I’ve said before that everything is theology, and I stand by that. So, here’s my theological impressions of Scotland (did you really think I wouldn’t eventually do this?)–
This culture has been shaped by Christianity and the church since its beginning. The very bedrock of this country is embedded in the church, and cannot be separated out. It’s in the architecture, the traditions, the history, the rhythm of life, the air people breathe. The Reformation was not a history lesson here, it is part of the reality everyday! You see it woven into the fabric of the society in virtually every aspect of culture.
We in the U.S. are an amazingly secular society by comparison. The foundations of the church (and the events in history that have shaped them) are distant things to be studied for us. In Scotland, however, you have no more hope of separating from the theological underpinnings that have created the church than a fish has of separating itself from the water.
That doesn’t mean the Scotland is a “Christian culture” (though I’m not sure exactly what that term means). What it does mean is that this culture has been shaped by Christian theology and history in ways that I could never have imagined living in the U.S. The relationship between church and culture is, in some ways, impossible to weigh. Attempting to do so feels like trying to discover “multiple personality disorder” in someone who doesn’t have it. They are not only intertwined and enmeshed, they are largely the exact same thing.
Though people largely don’t go to church here, the church nonetheless is built into the culture in deep and permanent ways. I’m wondering if even asking the question about the relationship between church and culture is only relevant in the U.S. I think no one here would know what I was talking about.
What will be interesting is to see how that church/culture history evolves in the future. Edinburgh is a cosmopolitan city like I’ve never seen. Not just tourists, but citizens and business owners are made up of every color, language, accent, and tradition imaginable. It’s not uncommon to walk into a “Scottish Culture” shop and discover the owner (second generation) wearing a turban. Women wearing burqas are extremely common. The pub near my house here is owned by a woman from China.
How will this influx of world cultures shape the ongoing history of this country so firmly enmeshed in Christian history? That will be interesting. But it will have to wait for another sabbatical.