The Retreating Roar

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01The Loss Of God20140414

01The Loss Of God2014041420150810 (R3)

'The Retreating Roar': that is how Matthew Arnold, in his poem 'Dover Beach', described what he saw as the decline of Christianity in this country. In four essays this week, journalist Madeleine Bunting dissects the impact of that decline.

Hers is a more sanguine view than Arnold's. His lament for the loss of religious belief has proved misplaced, she argues; instead, uncertainty and doubt 'can be rich ground for joy, love and light'. However, the poem remains important, having come to symbolise the dramatic loss of faith over the last century.

Each essay looks at one of the ideas which dominated Western culture for 2000 years - salvation, redemption, sin, sacrifice - and are now part of 'the retreating roar', and she asks: what happens to them? Do they disappear, or migrate and translate into new forms? 'The loss of God has been a defining feature of Western democracy, so how does one take stock and reckon with this extraordinary phenomenon in all its ramifications from the most personal issues of meaning and purpose, to the collapse of institutions?'

In other words: what has been lost, what has been gained, and what has taken on a new life?

01The Loss Of God20140414

'The Retreating Roar': that is how Matthew Arnold, in his poem 'Dover Beach', described what he saw as the decline of Christianity in this country. In five essays this Easter Week, journalist Madeleine Bunting dissects the impact of that decline.

Hers is a more sanguine view than Arnold's. His lament for the loss of religious belief has proved misplaced, she argues; instead, uncertainty and doubt 'can be rich ground for joy, love and light'. However, the poem remains important, having come to symbolise the dramatic loss of faith over the last century.

Each essay looks at one of the ideas which dominated Western culture for 2000 years - salvation, redemption, sin, sacrifice - and are now part of 'the retreating roar', and she asks: what happens to them? Do they disappear, or migrate and translate into new forms? 'The loss of God has been a defining feature of Western democracy, so how does one take stock and reckon with this extraordinary phenomenon in all its ramifications from the most personal issues of meaning and purpose, to the collapse of institutions?'

In other words: what has been lost, what has been gained, and what has taken on a new life?

02Sin20140415

02Sin2014041520150811 (R3)

Journalist Madeleine Bunting with a series of Essays on the gaps left behind by the decline of religion.

How does a faith decline? What have we lost and what have we gained? Do the central beliefs and ideas of that faith just disappear, continue in a half life, or migrate into new forms? Matthew Arnold, in his poem 'Dover Beach', wrote of 'the melancholy long, withdrawing roar' of the loss of God in this country, and now journalist Madeleine Bunting takes it as a starting point.

Today: Sin. No other idea, it could be argued, has so pre-occupied Christian thinkers and believers than the sinful state of human nature. And they have tended to focus on sin and sexuality rather than on sin and structures: 'The preoccupation with sin was a deeply manipulative and highly effective form of social control. Sin was made personal and individual. Much less attention was given to structural sin, the belief that there is a collective responsibility for social and economic systems which exploit or oppress people'.

So that's gone. But today, in the wake of the decline of Christianity, we seem as persuaded as ever about our fallen state: 'not thin, rich, or beautiful enough, caught in a spiral of self-judgment'. And with no recourse to a meaningful redemption or salvation.

02Sin20140415

Journalist Madeleine Bunting with a series of Essays on the gaps left behind by the decline of religion.

How does a faith decline? What have we lost and what have we gained? Do the central beliefs and ideas of that faith just disappear, continue in a half life, or migrate into new forms? Matthew Arnold, in his poem 'Dover Beach', wrote of 'the melancholy long, withdrawing roar' of the loss of God in this country, and now journalist Madeleine Bunting takes it as a starting point.

Today: Sin. No other idea, it could be argued, has so pre-occupied Christian thinkers and believers than the sinful state of human nature. And they have tended to focus on sin and sexuality rather than on sin and structures: 'The preoccupation with sin was a deeply manipulative and highly effective form of social control. Sin was made personal and individual. Much less attention was given to structural sin, the belief that there is a collective responsibility for social and economic systems which exploit or oppress people'.

So that's gone. But today, in the wake of the decline of Christianity, we seem as persuaded as ever about our fallen state: 'not thin, rich, or beautiful enough, caught in a spiral of self-judgment'. And with no recourse to a meaningful redemption or salvation.

03Salvation20140416

03Salvation2014041620150813 (R3)

In her series of Essays, journalist Madeleine Bunting explores the gaps left behind by the decline of religion. Was Matthew Arnold, in his poem 'Dover Beach', correct to write of 'the melancholy long, withdrawing roar' of the decline of Christianity? Do the central beliefs and ideas of the Faith disappear, continue in a half life, or migrate into new forms?

In this episode: Salvation. Once this meant a mix of divine assistance in the face of dire circumstances, a sense of liberation from the sin which separates you from God, and the promise of being saved from that inevitable human fate: death.

