To establish the strength of belief, many people count the number of worshippers who attend church on a regular basis. On this basis, the Christian religion is not doing so well in Europe as the number of regular attendees declines. It seems the young are progressively less interested in the practice of any religion. However, in America, the Christian faith remains strong. It may therefore come as a surprise to discover that one country is about to rise to the top of the list. Yes, China is about to become the world’s most Christian nation. This is remarkable given that the Communist state is officially atheist. So in 2010, out of the estimated 1.3 billion people who live in China, there were 58 million regular worshippers. Experts predict there will be more than 150 million by 2025, i.e. more people looking for meaning in their lives outside politics and the material lifestyle. Given Church attendance is declining in America, albeit more slowly than in Europe, it’s expected China will overtake America in the next ten years.
What, you ask, does this have to do with driving? The answer comes from Europe. Even though the number of worshippers is falling, there’s still a strong core and evangelisation is maintaining numbers in some regions. To help boost numbers, the churches in Belgium are offering a spiritual car insurance policy. For the record, driving in Belgium is particularly dangerous with more crashes than in any other country. So the Basilica of Our Lady in Scherpenheuvel, which is a place of traditional pilgrimage, offers a formal blessing to anyone who brings in their car or truck. Priests stand by invoke the power of the Lord to keep people safe on the roads. “In God we trust.” So people who have their vehicles blessed enjoy higher levels of safety.
You may think this is some strange new idea, but you would be wrong. The church in Scherpenheuvel began to bless horse-drawn vehicles shortly after it was built some 400 years ago. The tradition has continued even though the horses are now hidden under the hood. All you have to do is drive up to the church and ring the special bell. A priest is available during ordinary working hours of 9 am to 5 pm. He steps out, blesses the vehicle, spraying holy water and spreading it over the body with a brush. About one-hundred vehicles are blessed every week, the blessing being popular among the young who have just acquired their driver’s license.
There’s even a special Roman Catholic prayer to bless a vehicle which priests can use to protect their parishioners. This is available by appointment from priests who have an outreach attitude to the local community of drivers. Strangely, this blessing is not that common in America. On our shores, it’s more common among Buddhists and Hindus than Christians. It seems American Christians have little faith in the power of the Lord to keep them safe when driving on American roads.