Faith in 2159
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Date: 17th December, 2009

Photo courtesy of Craig Borlase

'With my book you get an extra 147 years and the chance of some genuine successes, as well the the usual horrors.'



Author Craig Borlase talks to Andy Jackson about his new book, 2159 AD: A History of Christianity

Writer Craig Borlase is 36, grew up in Chorleywood, officially the Happiest Place To Live (2004) and now lives in Reading, one of the worst!

He is a member of Saint Laurence, an Anglican church that tries to find new ways of creating church with young people who have no previous experience of it.

His favourite religious figure changes depending on what he's working on. At present it's St Francis of Assisi because he was described as: 'after Christ, the only perfect Christian'. "That makes old Frank something pretty special," says Craig.

Craig's new book looks at the history of Christianity as told in 150 years' time.

Many of your previous books have examined the church in the present. Why change to predict the future of Christianity?

In the past I've written about the present state of the church, but writing about the future of Christianity's not so much of a jump. I've got an agenda in the book - although it's not to accurately predict the way ahead.

Instead, in my clumsy way, I'm looking forward in an effort to get us thinking about where we're at right now, to see how far we have wandered away from heart of the action.

I need to be honest here; the whole future thing's a bit of a gimmick, designed to hook people in and get them talking. The book looks back to the start of Christianity up to today, and then just keeps on going.

My aim is to help people get reacquainted with our ancestors and then start to think about how our actions today might play out in years to come.

Do you feel a bit Orwellian predicting the future?

At times predicting the future was a strange business. Early on I decided that I wasn't going to end the book with some kind of glorious apocalypse and exit up to heaven, but after a while of writing about the continued failings of the faithful I wondered whether I was getting a bit too bleak.

Still, I don't think my fictional next hundred years are any way near as traumatic as the events of the previous century. I guess that the reality is that things are 'both/ and'; we will fail and we will succeed. Hopefully not in equal measure.

Have you ever had an experience that has hints of Room 101?

When you start writing about the future it's easy to feel the weight of other writers in the room. Orwell was there a little, but it was Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale that I had to really work hard to get out of my head.

Out of the threads of Christianity in the 1980s she managed to weave something that said so much of what we still need to hear.

Many people look back at predictions of the future, such as films made in the 1950s imagining the house of the 21st century, and laugh. Will your predictions be mocked in 2159?

Making predictions about the future is pretty dumb if you want to be taken seriously - all those adventures in tin foil and flimsy sets from the 50s dated pretty quickly.

I'm sure some of my predictions will look equally foolish 150 years from now. In fact, I really hope that some of them do... if we could sort out some of our introspection and narrow thinking then we'd be doing the world a service.

But I do think that there are some changes that are taking place today that will take some stopping; obviously the split in the Anglican church, but also the continued rise of the Church in the developing world (and its increasing influence on the west) as well as the increasing desire among evangelicals to engage with issues of justice and poverty.

You probably won't be around in 2159 (although you never know). Do you regret not being able to wear an 'I told you so' t-shirt?

I do fully intend being around in 2159. I have a plan, and it involves paying large sums of money to a clinic in Utah. They assure me that I'll be fully able to be smug and conscious throughout much of the coming millennium.

Imagine you had a crystal ball - what would be the best thing for Christianity over the next 150 years and what would be the worst?

There's nothing new to be said about Christianity. There are no great formulas to be unpacked or codes to be cracked. The best we could do during the next century and a half would be to stay as close as possible to those twin cores of loving God and loving others.If we got better at that, then what else would matter?

The worst case scenario? We do the opposite; we care more about ourselves than others, we make God in our own image and reduce Christianity to an excuse for greed, violence and hatred.

Again, nothing's really new here. We humans aren't particularly creative, and tend to mess up in the same ways.

Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from your book?

The book started out life being known as 'The Toilet Book' - just a little thing for people to read while on the loo to help sort out the gaps in their knowledge about the history of Christianity.

That element still exists, but it has grown into something else; it's ended up as a bit of a fanzine for the greats of our faith. I'm an optimist at heart, and there's plenty to be cheerful about in the book.

With climate change progressing, do you think organised religion will have place in 150 years' time when those left on the planet will have much less space to live on?

We've had trouble engaging with some of the key issues facing us today, like climate change. Do we take on the mantle of protectors of the environment because God calls us to care for creation, or do we avoid any hint of New Age hocus pocus? Do we act to cut carbon because of the impact on the poor, or do we concern ourselves with salvation more than being a weak-hearted do-gooder?

It's stretching us, and I think that the debate is worthwhile. Of course, we need to not get too caught up in the chat. If in 150 years' time we've not found a way of making climate change a theological issue rather than a territorial one, we'll have messed up.

Many films, such as the disaster movie 2012, and some books seem now to be a lot more pessimistic about the future. Is that recession-related or do you think society in general is slowly getting more worried?

I've not seen 2012 yet, but I get the gist about its pessimism. The thing I want to say is this; you only get a couple of year in that particular movie, and the apocalypse goes off half cocked.

With my book you get an extra 147 years and the chance of some genuine successes, as well the the usual horrors. As for why we're thinking about the future so much these days, I guess we've just run out of things to talk about.

What do I think when your clock flashes 21:59?

That I've only got eight hours until my youngest daughter wakes up.

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