Prayer is attractive enough when it is considered in a context of good food, and sunny joyous country churches, and the green English countryside. And, as a matter of fact, the Church of England means all this. It is a class religion, the cult of a special society and group, not even of a whole nation, but of the ruling minority in a nation. That is the principal basis for its rather strong coherence up to now. There is certainly not much doctrinal unity, much less a mystical bond between people many of whom have even ceased to believe in grace or Sacraments. The thing that holds them together is the powerful attraction of their own social tradition, and the stubborn tenacity with which they cling to social standards and customs, more or less for their own sake. The Church of England depends, for its existence, almost entirely on the solidarity and conservatism of the English ruling class. Its strength is not in anything supernatural, but in the strong social and racial instincts which bind the members of this caste together; and the English cling to their Church the way they cling to their King and to their old schools; because of a big, vague, sweet complex of subjective dispositions regarding the English countryside, old castles and cottages, games of cricket in the long summer afternoons, tea-parties on the Thames, croquet, roast-beef, pipe-smoking, the Christmas panto, Punch and the London Times and all those other things the mere thought of which produces a kind of warm and inexpressible ache in the English heart.
I got mixed up in all this as I entered Ripley Court, and it was strong enough in me to blur and naturalize all that might have been supernatural in my attraction to pray and to love God. And consequently the grace that was given me was stifled, not at once, but gradually. As long as I lived in this peaceful hothouse atmosphere of cricket and Eton collars and synthetic childhood, I was pious, perhaps sincerely. But as soon as the frail walls of this illusion broke down again - that is, as soon as I went to a Public School and saw that, underneath their sentimentality, the English were just as brutal as the French - I made no further effort to keep up what seemed to me to be a more or less manifest pretense.
...Perhaps one explanation of the sterility and inefficacy of Anglicanism in the moral order is, besides its lack of vital contact with the Mystical Body of the True Church, the social injustice and the class oppression on which it is based; for, since it is mostly a class religion, it contracts the guilt of the class from which it is inseparable. But this is a guess which I am not prepared to argue out.
- from The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, which my wife has been reading of late.
This passage is obviously dated in certain respects, but there are aspects of the insight here that might still inform us about current socio-religious postures.
[To fully "unload" the above passage you must also read Merton's description of his father's family friends he stayed with in France, who were poor farmers - this description of bourgeois Anglicanism is meant to contrast his previous description of rural French subsistence farming Catholicism, and one should read both descriptions as a whole, but my fingers got tired of typing today.]