BILLY BRAGG: No. No. No. But the very fact that he is trying to engage with the world as it is, rather than the spiritual temporal world inside the Vatican, I think that's very positive for Christianity because I think in a modern society - I mean, you mentioned the number of people who are more Christians - becoming Christians. That's certainly not true in western Europe. Christianity is declining in British society. It's falling away. Church attendances are falling away in a phenomenal rate.
MIROSLAV VOLF: Not in London.
BILLY BRAGG: Well, the people in London tend to be Africans in the churches in London. There’s a big - you know, there’s a big...
MIROSLAV VOLF: Go to HTB in London and you will see a vibrant - vibrant, very educated churches.
BILLY BRAGG: But for a religious figure to engage with the elements of Christianity as preached by Christ in the New Testament, you know, the Christ who threw the money lenders out of the temple, that kind of Christianity, I think, still resonates with a lot of people. If the Pope is going to talk about equality, not just humility, then I think, you know, that is a genuine, positive thing for people of all faith.
Now here's the thing (the thing that led to the urge to become shouty). Did he not just insinuate that the growth in church attendance in London does not count because those people are "African"? In other words, it's not a real growth in Christianity because people of African descent either don't really count as Londoners or aren't really "British society". I'm not sure why he thinks Africans don't count. Maybe he's trying to suggest that in a "modern society" Christianity is declining except amongst people whose cultures are different from the majority.
I've heard that argument in different forms so many times. Someone will say, "Oh, most people don't believe in God anymore. Christianity is declining." And then you say, "Well, actually in terms of numbers, it's growing," and then they'll say, "Oh, yes but only in places like China and Africa." What is implied is that they don't really hold the same status as a Western believer because they aren't something (clever, modern, sophisticated?) enough to make a rational decision about faith.
I can't believe that someone can make such a statement about cultural superiority and get away with it! And no one seemed to pick up on the fact that he'd just said, "Well, the people in London tend to be Africans in the churches in London. There's a big- you know,..." A big what? Difference???? How rude!