I had a phone call from the Sunshine Coast Daily last week. Would I write a short piece in response to the question, “Is it time for Australians to reconsider the relevance of Christianity?” I gave it a dignified two seconds thought before I said, “Yes!”
The concept was a ‘head to head’ style article, with me answering ‘on behalf of’ the godless and someone else answering for the Christians. And, who represents Christians better than anyone else in this country? The Australian Christian Lobby of course! Well, not ‘of course’ – as we know, they represent only a small proportion of actual Christians – but that’s who the Sunshine Coast Daily chose. And, to be fair, I’m hardly an elected representative for atheists, so I really shouldn’t gripe.
The article will probably go up online later this week, but I know you’re all champing at the bit to read it, so I’ve reproduced it here. Of course, if you’re in the Sunshine Coast region, do the right thing and pick up a hard copy and you might also consider dropping them a line, or giving them a call to thank them for allowing us atheists to have a say*. It seems to be a new policy of the paper and one that should be recognised and applauded.
“Is it time for Australians to consider the relevance of Christianity?”
Lyle Shelton – Australian Christian Lobby
While Christianity’s human practitioners have not always done the right thing, there is no doubt the religion itself has been an overwhelmeing influence for good in the past 2000 years.
People of faith, motivated by its central ethos of love for God and love for others, gave rise to the modern hospital system, public education, trade unions, care for the poor and the abolition of slavery – all before any of these were on the agenda of governments.
Christianity was a major force against the tyrrany of kings and was important to the evolution of modern representative democracy and the idea that there should be checks and balances on people who hold power.
Nations with Christian foundations remain the freest and most civil on the planet.
The 20th century’s experiment with state-mandated atheism in Eastern Europe, Russia, China and elsewhere was a bloody catastrophe.
More needs to be taught about the gulags.
It is a credit to nations with a Christian heritage like Australia that Muslims fleeting persecution from extreme forms of Islam in places like Afghanistan and Iran are so keen to re-settle here.
It’s interesting that people from overfly nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which practice varying degrees of sharia law, are eager to come to a country whose legal system traces its roots to the bible.
Christianity says we should welcome as many of these vulnerable people as we can.
Yes, there is a contest for the future values of our nation but a free society does not fear this debate.
Sadly there are some who deeply resent Christianity and seek to expunge it from public life with the coercive force of politically correct laws and tribunals
This is emerging as a serious threat to free speech and freedom of religion which may well affect everyone to some degree.
Mistakes have certainly been made in the name of Christ.
But despite this, Christianity has bequeathed a rich cultural heritage and civility that we would do well to examine closely before aggressive secularists make the decision for us to discard it.
Lyle Shelton is chief of staff of the Australian Christian Lobby
Chrys Stevenson, Sunshine Coast Atheists
Australians really should reconsider the relevance of Christianity to Australian society.
There was a time when our pubs and shops were closed on Sundays. Now they’re not only open, but bustling.
Today, nearly 70 per cent of Australians are married by civil celebrants. What does it say about Christianity’s relevance when most people, on the most important day of their lives, say ‘no’ to religion?
Australia is one of world’s most secular nations. No need for an atheist bus sign saying “Sleep in on Sundays” – 92 per cent of us already do.
Christianity is in decline. An international survey in 2008 found 30 per cent of Australians don’t believe in God while 26 per cent have doubts to varying degrees.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) may have access to the Prime Minister’s office, but they most assuredly don’t represent the views of most Australians, or even most Christians.
Despite the increasingly shrill protestations of the ACL, a recent Galaxy Poll showed even most Christians support same-sex marriage.
While churches oppose voluntary euthanasia, 85 per cent of Aussies support it. Denied the opportunity to die with dignity, Australia’s elderly most commonly choose hanging as an alternative.
Most Australians are horrified at the high rate of youth suicide. Gay teens are up to 14 times more likely to end their lives. Yet, recently, the ACL endorsed a law which allows religious schools to expel students for no reason other than being openly gay.
Has anyone noticed those standing up for fairness, equality and the alleviation of suffering in these scenarios aren’t the Christians?
The ACL may argue that Australia would be a better place if ‘Christian values’ were returned to centre-stage. Consider this. In those halcyon days when Christianity was far more ‘relevant’ than it is today, we supported the White Australia Policy. Racism and sexism were rife. Gay couples had no rights and were derided as poofters and fairies. Christian churches presided over the ‘stolen generation’. With abortion illegal, women with unwanted pregnancies used a coat hanger or turned to back street butchers. Divorcees were social outcasts and single mothers were cruelly coerced into adoptions. It is only as we became more secular that these things changed.
So yes, let’s reconsider the relevance of Christianity to Australia’s past and present. And then, let’s raise a toast to a future in which Christianity is increasingly irrelevant.
Chrys Stevenson is the convenor of the Sunshine Coast Atheists and co-founder of new national lobby group, Reason Australia.
*Sunshine Coast Daily ‘Letters to the Editor’: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank the editor: email@example.com (Thanks Mark and journalist Owen Jacques for putting the piece together).
Astute readers may have noticed a couple of historical howlers from our friend, Lyle. Please feel free to address them in comments. Neither Lyle nor I had the opportunity to view each other’s copy before it was submitted, so we were both ‘writing blind’. Now I’ve seen his arguments, I may well take them on directly later in a future blog post. But if anyone else wants to have a go – please feel free.
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