Saturday, 24 January 2015

We are a good country but are we Christian

I am interested in the current debate in South Australia about prayers at local Council meetings. And at this time of National Celebration, (Australia Day) the question about whether or not Australia is a Christian country. 
My oft-stated conclusion is that it is not!   But it is a great thing that people of faith (all faiths) and no-faith can live alongside each other

It seems to me that the time is long past to stop religious pretence. 
Part of that pretence has been  that reciting a formula of Victorian words before a Council or Parliamentary meeting somehow will invoke supernatural blessing.  This is, to my mind, superstition and idolatry.

[On a side note It is interesting to note that the prayers that are 'rattled off' before Parliamentary sittings, and I suppose meetings of local Councils...are in the language of the 19th Century...Our Father which art in earth as it is in heaven [this latter expresses a cosmology in which the Universe revolves around the earth....perhaps too subtle for most] observation is that very few members join in these prayers. The Churches have long ago tried to leave this language back where it belongs .Our Father who art in heaven. better expresses our belief in a personal God...and we do understand the wonder of living on earth ]

You may be surprised by these comments as I happen to be (as some will know) a priest of the Anglican Church. That Church been dogged throughout South Australia’s history by a sense of rubber-stamping government with God’s blessing; the formulaic prayers are part of that superstition.

I am not suggesting that people of faith (and we are many: Christians, Buddhists, Moslems, Jews, Indigenous people, Hindus…..) should stop carrying out their religious duty to pray for leaders, government and our country.  Some might think this is pointless, we people of faith don’t think that!  It's OK to disagree on such matters. Even a sign of health that we live in a country where it is acceptable to hold different points of view.

But in this week when we celebrate certain aspects of Australia’s history; keep religious pretence out of it. Indeed get rid of it!

And be glad that we who know and believe it’s not pretence will continue to pray! Even if you think it is a waste of time.
And give us room to do it.  Perhaps we should give our places of decision-making "a room" where people of faith might gather to pray for decision making. (One of the ways that the cessation of prayers before meetings of Government has been dealt with in democracies is for believers to gather of their own accord immediately before the meetings. I would encourage the pray-ers to do that.  How wonderful it would be if  that was ecumenical/interfaith/ cross cultural...but let's take what we can get!) 
Even though some don't believe that this matters, as a free and liberal country we should rejoice that the values that people take seriously are taken seriously.

In our churches, mosques, temples, and other sacred places. the rest of the population may be surprised to find that we pray for Liberal and Labor, Government and Opposition. Local, State and Federal Government. Australia and other nations

I think it’s good to stop the fakery of mimicking the shallowness of Victorian Christianity which was more about empire building than faith. But not to stop being people of faith

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