A spiritual revolution? Wicca and religious change in the 1960s
A spiritual revolution? Wicca and religious change in the 1960s

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A spiritual revolution? Wicca and religious change in the 1960s

2.3 Innovation in established religious traditions

Figure 5 Front cover of John A. T. Robinson and David L. Edwards, The Honest to God Debate, 1963, London: SCM Press.

While traditional Christianity experienced a substantial ‘crisis’ during the Sixties, there was also significant innovation in religion. Within Christianity itself, this was evident in the Second Vatican Council (1961-5), when the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church gathered in Rome to discuss ways in which it might be institutionally reformed and renewed. The Council, for example, opened up new possibilities for engagement with Protestants as fellow Christians, and also for a greater role for the laity in the life of the Church. Another example of innovation within Christianity was the development of changing currents in liberal Protestantism. From the mid-1950s, in particular, there was a growing demand amongst some Protestant intellectuals for a radical rethink of Christianity. One of the background influences was the Cold War, and the threat of nuclear holocaust. Some argued for the need for religious solutions to human antagonism, and that the antidote for division and danger was a radical Christianity for a new age. A best-selling articulation of such radical Protestantism for a ‘new era’ was Honest to God (1963). The author, the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, John Robinson, proposed a break with theological and moral traditionalism – a ‘new Reformation’ of a more liberal Christianity. The reimagined Christianity which Robinson and others had in mind was a new ‘secular’ theology – an adaption of the church in response to social change which was not confined to ideas of divine revelation through Scripture and Church – and a new ‘situational’ morality, in which Christian views about ethics, for example sex, were flexible to the new context of rapidly changing cultural and social expectations and experiences.


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