– Aldo Maria Valli
Nearly 40 percent of millenials living in the UK are unable to tell who is the baby in Bethlehem that is born at Christmas. This is what Lifesitenews writes, citing a recent survey. The research, reported by the Christian Post and conducted by OnePoll, revealed that about 38 percent of British citizens between the ages of 21 and 28 do not know the identity of the child in the crib. A similar percentage, about 37 percent, cannot say who Mary and Joseph are and less than 10 percent can say what the gifts are made by the wise men. What’s more, it turns out that many think that Santa Claus has some role in the story of the child born in Bethlehem.
The author of the article, Jonathon Van Maren, recounts: “A few years ago, before we were married, when my wife worked in the restaurant business, at the beginning of the Advent season a colleague asked her: ‘What is it? Christmas?’ It turned out that the colleague before had never learned the story of Christmas and had never heard of the story of the Lord Jesus in the manger, of the Savior born in Bethlehem, shepherds, angels, nothing at all. She had grown up in a once Christian country without ever having learned one of the fundamental aspects of Christianity.
Comments Van Maren: “The new generations of the West are growing in a culture that is not only post-Christian. In reality, they grow up in countries where their families have often gone, for generations, from any semblance of faith and Christian knowledge. The problem is not only that they know nothing about Christianity, but that they have no awareness of what they do not know.”
This reality may baffle, but basically there is not too much to wonder since now only a tiny 6 percent of British citizens can be classified as practicing [Christians]. In fact, writes Van Maren, Christianity in England is almost dead. One of the greatest Christian empires in history is populated today by men and women who do not even know that the story of Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and who Mary and Joseph are.
“Many people,” notes Van Maren, “do not yet understand the enormity of this loss.” It is not just a matter of losing faith, but of a disappearing culture. The West finds itself without roots, without foundations. With devastating consequences on the possibility of facing and resolving issues of the present.
All this reminds us that a civilization is an incredibly fragile thing. “Who would have believed, just a few decades ago, that it would have been possible for the children of the West to ignore the story of Christmas?” It is possible not to believe the historical reliability of the Bible or the foundations of Christianity, but being unable to identify the child in the manger as Jesus is something shocking. It is no longer skepticism. It is total ignorance.
Perhaps in Italy it is difficult to imagine such a situation, but in Northern Europe everything that previous generations took for granted is now almost lost. Van Maren writes: “Books can be put aside, forgotten stories, discarded beliefs, and so in a few decades the same faith that sent thousands of missionaries to challenge unknown dangers in pagan lands can become such a memory far away that the descendants can not even explain what it was.”
The current situation in Britain is also the fruit of years and years of censorship and self-censorship in the name of a misunderstood sense of respect for other faiths and cultures. For a long time now many schools have no longer used Christian symbols and many faithful no longer show their faith in public in the fear of appearing intolerant.
It has already been more than ten years since the Birmingham city council decided to replace the word Christmas with Winterval, the Winter Festival. And now there are many municipalities, such as Wigan, near Manchester, who have banned the crib from shops and public buildings to not offend atheists and those with other faiths. For the same reason in many schools are no longer the nativity plays, Christmas plays, a tradition now outdated according to the National Secular Society.
In many schools and academic circles in history studies one can no longer say “before Christ” and “after Christ,” but we must refer to the Common Era, so as to “show sensitivity towards those who are not Christians.”
On the other hand, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, while the Roman Catholic Church remains relatively stable, in less than two decades in Britain the number of Anglicans has fallen by fifty percent. Only 15 percent of Britons consider themselves Anglican: about half of those who declared themselves as such in 2000.
At the same time the percentage of those who call themselves unbelievers continues to increase: today it is in fact 53 percent, compared to 31 percent in 1983, the year in which the research was conducted for the first time.