Wednesday 29 May 2019
1 It must be very difficult for men like Prime Minister Scott Morrison, when, like love, truth is a central tenant to the Christian faith he follows but is not part of his politics.
Particularly when he wants to form a special bond between what he believes in and the Christianity he follows. More so when the adherents of his religion insist on a literal interpretation of it.
In recent times the subject of religion and its relationship to politics has become a talking point in the media, mainly due to the fact that the Prime Minister is a Pentecostal Christian.
The problem here is that he and others like him, if they want Christianity to have a greater influence on our politics and society, have to admit that their particular offspring of it believes in a literal interpretation of everything the Bible says.
That being that every word is the absolute truth; the word of God. Unlike his politics where lying is very acceptable.
Having had experience in both mainstream and Evangelical churches, I can tell you that the Uniting Church, for example, long ago cast away any vision of hell but fundamentalist churches insist it’s real.
Unquestioning literal interpretation of the ancient scriptures leads to opinions like those of champion footballer Gary Ablett to confirm champion rugby player Israel Folau’s view that homosexuals belong in hell.
Opinions seem to bounce from one side of the net to the other, clipping the net cord without ever conceding a point, or indeed missing the point that in Australia the “Christian church is fighting for its very survival.”
It is impossible to estimate the damage done to the Catholic Church by the abuse of children. Talk to a priest and he will tell you of the diminishing congregation. I have.
Now the Catholic Church is more interested in saving the institution than attending its flock.
Despite some growth in charismatic churches, mainstream churches are declining rapidly.
However, when one sees or listens to religious discussion one would think they are humming along splendidly. They are not. Get into a religious discussion and you will quickly find that Christianity is on the nose. Toxically so.
In his engaging and most thoughtful book “Losing My Religion” Bishop Tom Frame (he is the Priest that conducted the services after the Bali bombings) concludes that:
“Unless there is a turnaround in the fortunes of all community organizations by 2025 the Christian Church will be a marginal player in Australian life with only a few remaining remnants.
When the Christian affiliation of the population drops below 50 per cent, projected to happen around 2030, those identifying, as Christians will be found in four main clusters.
The Roman Catholic Church will continue to exercise sufficient discipline among its people to resist the mutating of popular culture.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic churches will flourish in the larger cities, form communities within communities and become more sect like.”
The conclusions he draws would appear to be backed up by the results of the last five, five yearly Australian censuses.
The last one showed a remarkable increase of 30 per cent in unbelief.
In fact, five of the eight states and territories now have more unbelievers than believers. In country areas, Christian churches are closing at a rapid rate and this is attributable to a number of factors including an ageing population.
Much research has been done over many years into the decline of belief and church attendance in Australia.
Today only around 7 per cent of the population regularly attends Sunday services. Of these many are what I call cultural or recreational churchgoers who don’t have a particularly strong belief, but attend because it forms part of their social circle.
When these people are deducted from the 7% there is probably very little real belief.
However, the main reason for the decline in belief I would suggest is the fact that children are now better educated than their parents. Today’s generation questions everything. They have an excess of information.
With access to information on the Internet it is now easy to reason and question traditional problematic belief.
The young have also become impatient with religions inability or failure to remedy human suffering and put an end to social inequality. If anything, it tends to exacerbate these problems.
Moreover, of course the young find it difficult to fathom how the ethical problems of today can be solved by referring to a moral landscape thousands of years old, and written by humans with intellectually inferior minds than the advanced scientific ones of today.
They are being asked to accept a set of rules and values that assume that the world they live in has never progressed scientifically, morally or socially.
Many conclude that religion (and its God) is a man-made concept and has been a monumental failure.
So in Australia given that the census (taken every five years) continues on its downward spiral and Bishop Frame is correct in his assumptions we could expect that within 15 or 20 years the Christian church will no longer exist.
Although this piece focuses on Australian faith it is worth noting that recent surveys in the US see for the first time a decline in belief in people under 30.
This also backs up my reasoning on the impact of education outside of traditional sources. Most major social problems in the US occur in the most Pentecostal/ charasmatic and under educated states.
Note: This link is a summary of the Australian 2016 Census. It doesn’t paint a very rosary picture for faith in Australia.
No matter what spin may be placed on the census results, the one thing that stands out is that the young have little interest in religion. Diversity and what happens around it may very well hold the key to Australia’s future thoughts on ethics, values and social structures.
2 Another area in which the Prime Minister will find himself at odds with his faith is when the clergy remind him of what the scripture tells us.
On 23 May 2019, “60 Christian leaders representing eight denominations and twelve organisations from across five states in Australia sent a letter to Scott Morrison,” telling him to get his act together regarding climate change.
One signatory Rev Dr Michael Frost of Baptist Churches of NSW, published the letter online and candidly told him by quoting biblical scripture to be aware of his responsibility as Prime Minister:
“The bible both begins and ends with God’s presence on Earth overseeing the wise stewardship of all of nature,” the letter reads. “Until that time, our responsibility is to manage it for the benefit of all creation and not just with the short term in mind.”
The question obviously arises as to whether the Prime Minister should obey the scriptures or follow his political instincts.
”Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society.” (John Lord).
“The only areas that I can think of where science is questioned are in the religious fever of climate change doubters, conservative politics and unconventional religious belief.” (John Lord).
3 A journalist put the following question to Mr Morrison: “What’s your belief, do gay people go to hell?” Mr. Morrison replied:
“I support the law of the country and I always don’t mix my religion with politics and my faith with politics.”
And there is the conflict of interest. If he were true to his faith then he would have answered; “Well of course. That’s what the Bible says”
Australian Pentecostals in my experience take a dangerous literal, approach to the Bible, (or cherry pick when they want too) believing that if speaking in tongues and miracles happened in New Testament, times then they should happen today.
“A commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, is the best way of providing solutions to human problems.“ (John Lord).
They are generally very conservative, totality against same sex marriage, which is consistent with Morrison’s stance together with his views on greater religious freedoms.
4 If as I do, you believe that Jesus was the world’s first socialist then you would find it extremely difficult to accept the Pentecostal/charismatic church’s adoption of conservative political and social values.
In particular its adherence to “prosperity theology“, which links any scripture that suggests that God wants the very best financial success for his followers to you personally.
The Prime Minister will be taking a great risk if he chooses to unite his Christian beliefs with his political philosophy. Australians have never liked “Bible Bashers.”
“If you read the Bible with literalist intent it becomes the only text book on living never updated but if you read it with logical reasoning and an exploratory mind all manner of things are revealed.” (John Lord).
My thought for the day
When asked as to my belief or otherwise in religion, or indeed my tendency toward a continuous search for truth. I can only say that I am in a perpetual state of observation which is the very basis of science or fact.
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