Not much of that about today. Instead, salvation is your own business and people have become salvation tourists, trying out their own version: whether romance or career. Perhaps, says Madeleine, salvation once brought with it an emotional intensity which was often destructive, but its loss has left us with 'no narrative of change around which we can rally, which can generate hope, and in which we can believe with energy and passion'.

03Salvation20140416

In her Holy Week series of Essays, journalist Madeleine Bunting explores the gaps left behind by the decline of religion. Was Matthew Arnold, in his poem 'Dover Beach', correct to write of 'the melancholy long, withdrawing roar' of the decline of Christianity? Do the central beliefs and ideas of the Faith disappear, continue in a half life, or migrate into new forms?

In this episode: Salvation. Once this meant a mix of divine assistance in the face of dire circumstances, a sense of liberation from the sin which separates you from God, and the promise of being saved from that inevitable human fate: death.

Not much of that about today. Instead, salvation is your own business and people have become salvation tourists, trying out their own version: whether romance or career. Perhaps, says Madeleine, salvation once brought with it an emotional intensity which was often destructive, but its loss has left us with 'no narrative of change around which we can rally, which can generate hope, and in which we can believe with energy and passion'.

04Patience20140417

04Patience2014041720150814 (R3)

No longer a Catholic or a practising Christian, journalist Madeleine Bunting would nonetheless argue that the decline of Christianity in this country has resulted in losses as well as gains. And one of the most 'damaging' is the loss of the importance of Patience.

Matthew Arnold's poem 'Dover Beach', speaking of 'the melancholy long, withdrawing roar' of the Christian faith, remains important, she believes. It has come to symbolise the dramatic loss of faith over the last century, and with it concepts and ideas central to Christianity. Much has been gained, but much has been lost, and sometimes the replacements are not so very different from the originals - but go by a different name.

Patience, Madeleine argues, is the most counter-cultural idea Christianity offers contemporary society, and as such needs to be rediscovered: 'Our lives now are about an addiction to speed; technology promises to take the waiting out of wanting; a consumer culture financed by debt offers instant gratification of every possible desire...'.

04Patience2014041720150814 (R3)

No longer a Catholic or a practising Christian, journalist Madeleine Bunting would nonetheless argue that the decline of Christianity in this country has resulted in losses as well as gains. And one of the most 'damaging' is the loss of the importance of Patience.

Matthew Arnold's poem 'Dover Beach', speaking of 'the melancholy long, withdrawing roar' of the Christian faith, remains important, she believes. It has come to symbolise the dramatic loss of faith over the last century, and with it concepts and ideas central to Christianity. Much has been gained, but much has been lost, and sometimes the replacements are not so very different from the originals - but go by a different name.

Patience, Madeleine argues, is the most counter-cultural idea Christianity offers contemporary society, and as such needs to be rediscovered: 'Our lives now are about an addiction to speed; technology promises to take the waiting out of wanting; a consumer culture financed by debt offers instant gratification of every possible desire...'.

04Patience20140417

No longer a Catholic or a practising Christian, journalist Madeleine Bunting would nonetheless argue that the decline of Christianity in this country has resulted in losses as well as gains. And one of the most 'damaging' is the loss of the importance of Patience.

Matthew Arnold's poem 'Dover Beach', speaking of 'the melancholy long, withdrawing roar' of the Christian faith, remains important, she believes. It has come to symbolise the dramatic loss of faith over the last century, and with it concepts and ideas central to Christianity. Much has been gained, but much has been lost, and sometimes the replacements are not so very different from the originals - but go by a different name.

Patience, Madeleine argues, is the most counter-cultural idea Christianity offers contemporary society, and as such needs to be rediscovered: 'Our lives now are about an addiction to speed; technology promises to take the waiting out of wanting; a consumer culture financed by debt offers instant gratification of every possible desire...'.

05 LASTSacrifice20140418

Good Friday, and the last of journalist Madeleine Bunting's Essays on poet Matthew Arnold's

'melancholy long, withdrawing roar' - his picture in words of the decline of Christianity in this country. She has been examining the gaps left behind, and the gains enjoyed as well as the losses endured. Beliefs and ideas central to Christianity - salvation, sin, patience - have not so much disappeared, she says, but have migrated into new forms, not all of them any more beneficial than the original.

In this episode: Sacrifice. Madeleine grew up in a Catholic home. She remembers dreading Good Friday: 'It meant a long service, shuffling up and down the church for the Stations of the Cross'. All to remember a man scourged and beaten and crucified. But central to the Easter message was not violence, rather sacrifice.

Unhealthy, arguably. But today do we need sacrifice restored as a central biological and ethical principle? After all, evolution requires ceaseless sacrifices to ensure the survival of the group. It And it may be, concludes Madeleine, 'that only when an understanding of how sacrifice can be a force for good have we any hope of restraining our destructive capabilities'.