Of evangelistic atheists and an everlasting kingdom

Amazing Grace, First version, in "Olney H...

The religification (my word, I think) of atheism is proceeding at pace and is part of an increased push in the Western world to remove Christian belief from public life.

Stephen Fry tweeted today, “If Christians rose up for Passion of the Christ, so humanists, agnostics, atheists etc might RT [re-tweet] the new film The Ledge!”.

The associated website describes The Ledge as, “the Brokeback Mountain moment for atheists, our tipping point, when we finally get the attention we deserve. Although books have put atheists into the intellectual mainstream, The Ledge is the first Hollywood drama to target the broader movie-going public with an openly atheist hero in a production big enough to attract A-list stars. This is unprecedented.”

Christians will notice close parallels with campaigns circulated through churches to rally support for movies such as Passion of the Christ, Amazing Grace, Bella and various other movies that were seen to authentically present Christian ‘heroes’ and messages.

Meanwhile the Atheist Foundation of Australia is launching a campaign to urge Australians to mark their census, ‘No religion’ as a way of limiting the influence of Christian beliefs in politics.

For many years as church attendances have declined, Christians have pointed to the high percentage of Australians that still identify as Christian on the census and claim belief in God. If this figure is markedly reduced, the AFA believes Christian argument in the political and social realm will be weaker.

Australians have always regarded faith as a private matter which is why so many are happy to claim belief in God but not feel the need to express it openly. They may resent the intrusion of the AFA into the privacy of their census declarations or some may feel goaded into relinquishing the remnants of Christian heritage in their family.

I wonder if the AFA has considered what will remain if they and their fellow proselytisers of unbelief succeed in removing God and faith from society, bar a few isolated pockets.

Have they forgotten that many of the citizens of this country come from deeply religious backgrounds, mostly Christian, and that this heritage is an important part of keeping our society in good order?

Does a faithless, Godless society where our leaders, institutions, culture and art are all characterised by materialism, determinism and unbelief sound like a happier, kinder, brighter future? (Or maybe that describes the present?)

I think it sounds more like 1984 and Brave New World and The Road mixed into one.

And keep in mind that while the Christian west resolutely commits self harm to its spiritual core, the Muslim world tolerates no such behaviour and so we could face, in several generations, an Australia (read also Europe) where the census tells us that Islam is competing with Christianity as the new majority religion. (Or Hinduism, keeping in mind India’s prolific reproduction, migration and resilient religiosity).

If we combine the increasingly evangelistic behaviour of atheists with the push to remove a Christian understanding of marriage and the attack against Scripture in schools in several states, we could be excused for thinking that it is war on all fronts.

The reality is that Christianity lost the pre-eminence in thought and influence a couple of centuries ago and while the early 20th century was characterised by a benign tolerance of Christian institutional influence in Western society, the late 20th century and now the 21st is characterised by an angry intolerance and rabid secularisation.

This coincides with generations of people who have grown up without any personal connection at all to the Christian part of our culture (no Sunday school, no going to Christmas and Easter services, no being married in a church, no having your children ‘christened’). Whereas their forebears had some space in their beings for a sense of rightness about Christian ethics at large in the world, Generation X, but especially Generation Y, do not. They cannot see the relevance because there has been no personal connection.

Unless they were raised in a devout Christian family, in which case they are growing up in a world where they are constantly being forced to either defend or deny their core beliefs. Where there was a broad acceptance or at least tolerance, now there is polarisation and alienation.

So as we watch attacks against some of the remaining key markers and retainers of Christendom in our culture, there are some who fight back, others that go over, many that despair and the majority who remain blissfully unaware in their enclaves.

There is, in my view, no preferred option – all of them have some validity. Perhaps a polite defence of faith without being preoccupied or depressed would be the best. More importantly look to your families, your neighbours and your world and be the best Christian you can be, in the complete Christ-following sense of the word.

In some ways we are seeing a pre-Constantine restoration of Christianity, something that has been discussed for some time, and while they were difficult days for the church, they were also glorious.

We follow a Saviour who died, rose, breaths Spiritual life into human hearts and says he’s coming back. None of that is hindered by the words or works of humankind.

We follow a Saviour who said his kingdom was not of this world, that it is a kingdom without end. We know a God who doesn’t need our grand help but enjoys our simple friendship. No sword (or movie, book, billboard, tweet or law) could ever bring his kingdom – or destroy it.

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