In the United States, many dream of a better time, one of civility, decorum, and order, a time of respect, modest dress, and conservative values. But many British have mixed feelings. They are just as likely to associate that time period with class-consciousness, humiliation, domination by a spoiled and undeserving caste, hypocrisy, poverty and sickness often magnified by the pollution which gripped the great cities. For those more attuned, they will observe the massive wealth and corruption accompanying the inevitable rape and pillage accompanying all Imperial projects.
We are filled with awe as we gaze upon the grand old estate houses peppering the British countryside serving as backdrop to many a period film. It cannot be denied, they are impressive to behold. But to those who lived at the time they were built, to those who lived with a boot on the back of their neck, whether in Britain, Africa, or Asia...these great houses represented the stolen wealth of the world. The residents of these estates, living in splendour and overshadowing society were the great robber-barons, the great thieves and scoundrels of the age. The fact they wore manners on their sleeve and dropped a coin into the vicar's golden plate served only to increase the outrage against them. Is it any wonder this has all led to a backlash at home? The wonder is how long it took. The wonder is that Britain was able to escape the bloodbath experienced across the Channel.
Is it any great surprise the British Empire has shamed Christianity, has dragged the name of Christ through the mud? Missionaries for Christ doubling as agents for Empire brought the Constantinian gospel to many a foreign land. Some were saved, but what a cost...embracing the Empire which crushed their land and stole from them! What a pill to swallow...the British Empire was Christ's Kingdom, the British Jerusalem on earth? Thanks to the British Empire, (and all Harlot Empires, also known as Christian states,) Christianity has suffered. The cause of Christ has been brought into disrepute. The agents of false religion are given a foothold in men's hearts. A right and understandable anger can now be focused on this conquering culture and the religion it has tied itself to. At home it meant sweeping social change. Abroad it led to blood and war. Even though the British largely divested themselves of Empire by the mid-20th century, the world is still suffering from the fallout. Only look to Ireland, Africa...the Indian Subcontinent.
How many people hate Christianity and yet do not have the first clue as to what it is?
Today we live in a seeming chaos of incivility, a morally bankrupt cesspool. But just like in Roman times this also provides a tremendous opportunity for the Gospel to spread. It's not a good time for the Sacralist, but for the Gospel-minded, our post-modern social disaster, very much like the Greco-Roman Hellenistic world is quite fertile.
So to David Cameron I can only use the famous words of another Sacralist.... thanks but no thanks.
I would rather see Canterbury Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, and the Tower Bridge collapse in a cloud of dust than see a return of British Jerusalem.
Merry Olde England is gone and won't be back. It's a sad thing to be sure, but then again Merry Olde England was like Tolkien's Shire...it wasn't real. Times were better in days past...in some ways. But much of it is a made up dream.