The ongoing decline of Christianity in Australia is confirmed by the latest census data. Those reporting ’no religion’ are now at 30%, up 8% in the last 5 years.
It’s no cause for celebration, says News Ltd columnist Jennifer Oriel. Perhaps it isn’t – and perhaps it is. In putting her case, however, Oriel makes some stunning claims. Let’s examine a few.
(1) Christianity is the generative principle of the free world. Without it, liberal democracy will become hollow and the light of liberty will be put out.
While within most churches democracy (along with ’the light of liberty’ in the form of freedom of belief) is anathema, their concern for it in the wider society seems largely to do with how they can influence it. Even Oriel’s own media organ has acknowledged this, as has the learned Marion Maddox.
(2) In the education sector, the media and even the military, there is advocacy against Christianity. The anti-Christian position is invariably couched in the language of diversity, inclusion and minority rights.
Perhaps it’s not so hard to understand a jaundiced view of Christianity among LGBTI folk, given the kind of persecution Christians have inflicted on them for so long. Some Christians, of course, are now acknowledging this and even apologising, notably the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope, but from some Christian groups the persecution continues… and continues…
(3) …big business has entered the fray by denouncing conservative governments that uphold democratic processes such as the proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage. We used to have a name for a corporate politics that subverts democracy by throwing cash at politicians: fascism.
What, no irony here (given that our writer is in the employ of one Rupert Murdoch)?
(4) In his book What’s So Great About Christianity, Dinesh D’Souza explains what I regard as the basis of Western civilisation: “The preciousness and equal worth of every human life is a Christian idea.”
It’s a little difficult to reconcile this view with Oriel’s support of offshore detention for asylum-seekers, given well-documented reports that conditions on Manus and Nauru have been harmful and that this detention, for the children, amounts to child abuse.
(5) The secular state is justified by Jesus’s instruction: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s: and to God, the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Christianity thus provides the ultimate defence against totalitarianism: the limited state.
In most cases, Australian churches are exempt from income tax, get concessions for fringe benefit tax and GST and don’t pay rates. So much for ’render unto Caesar’.
(6) [O]ur understandable anger about ordained pedophiles and those who shield them should not blind us to the extraordinary promise of Judaeo-Christianity. It has given us inherent human worth, dignity, equality, freedom, secular statehood and liberal democracy.
And Oriel’s one-eyed enthusiasm should not blind us from seeing other aspects of the Judaeo-Christian legacy which have blighted our society and in many cases continue to do so: authoritarianism, unwarranted privilege and advantage (in schooling, for example), oppression of minorities, sectarian conflict, abuse of children and laws against gay marriage, abortion and voluntary euthanasia.