Friday 9 March 2007

51% deified

According to a recent poll 60% of Australians think Jesus is either God (51%) or specially connected to God (9%). In other words, the majority of Australians think very highly of Jesus. This is also significant, because it assumes people's belief in the existence of God to start with, a fact often undermined in reports about secular society. When I last looked, the world's population was 6.7 billion, and according to the Cambridge Companion to Atheism only 500-750 million of them are atheists (that's just over 11%). God is still in the house, and Jesus is more often than not with him.

People surveyed were also asked who they thought Jesus would vote for—Kevin Rudd or John Howard. 27% said Rudd, 14% Howard, but a very wise 30% said they were unsure. Pollsters would no doubt be intrigued by the stat that among 'regular churchgoers' (whatever that means), despite being painted as conservatives by most people, Kevin Rudd is just ahead by 25% to 19%.

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Tuesday 6 March 2007

My climate change

I spent most of my teenage years convinced that Ecclesiastes had the truest vision of life. Vanity…nothing changes…nothing makes any difference...just accept it, let God be God and don’t expect too much. University in the 80s schooled me in the secular equivalent, literary modernism, and it all came to mind again last weekend reading an article on Leonard Woolf which brought back this quote.
Strangely enough, the hard evidence on climate change has convinced me that is not the Christian way, it's not the gospel way.
Human beings actually have made a difference to the world itself for the worst, it seems. But a difference can also be made for the better. Big things do change. Take smoking; I never imagined it would fall from favour, even in face of the health issues. But smokers are now unwelcome even in Irish pubs! Likewise, sexual discrimination and abuse: how wonderful that it is now taken seriously, the reverse of what I would have imagined happening in a post-Christian world. I’m also of the view that we really could seriously reduce extreme poverty by pursuing the Millennium Development Goals (but I acknowledge that some of my Christian economist friends aren’t with me on this). And I'm convinced that these are all good things, worth doing.
Over the twenty years since I first came to university, I’ve changed from a pessimistic fatalist about human capacity to a cagey optimist. I've gone from this U2 lyric to this speech. Wonder what changes the next twenty (dv) will bring, and will U2 be around to provide the soundtrack?!
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Friday 2 March 2007

Who cares?

One of the hats I wear is Anglicare Council member. I'm thrilled about the upcoming conference we are organising on human need and a Christian philosophy of care—a joint effort between a number of organisations. The Anglicare Council has been thinking through the Christian rationale for care (feedback welcome when it goes online at the Anglicare site) and I've done some interesting reading around it.

I'm convinced that one under-examined reason for Christians being involved in care is so that others don't do it instead! This seemingly bizarre line of thought runs thus:
  • people are naturally attracted to those who care for them;

  • if those who care for them hold a particular worldview, that worldview is more likely to be accepted by the care recipient;

  • it is hard to challenge a worldview that someone has accepted because of the care shown to them by its adherents;

  • therefore, Christians should be involved in care so that many will be more readily disposed to accepting the Christian message and not be drawn to accept other worldviews instead.

Now before people jump up and down crying “Manipulation! Coercion! Entrapment!”, let me emphasise that there is no obligation on a care recipient to accept the Christian worldview (Christians care for all comers). Rather, I'm just stating the bald reality that doing good deeds for someone predisposes them to accept your worldview.

The 4th century pagan emperor Julian saw what was up: he ordered his leaders to found hospitals, charities and welfare services, because the Christians were doing it and attracting everyone to their ‘atheism’ (i.e. denial of the pantheon of gods)! More on this here .

Os Guinness writes here that “historians view the Christian practice of caring as a prime reason why an obscure, marginal movement on the fringe of the Roman Empire rose to dislodge classical paganism and became the dominant faith of Western civilization and the world's first universal religion” (p.125).

When you care for people they are likely to care about what you believe and say.

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