slowed down, allowing rates to spiral upwards until the premier resigned. As the markets opened again this week, the ECB immediately started purchasing the bonds again to stabilise the market.

Monti’s appointment will add grist to the conspiracy folk’s mill. For he is a chairman of the Trilateral Commission, a think-tank often accused of plotting for world government and even of having planned the 9/11 attacks! 

The crisis however is far from over simply with the exit of two ex-premiers. A serious financial faultline runs diagonally  from the Irish Sea to the Aegean Sea, with interest rates for  government bonds ranging from 7.74 in Ireland and 5.8 in Spain to over 25% in Greece; compared to 2.34 in Holland and 1.88 for Germany. Even France is battling to maintain its AAA credit rating. 

Small wonder investors continue to be nervous as the media carry doomsday scenarios of the end of the euro and the disintegration of the European Union. For markets are all about trust and perception. 

So where do we as believers stand in the midst of all this unrest? In the first place, we need to own the problem of Europe. Centrifugal forces are at work today towards the fragmentation of Europe: forces of greed, indifference, populism, nationalism and xenophobia. These threaten to turn the clock back to a Europe of competing nations and alliances. 

We need to stand up for a Europe as envisioned by founding father Robert Schuman, a community of peoples deeply rooted in what he called basic Christian values of equality, solidarity, freedom and peace. Together we need to call our political leaders to honour these values.

Roots 

For too long we have ignored the warning from Delors which originally was to Europe’s religiousleaders. Surely this is a task far too important to be left solely to politicians! Schuman himself warned in 1958 that the European Movement would only be successful ‘if future generations can tear themselves away from the temptation of materialism which corrupts society by cutting it off from its spiritual roots.’ The identity of a new Europe, he wrote, ‘cannot and must not remain an economic and technical enterprise; it needs a soul’.

We, as believers in a God who is Father of all and in Jesus Christ who died for all, need to stand up for a united Europe, a diverse Europe, an open Europe, a compassionate Europe, a justEurope, a sustainable Europe and a peaceful Europe.

A Europe that reverts to old nationalistic competitions will only lead back to yesterday’s tragedies. We cannot take the last 66 years of peace for granted. We must continue to move forward together. 

So, is the game over? 

YES! …if we remain cut off from our spiritual roots, for we will not find the necessary resources for unity with diversity, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for compassion and justice, for sustainability and peace. 

NO! …if we only will listen to the fathers.

jeff@schumancentre.eu

UK missionaries in Europe: do they make sense?

May 18, 2011

Language skills remain an essential skill for effective cross-cultural mission. The British abroad take not just their own language but a very nuanced sense of meanings shrouded in their subtle use of the English language. For non-British speakers of English, this guide to Anglo-EU communication may be useful. It’s been circulating the blogosphere recently so I’m not sure of its origin. Enjoy!

Urban Church Planting in Europe

May 17, 2011

City to City – Europe‘ describes itself as a growing network of church plants and pastors throughout Europe with an annual meeting. The next meeting of the network takes place in Berlin between the 25-27th October, 2011 at the ‘Gospel and the City’ Conference.

Network members are working in major European cities, represent various denominations and minister in different urban contexts. The network  values an approach to effective urban ministry that applies the gospel to every aspect of life and church ministry and believes that church planting needs to be thoroughly contextualised. It appreciates secular culture while maintaining the historic confessions of the Christian faith. The network draws inspiration from the practical example of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the teaching of Timothy Keller, founding pastor of this church.

The 2011 Conference is being opened up more widely and will include important input from European speakers including Dr. Stefan Paas of the Netherlands who will offer a comparative evluation of the main differences between European and American church planting in the urban context. For further details of the event, or to follow links to the City to City site, check out our ‘Events’ pages.

A recently published EU survey explores online language usage

May 12, 2011

Eurobarometer has published results which will be of interest to Christian individuals and organisations which make significant investments in online presence. The survey may also have broader application to all Christian Media organisations with an interest in Europe.

Across all 27 EU countries, 54% said they had gone online several times a day and 30% said it had been about once a day. 80% of Internet users said they had used the Internet on a daily basis in the four weeks prior to the survey

A slim majority (55%) of Internet users in the EU said that they used at least one language other than their own to read or watch content on the Web; from 50% in Hungary to 90%-93% in Greece, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus.

In Italy, the Czech Republic, Ireland and the UK, a majority of Internet users said that they only used their own language to read and watch content on the Internet (between 52% and 85%).

English was by far the most frequently used language, other than respondents’ own, when going online: 48% of Internet users in the EU mentioned using English for reading or watching content on the Internet and 29% said the same for writing on the Internet. Internet users, who used a language other than their own when going online, carried out several Internet activities in this language. For example, 81% of these respondents said they at least occasionally used another language when browsing to get information, or when reading or watching the news.

Although 9 in 10 Internet users in the EU said that, when given a choice of languages, they always visited a website in their own language, a slim majority (53%) would accept using an English version of a website if it was not available in their own language. Internet users in Cyprus and Malta were the most willing to use an English language website if this website was not available in their language (90% and 97%, respectively). Other countries with a high proportion of respondents willing to use an English language website were Slovenia (81%), Greece and Sweden (both 85%).

About 8 in 10 (81%) interviewees thought that all websites produced in their country should also have versions available in other languages. The proportion of respondents who agreed with this statement ranged from 50% in Finland to 96% in Greece.

Finally, more than 4 in 10 (44%) Internet users in the EU thought they missed interesting information because websites were not available in a language they understood.

Source: Flash Eurobarometer No 313: User language preferences online Available for free download at http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl_313_en.pdf


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