Christians in Australia have found themselves increasingly marginalised over recent years – a point made with much emphasis in Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s Easter address. With the recent Religious Freedom Review led by former MP Phillip Ruddock, the Australian Christian Lobby highlighted that re-establishing freedom of speech and religion was like “putting Humpty back together again”.
Undoubtedly there has been a massive cultural shift in Australia since Federation. In the census from 1901, an incredible 96% of respondents identified as Christians with nearly half of the adult population being regular church attendees.
Fast forward a hundred and so years later, that figure is down to about 52% in the 2016 census, and the increasing number of empty pews of long-established churches is a testament to the decline of Christianity in Australia.
In his book ‘Post-God Nation’, author Roy Williams highlights that the growing wealth of Australians overall has contributed to the embrace of enlightened scientism – the belief that knowledge is now free from religion in favour of science. Australia is joining an interesting club of countries such as France and Sweden, increasingly becoming a post-Christendom society.
Much of the Western world may have forsaken its Christian heritage and abandoned it for liberalism instead, but increasingly it is the ‘global south’ that is leading the way for the Gospel.
Once regarded as the backwaters of the Western and colonial worlds, the ‘global south’ includes developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Such success of the Gospel globally is not particularly newsworthy especially in the Western media landscape given the strong prevalence of liberal undertones including an antithesis towards Christianity.
While the West is increasing its embrace of liberalism and progressivism as a guise for embracing more sex, drugs, genders, division, identities and extreme craziness, the ‘global south’ is finding meaning and purpose through religion and Christianity.
The constant false accusations from liberals in the Western world accusing conservatives of being ‘racist, sexist, homophobes’ has drowned out what is happening outside of the left vs right bubble – that there is a religious awakening happening right now.
With 80% of the world’s population identifying as religious and out of that 2.2 billion people saying yes to Christianity, that surely says something about the so-called new world order where religion is no longer relevant. In his book, ‘The Next Christendom’, Professor Rodney Stark finds that over a billion people regularly attend church each week around the world even though attendance may look much difference here in Australia.
In the attempt to find meaning and belonging, many in the West including Australia have grown up to hold hedonism as their ‘god’. The saying ‘whatever feels good goes’ for many including on spiritual matters – that is if someone in the West even spends the time to ponder these instead of furthering the destruction of traditions that have been established on Christian values. The rejection of the nuclear family along with religious values represents part of the old so-called ‘unenlightened’ responsibility that many in the West seek to avoid.
However, all is not lost even in Australia. In fact, as we recently celebrated Easter, it is important to remember that the victory has already been won by Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection through God the Father, the Church with the living Jesus at the head will continue to preach the Gospel.
All opposition whether it be Satan or regressive liberalism will not be able to hinder God’s Word. Even though it may seem at times that there are some setbacks, God continues to offer a personal relationship with Him for people of every country.
Christians in Australia, despite coming under the attack of liberals and the effects of being ‘out of touch’ in society, are still viewed as caring and loving in research undertaken by Mark McCrindle in his 2017 Faith and Belief Report.
Even though many people may hold negative views of Christianity, there remains an underlying acceptance that “when all else fails the church will be there” (McCrindle, 2017). Even though when we as followers of Jesus evangelise and encounter responses to the Gospel such as “I don’t like it”, God doesn’t shut the door on anyone on Earth that is seeking His forgiveness for eternal life.
The only way that we can find true meaning and purpose is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. And to live with Him as the ruler of our lives, but often people don’t like that. The Bible is often viewed as mere fiction or at best equated with the other writings of philosophers, but to follow Jesus is to humble yourself to accept that it is indeed the Word of God.
In John chapter 7 verse 17, Jesus says “anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own”.
So even though it seems that Christianity is dying and increasingly irrelevant particularly in Australia, it is important to look beyond our backyards. The West ought not to be deceived by wealth that has enabled our society to pursue secular liberal hedonisms such as identity politics of race or gender theory.
Rather following Jesus, even though it seems that the world has moved on, is worth it because of what is true – that it is Jesus who delivers on His promise community, hope, forgiveness and peace, confidence and eternal life.
This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on 18 April 2018