Lead kindly light, Paul Morris

Sunday Best: How the Church Shaped New Zealand and New Zealand Shaped the Church
Peter Lineham
Massey University Press, $55.00,
ISBN 9780994140777

Saints and Stirrers: Christianity, Conflict and Peacemaking in New Zealand, 1814-1945
Geoffrey Troughton (ed)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776561643

A leading scholar recently referring to the burgeoning interest in Yiddish language and literature waggishly commented that there is nothing like terminal decline to spark renewed interest at the universities. As we await the results of the 2018 New Zealand census, it looks likely that the total of all those who identify with the different Christian churches will be re-confirmed as a certain and diminishing minority, and that the numbers of those who report “no religion” will have risen yet again, especially among the young. How different from a few decades ago, when more than eight out of 10 declared themselves Christian, and only a tiny percentage did not identify with religion at all. How did this transition occur? What happened? What has been lost? The story of the radical decline of “Christianity” in this country and the contemporary meanings of these Christian legacies have yet to be fully told or understood.

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