Christians In A Hostile West? Interview With A Deputy Prime Minister

Former Deputy PM John Anderson Speaks About Challenges Facing Western Christians - Part 1 of 3.

John Anderson AO served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia from July 1999 to July 2005. John is also a devout Evangelical Christian, and I caught up with him last year to discuss the challenges facing Christians in a post-Christian West. 

Photo courtesy canva.com

 

Akos Balogh (AB): John, what are some of the main challenges facing Western Christians in the near future?

1) The Erasing of Our Christian Heritage

John Anderson (JA):

Western Christians face challenges on multiple fronts.

First, we have faced an unbelievably aggressive push against Christianity from the intellectual and media elite. And this has been aided by the extraordinary way in which the same people (but not only the same people) have been able to strip away any real understanding of our cultural roots.

Winston Churchill wrote that any society that doesn’t hand its history on – specifically referring to its religious beliefs and heroes – is a culture that effectively condemns its cultural roots, and moves away from them. He went on to say this leads young people open to Karl Marx’s dictum, that a people who do not know their history are very easily led.

I would cite one simple example.

The greatest human rights movement of all time – the banning of the European slave trade – wasn’t led by Enlightenment figures, who regarded slavery as the natural order of things. (They also regarded woman as inferior beings.  Extrordinarily, that’s not known either.)

It was the Evangelicals who saw that every individual had worth and dignity, and that slavery, far from being justified by the Bible, had to be abolished. The White man couldn’t look down on another man simply because he wasn’t white, let alone own him as slaves. But all that’s been expunged from the historical narrative.

Instead, we have another narrative that says the Christians have been anti-science, have been anti-intellectuals, they’ve justified keeping slaves, keeping people in oppression, and treating women as second class citizens. None of this narrative stands up to close scrutiny.

What does that mean for the church?

Well, it means we’re increasingly facing an environment that is quite hostile.

What do we do about it?

We’re to be conscious that it’s rarely been easy for believers in any culture. And perhaps things are just normalising for us. On the other hand, given that the West is unlikely to arrest its serious social and economic decline, I suspect there’ll be many decent Australians starting to say ‘Well, the secularists have hardly managed to build a better world for us, so perhaps we shouldn’t pay so much attention to them.’

And this might open up opportunities for Christians to make our case – if we use those opportunities responsibly.

AB: So as the average Aussie sees where the secularist worldview is taking us, they might reject it, providing natural opportunities for Christians to make their case.

2) Challenges to Freedom of Speech

JA:

To give an example, research shows that many people are now worried about freedom of speech. Many of them must see the way Christians are stigmatised as homophobic and bigoted – and not just Christians, but anybody who happens to maintain the thousands-of-years-old-view that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The totalitarian edge that you pick up now, especially amongst the younger generation, frightens many people. It’s certainly frightening to immigrants that have seen totalitarianism and its first tendency, which is to silence those who disagree.

3) The Same Sex Marriage Debate

AB: John, you were in Parliament in 2004 when the marriage act was amended to specifically cite that marriage is between a man and a woman, and I understand that it had bipartisan support at the time from Labor?

JA: It did.

AB: And twelve years later, which is a blink of an eye in human history, Labor is now saying that they won’t allow people in their party who believe that marriage is only between one man and one woman. Why this radical change in their view on marriage?

JA:

We’re disconnected from our roots. We’re a cut flower society. We no longer have any idea of where we came from, what made us great, who wrote the rule book on freedom, and so we leap all over the place on popular social movements.

When I was young, when I was at university, the predominant view on marriage amongst progressives was that it was an outdated institution, because it was the oppression of women, and legalised prostitution. And now they’ve smashed marriage, we know it’s in disarray, it’s massively weakened.

But now it’s suddenly such an incredibly valued thing that everyone should have access to it, even though, in one sense, [same-sex marriage] fails the test of logic: how can it be the same? Equality, by the way, is not ‘same’ – it doesn’t mean ‘the same’. So how can it be the same?

AB: So there are some real challenges here.

4) A Christian approach to Public Debate

JA:

Now the other point I want to make, though, is that the way we respond becomes incredibly important. We need to lift our understanding of what’s happening. And we need to lift the way in which we debate and argue the case. We shouldn’t be offside with genuine enquiry and deep analysis.

