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Gordon Lynch: Cultural perspectives

16 February 12

“Cultural Perspectives” is Chapter 10 of Religion and Change in Modern Britain (published Feb 2012 by Routledge). In this podcast Norman Winter is in conversation with one of the joint authors of this chapter, Gordon Lynch.

Gordon Lynch is the Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern Theology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. His present research interests focus on cultural aspects of religion, and contemporary understandings. He co-wrote this chapter with Callum Brown, Professor of Religious and Cultural History at the University of Dundee.

Gordon Lynch talks first about what is meant by “culture”. His emphasis is on the way we feel and experience what is going on around us, and the structures in which that is expressed. Though culture certainly changes, we may be remarkably unaware of how culture affects us.

“We never experience the social worlds or the natural worlds that we live in purely through their immediate form, we always interpret them through cultural systems of meanings.”

Professor Lynch describes the way in which religion is caught up in cultural change. The period covered in this book, 1945 to the present, has seen deep and significant change. In particular the 1960s saw waves of liberalising legislation which diminished the dominance in society of inherited Christian values; the authors talk of “the loss of a normative Christian culture”. The whole period saw a “rise of non-religion”. In reaction we witnessed “the consolidation of conservative religious sub-cultures” in which those who continued to be religious distanced themselves more clearly from the values of society at large.

The conversation moves on to consider the impact of cultural change on religion as a process which is continuing: technological innovation, material consumption and consumer choice, and emerging forms of social networking. Consequently the terminology surrounding what we know as “religion” is itself changing. He explains why the word “sacred” should be regarded as significant in understanding what has happened to religion in contemporary culture.

The conversation concludes with a discussion on how faith itself, Christianity in particular in its theology and structures, has engaged with the changes in the Britain in which it finds itself today. 

Gordon is Principal Investigator on Religion and Society-funded network Belief as cultural performance and collaborative studentship Negotiating the secular and the religious in higher education.

Duration: 41.36

Click here for the list of podcasts about the book.

Podcasts compiled by Norman Winter

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