Oliver-Dee has written this book with two aims in mind. He wants to correct the mistaken impression of church decline in the UK and reveal the underlying agenda that drives the negativity towards the church.
He argues that some want religion to die a quiet death so they present a depressing picture of the church. We should be too enlightened, they say, to hold on to religion.
Oliver-Dee looks at the numbers in the first part of the book. I found this part of the book the least interesting but there were a few surprises. There have been far more Christians immigrating to the UK than Muslims. (37) There are more joining the Church of England than leaving. (43) I was surprised at the limited scope of some of the studies that identified spiritual decline.
He next investigates the motivations behind the presentation of religious decline. He looks at the history of the conflict between the regents and the church and the concerns about women. He corrects misconceptions and myths, such as that religion is a major source of violence.
He lastly calls for a more informed view of Christianity in Britain. It is sensible, he writes, “to allow the church to re-engage in those areas of public service where it used to have a traditional role: welfare, education, and health.” (143) He argues for a greater religious literacy so people will move away from treating all religions the same.
While the book is mostly about Christianity in the UK, there is a small section on the U.S. He notes that in the U.S. the polls are mixed but people do seem to be choosing faith, just not a denomination.
The book contains good information for a defense of Christianity against the accusations of secularists. The situation is not as dire as they would have us believe. Oliver-Dee argues that leaders and legislators need to correct their misconceptions so they can plan accordingly for the future.
The church is far from dying out and is even showing signs of growth. (171) This is a good book that clarifies that truth and dismantles the depressing misconceptions.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Sean Oliver-Dee, PhD, is a religious affairs consultant to a number of government departments, NGOs, and think tanks. He also works for his local Anglican diocese as the Interreligious Advisor.
Monarch Books (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 192 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Kregel for the purpose of an independent and honest review.