One of the interesting terms that Taylor uses in his work A Secular Age is “An Age of Authenticity.” He asserts that we live in an age where we “authenticate” ourselves in order to find meaning. This age began around 1960 and follows two other ages: the Ancient Regime, and the Age of Mobilization. In order to explain how these three ages fit together I want to first look at the Ancient Regime.
Taylor starts by explaining how the Ancient Regime is a mix of Christian and pagan practice based on local communities where everyone has their place, and life moves in tune with an “order of hierarchical complementarity, which is grounded in the Divine Will, or the Law which holds since time out of mind.” Its just the way things are.
To see a living fossil of the ancient regime, we can look at the enthronement of the British sovereign. Because Queen Elizabeth has ruled for so long, many people do not remember her coronation in 1953. But most of it was recorded, and can be seen as an example of Christendom combining the church and state. You can watch a 4 minute clip here, where you can see a Christian drama enacted. In great majesty and pomp we see the queen don a “robe of righteousness”, vow to uphold justice and mercy, and act as lord of a realm that ultimately belongs to Christ. Lords and ladies in their finest crowns and diadems fill the cathedral,like hosts of angles, while higher lords attend to her like seraphim around the mercy-seat of God. Though not included in this short clip, she also promises to uphold and defend the Gospel and the Protestant form of Christianity, and kiss a Bible before she signs her name to these promises. This is Christendom in a high and stylized form. As Christians we can connect with this ceremony in a way we do not with a “non-religious” government. Yet it is also the same church that persecuted Catholics, jailed John Bunyan, and vilified the Wesleys. The royal family brings in tourist dollars, looks great at state funerals, weddings, and diplomatic visits from other countries, but we are not going back to Tudor or Elizabethan England. It’s over. How it changed and why we moved to the next phase in Taylor’s theory , the Age of Mobilization (1800-1960), will be coming in a subsequent post.
Till then, I hope you will be thinking what did we lose in losing Christendom and what did we gain?