William Christian Bullitt
For two centuries after about 1050, when most of western Europe was formally Christian, sustained attempts were made to apply gospel principles and canon law to society generally, through Gregorian reform, clergy discipline, and then modification of lay life. The Norman Conquest, which joined England politically and ecclesiastically with Europe's main states, away from Scandinavia, led to a revival of religious life. Edward the Confessor had already rebuilt the abbey church at Westminster, but ecclesiastical administration was reorganized, cathedrals commenced, and the cathedral school at Oxford grew into a university. Monasticism again flourished, but with changed structure: diverging from the original Benedictines were Cluniacs, Cistercians, and Augustinians, while Hospitallers and Templars were founded for service of Holy Land pilgrims; friars in the west, unlike monks, lived in rather than withdrawn from the world, the Franciscans among the destitute, the Dominicans as teachers, preachers, and scholars. Monasteries were not only repositories of learning but, through the concept of loving one's neighbour, cared for the sick (though the soul remained pre-eminent over the body). A redemptive religion centred on Christ's mediation with God, one of Christianity's attractions in a time of poverty, illness, and the ever-present consideration of early death was its promise of an afterlife with justice or consolation; chantries, schools, and hospitals were frequently founded on earth to buy grace in heaven. Since the prospect of punishment was more dramatic than that of bland paradise—art and literature reveal vividly imaginative interpretations of hell—the threat of eternal damnation was used to enforce a prescription of ethics and attitudes suitable for differing social ranks. High days and holy days punctuated the seasons' calendar, marriage laws for the laity contributed to a form of social welfare, while a knight's fidelity to his lord and protection of the needy was echoed in the adoption of a new position of prayer (kneeling with hands together) resembling feudal homage. At the same time, depictions of Christ in majesty yielded to images of his crucifixion, to encourage devotion. By the 15th cent. explorers, merchants, and colonizers had started to spread Christianity beyond Europe, a process that continued throughout the ensuing centuries. Empire-building not only involved colonization and growth of trade, but active and purposeful extension of religion; the cross followed the flag, sometimes vice versa. Nevertheless, with late 20th-cent. decolonization, Christianity, far from dying in these newly independent territories, became even more vigorous, especially in Africa.
The principal sacraments (or ‘mysteries’) recognized by all Christians, except quakers, are the eucharist and baptism. The eucharist or mass is the central act of most public worship as the re-presentation (sic) of Christ's last supper, death, and resurrection, symbolically feeding the faithful. Baptism is an initiation rite in which the use of water is an outward sign of death to the old self, washing, and fresh life; originally for converted adults, it is now usually administered to infants. Other sacraments, not universally acknowledged, are confirmation, marriage, ordination, confession, and anointing of the sick. Hymn-singing, preaching, reading of Scripture, and prayer form significant parts of worship. The Bible is an important primary written source for most Christians, taken literally by some, but regarded as no more than a history book, with all associated imperfections, by others. The greatest challenges to Christianity have been the doctrinal upheavals that led to the Reformation (and the English church's rupture from Rome) and secularism. The Census Report on Religious Worship (1851–3) caused alarm by its revelation that nearly 40 per cent of the population were unwilling or unable to attend a place of worship. While Christianity remains Britain's established religion at the start of the 21st cent., the challenge from secularism has grown, compounded by disillusion with organized religion, the increasing ethnic mix from immigrants with their own beliefs and practices, and a feeling that spirituality is lacking in a materialistic world. Appeals for improvement in moral values repeatedly call for a return to ‘Christian’ ethics.
Revd Dr William M. Marshall; and Dr A. S. Hargreaves
Bullitt, William Christian
William Christian Bullitt (bŏŏl´Ĭt), 1891–1967, American diplomat, b. Philadelphia. A member of the American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference following World War I, he was sent by President Wilson on a secret mission to Russia. When his report favoring recognition of the Communist government was rejected, he resigned and later bitterly attacked the Versailles Treaty before the Senate. After 12 years of private life, he was made special assistant to Cordell Hull and served (1933–36) as first U.S. ambassador to the USSR. Later he was ambassador to France (1936–40), ambassador at large in the Middle East (1941–42), and special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy (1942–43). He served (1944–45) as a major in the Free French army under Charles de Gaulle.
See his The Great Globe Itself (1946); For the President, selections from his diplomatic correspondence with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ed. by O. H. Bullitt (1972); biography by B. Farnsworth (1967).