The world has changed greatly in the past 50 years. When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, space travel was still a dream and computers were just mechanical calculators.
TV was in its infancy and it was the Coronation itself that launched TV as a popular communication and entertainment medium.
But it is not only science and technology that have changed during this half a century – our attitudes to religion, faith and morality have also altered radically.
In 1952 Britain was a different place – at least outwardly – and formally it was a Christian nation. Everybody called the Holy Bible ‘the good book’, recognising its moral and spiritual value.
When people were asked their religion, most put ‘C of E’, and many attended church, even if only by habit. But today only about 8% of the population ever attend church.
One of the most seismic changes in thinking took place during the 50s and 60s, as people put more and more faith in science and technology.
Answers to the problems of life were thought to lie in medicine, agriculture, industry, education and research. Or if not there, then in hedonism and liberation from the moral strait-jacket of the past.
Things of a ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ nature were relegated to matters of opinion, which were ‘private and personal’ and had little or no objective value.
Although this tidal-wave of confident popular opinion was crashing across our culture, other currents soon became noticeable.
For some, science and technology only answered the ‘how’ questions of life – they did little to address the ‘why’ questions.
Technology may have brought prosperity, but left an aching void as to the real meaning of our existence. If all we are is ‘stuff’, then what is the point of life?
This materialistic perspective left a deep thirst. Jettisoning the church as irrelevant, many started to turn to the Orient to find fulfilment and quench these inner longings.
In the vanguard were the Beatles with their visits to India and consultation with ‘gurus’. The Hippie movement was also fundamentally a search for spiritual meaning, using drugs to attempt to ascend to a higher level of consciousness.
Many felt that humanity was on the brink of an evolutionary explosion – we were about to become a great community of transcendence and spirituality. The so-called ‘Age of Aquarius’ is dawning.
This current developed over the decades into the New Age movement we see around us today – no longer a radical alternative, but absorbed into our culture.
Most of the religious section of our bookshops is now filled with New Age books.
But there was another reaction to technological advances. Some felt alienated by society, church and nation. They did not attempt to find meaning in alternative spirituality, but concluded there was no meaning.
This angry movement showed itself in various ways, most notably in the rage of Punk Rock. Many took drugs, not like the hippies, to gain a higher level of consciousness, but to escape from what they felt were their pointless lives.
Throughout the decades, however, the majority were at least superficially content with a materialistic view of the world. For them, the purpose of life was to be found in escaping pain through prosperity and the pursuit of pleasure.
Various sectors of the professing church have fought back against all of this. Although most churches have shrunk, it is noticeable that the ones that profess to believe the Bible have grown – in fact by almost 70% in the last decade alone.
This fits with the other trends in the past fifty years, for although people have rejected formal religion based on the authority of men, they are increasingly exploring the roots of Christianity, namely the Bible and the One of whom it speaks, Jesus Christ.
The Rector of Bath Abbey, which the Queen visited recently, said: ‘I have been a member of nine churches over twenty-six years – every one of them has been a growing church – year by year. This is because they follow the Bible and try to apply it to today’s world’.
The Word of God
The Queen herself, in her 2000 Christmas address, said: ‘The teachings of Christ, and my own personal accountability before God, provide a framework in which I try to lead my life’.
This falls in line with what was said to her at her coronation. She was presented with a Bible with the words: ‘Receive this book, the most precious thing that this earth affords’.
Over the past fifty years, many things have changed, but the Bible has not. It is the Word of the living God, which lives and abides for ever.