Britain is changing. Will Australia?

In 2003 the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s atheist press secretary famously said “We don’t do God”, even though Mr Blair was known as a believer.  Apparently, in 2011 the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, is not under the same media constraint. For celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Mr Cameron has spoken quite openly about religion in Britain. And he has gone on the attack on behalf of the Bible and Christian Britain.

He argues that tolerance is not to be confused with secularism and that genuine liberalism has more values than individual liberty. “Moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore.” “Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. ‘Live and let live’ has too often become ‘do what you please’. Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles.”

These social comments flow from his address commending the Bible because as he says: “The Bible is a book that has not just shaped our country, but shaped the world. And with three Bibles sold or given away every second… a book that is not just important in understanding our past, but which will continue to have a profound impact in shaping our collective future.”  Pointing to the way the Bible permeates “every aspect” British culture, language, literature, music, art, politics, rights, constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy and welfare provisions, he states quite boldly “we are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so.”

But what of Australia? Are we a Christian country?  Do we want to be? If not – then what kind of nation are we and what do we want to be? We do not have a state Church like Britain. But just like Britain, so much of our culture is inherited from the Bible. As Mr Cameron rightly observed: “The values we treasure… are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that.”

While Britain is formally Christian, its pursuit of “moral neutrality and passive tolerance” has been every bit as strong as Australia. It is the only nation where I have been reported to the police and chased by journalists for reading the Bible at a public meeting!  Mr Cameron is quite clear that the move to make Britain a ‘value free’, liberal, secularist, multi-cultural state just hasn’t worked. As he says “Those who say being a Christian country is doing down other faiths…simply don’t understand that it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity.”

But we in Australia still labour under the intellectual bullies and secularists who deny our Christian heritage, imposing strict disapproval on anybody who wants to stand for morality and censorship on those who wish to speak for Christianity. Our media and leaders still ‘do not do God.’

Nobody can speak on a moral issue without commencing “I’m no prude, but…” or “I like a little flutter myself, but…” or “everybody overindulges in alcohol at some time, but…” as if being immoral is the necessary precondition for the right to express a moral view.

And ironically it is especially at Christmas that Christianity is being censored.

In this week’s opinion pages an associate-professor, spelt out his scrooge like disdain for Christmas: “There is plenty to loathe about Christmas; from the tedious rounds of workplace parties, to the obscene garbage we buy as gifts, to the cynical attempts by Christians to hijack the whole fiesta for their own religious ends.”  It is reminiscent of the Canberra shopping centre manager objecting to a pastor’s request for his church to sing some carols because “[expletive] Christians want to take over Christmas”. The pastor said, “I’d always assumed that the ‘Christ’ bit in both words might serve as a clue”.

Even my favourite Herald journalist, Ross Gittins, wrote this week: “One (principle) that's particularly apposite at this time when we celebrate the birth of Santa is: help others instead of yourself.  Somebody who had nothing to do with Santa once said it was more blessed to give than to receive. Turns out he was right.” Why not mention Jesus by name and source the quote (Acts 20:35)? And if Jesus’ teaching turns out to be right, isn’t it worth exploring more rather than dismissing him with a joke?

Why is our society so embarrassed about the Christian foundations of our culture? From the inanity of “Seasons Greetings” and “Santafest” to the stupidities of academics insisting on the nonsense called BCE (Before Common Era) instead of BC (Before Christ) – we are disowning, discrediting, and denying our culture. And how can a prodigal society regain the social capital of an inheritance they have wasted?

Mr. Cameron’s speech made clear this is not a matter of party politics but of the truth of who we are and of what we need to do.  For as he says “the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend. The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option. You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.” 

So I hope you will join with us not only in celebrating our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth this Christmas but also in proclaiming Him to our nation in the coming year – the year of our Lord 2012.

Phillip Jensen, is the author of a number of books and a sought after speaker in Australia and internationally. He is the Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral. Visit his page here or go to phillipjensen.com.

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