January Books 3) The History of Christianity (A Lion Handbook), ed. Tim Dowley
I read this while finishing Gibbon, who is of course far superior, and in anticipation of tackling Diarmuid McCullagh's much more impressive-looking survey later this year. It's an assembly of short and very short essays, aimed at evangelical Anglicans in the UK, originally published in 1977 and revised in 1990. The one thing I really did learn from it was the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, which I now realise was a hugely important step towards American independence in religious culture, leading to the political reality. But there was a lot that set my teeth on edge: the irritating point-scoring about which denominations performed well against Fascism, the total complacency about missionary activity. Apparently the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was founded in 1701 by "devout Anglican clergymen, shocked at the prevalence of Presbyterianism and vice in the American colonies." Well, as a lapsed Papist, I don't have a dog in that fight. An amusing misprint has the pre-Reformation Church troubled by "sexual immortality", that extra letter converting the description from cliché to erotic surrealism. The closing chapters touch rather superficially on the ordination of women. Homosexuality is not mentioned at all.