We believe in a God of order, and of justice, and of mercy who has infinite wisdom and knowledge. We were given brains to think with, and we should also understand the need to be very humble and self-effacing, taking ourselves lightly at the same time as we take the big issues of the day and other people’s concerns seriously.

AB: What do you mean by ‘taking ourselves lightly’?

JA:

We should not be proud. We need to remember that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. I know that I’m sinful. I know that I’m a deeply flawed human being. I need to be very careful lest I sound judgemental. Because I have a terrible inclination to be judgmental of those with whom I disagree with.

AB: So you’re saying we should understand the culture, in terms of what the concerns are, and in terms of where it’s headed. And then being able to speak winsomely so as to address people’s concerns?

JA:

Yes, that’s right. Furthermore, in our cultural climate, we need to be arguing the case for the most basic human right of all: freedom of conscience.

(Part 2 of 3 will be continued next week. We’ll be discussing freedom of conscience;  the lie at the heart of modern culture; speaking up for others,  and persecution.)

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7 thoughts on “Christians In A Hostile West? Interview With A Deputy Prime Minister

  1. Not a bright future. 🙁 Fortunately Jesus did promise us a bright future, that is my comfort and hope.:)

  2. Thanks, Akos, for another blog that helps Christians relate to life in Australia, including the challenge to “our Christian heritage”, a tricky situation.

    My mind jumped forward 2 weeks to the annual Harmony Day on 21 March. I have non-Christian friends who are passionate about fostering goodwill between Australians of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds and am worried they never expect that Christians could offer anything. I am sad that so many churches ignore the opportunities of Harmony Day when it doesn’t cost anything to advertise the Harmony Day activities planned for their area, and churches could intentionally include songs/hymns written by Christians of other cultures including the simply beautiful songs by Arnhem Land Aboriginal Christians. If a congregation includes members speaking even one or two languages other than English it takes only a few minutes to organise them to read a key Bible verse in their own language after the Bible reading. After all, Christianity has been the impulse behind the creation of more dictionaries and grammars than any other force in history, including in some Aboriginal languages. However I sense an inertia in many churches about implementing such simple ideas.

    Some Christians are nervous about Australia’s Multicultural policy without realising it is in fact part of our Christian heritage! The “father of Australian Multiculturalism” was Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, a committed Christian in the Polish Catholic tradition. The first Chair of the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs, appointed in 1985, was an Anglican Archbishop, David Penman and, as a former missionary in Pakistan, Penman was not at all watering down the Christian faith. Christians have every reason to challenge secularists who assume that our Australian Multicultural Policy belongs to them.

    • Hi Steve!

      Thanks for another thoughtful comment.

      There are some great ideas here, and hopefully some readers may take them up. I don’t know enough about harmony day (although my kids celebrate it at their school), but I will check it out.

      God bless,

      Akos

    • Christianity is not multicultural, for the simple fact it distinguishes only between Believers and Unbelievers. What Christianity does is recognise multiple ethnicities coming together under the umbrella of Faith. Cultures become Second Things. Christianity acquires a First Things status, so that people’s races, ethny and culture fall away, even though those distinctives remain. We are neither colour blind to race, nor favourable to race. We are most focused on God, Faith and Christian character, regardless of race.

      In fact, Vatican II, and the way it was applied in Australia post 1965, spoke of a public moral standard against which religious observances, manifestations or practices are measured and that the public moral standard takes precedent. This was a way for Christianity to step back from being the moral yardstick (it was becoming more and more unpopular) – and replace it with a pluralistic public moral standard. That is a decidedly monocultural concept, not a multicultural one. This is what Zubrzycki overturned because Vatican II was seen as controversial on Freedom of Religion.

      Multiculturalism is fractious for the simple fact it does not establish a tent pole (a common standard) for the broader community. It encourages tribalism, focusing on differences, rather than commonality. Now, if Christianity were that which is in common (or in a pluralistic standard inspired by the original Catholic Thought), then multiculturalism is dedicedly unChristian. It puts the emphasis on Second Things.

      The problem with Steve’s logic is that it is a bottom-up perspective, looking up from a fallen human perspective; and not down, from the creational perspective where God made man in His own image. The latter lends itself to the only relevant dichotomy being that of Believer and Unbeliever. We see this in the dichotomy between Cain (Unbeliever) and Abel (Believer) and Esau (Unbeliever) and Isaac (Believer). And so on, down through redemptive history.