From MasterChef to Q&A – smorgasbord of religious offerings

I’ll admit missing all of these television programs as I was actually busy doing other things (for a change), but it hasn’t escaped me that although atheists are telling us we are no longer religious, religion simply won’t lay down and die.

If reality television is any gauge (let’s include Q&A in that genre for now) then religion sits right at the heart of the public’s psyche – for this week at least.

Amazing Race Australia had contestants carrying crosses through the streets of Jerusalem, MasterChef had the Dalai Lama, Rev Bill Cruse and Rev Tim Costello as guest judges while the ABC’s Q & A last night had a ‘spiritual special’ featuring Christian mathematician Prof John Lennox and perennial religious researcher, John Safran.

And an interesting inclusion in this program was “pentecostal scholar” Jacqueline Grey who lectures in Old Testament studies and is the Academic Dean of Alphacrucis College in Sydney.

Safran follows up tonight with his latest TV series – Jedis & Juggalos: Your Census Guide on ABC TV 1. In preparation for the upcoming Australian census,  John scours the globe and hunts down people who blend spirituality with popular culture. The context for this program is the Australian Atheist Foundation’s billboard campaign urging Australian’s to tick ‘no religion’ on census night. (Also see the comment on this post regarding Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey series)

In all of this, one of the most personally challenging situations was MasterChef contestant Kate Bracks’ encounter with the Dalai Lama. Kate is a devout Christian (former teacher of my youngest son) and chose not to refer to the Buddhist leader as Your Holiness. Christian ministers, Rev Cruse and Costello had no such qualms, perhaps being acquainted with various church dignitaries who go by similar titles.

Kate’s view is that there is no one holy but God and presumably she would happily apply the same rule to Christian leaders who might have this included in their title. More power to her.

And while the tide of religion-in-popular-culture will no doubt recede as quickly as it came, we humans are still far more likely to consider there is a God and spiritual reality than not.

Oh, and just when we thought the topic had drifted away, good old Fred Nile stirs up the opposing camps by saying he’ll vote to rescind the NSW government’s public service pay bill unless ethic classes in schools are scrapped. He and many Christians oppose them because they compete with Scripture in schools.

Read the Herald Sun’s report of Kate’s response: Title one ingredient too much for MasterChef contestant.

Fred Nile’s ethic classes demand

Watch the ABC’s Q & A’s ‘spiritual special’.

Check out details of John Lennox’s debate with Peter Singer.

See my previous post re the AFA’s billboard campaign

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Silent Bob while Safran peels Dawkins!!??

Popularising priest, Father Bob, said last night on his Triple J show that he intended not to open his mouth today as Father Bob Maguirehe sat in a studio while co-host John Safran did a pre-recorded interview with scientist Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, during which Safran intends to peel back the personal layers of Dawkins’ objection to God.

I’m trying to decide what is more unlikely – Father Bob remaining silent, Richard Dawkins revealing any vulnerability of  heart or Safran managing to ask a straight question.

I heard Dawkins interviewed elsewhere recently and in response to a question, he spent about 30 seconds breathlessly describing the wonder of apparent design seen in the run of a cheetah or leap of a kangaroo. Almost as if he had forgotten himself, he did what sounded like a double-take and then added that of course the real surprise was to learn it wasn’t design but evolution that created such beauty. Sorry Richard, you sounded more convincing when describing the sense of design. It was almost as if your right brain was betraying your left. Or maybe it was your spirit.

I hope Father Bob does say something, especially if it’s hilarious and also if he can come out with similar comments as these found on his blog:

I think it’s inhospitable to deny God entry to our company. He’s clearly indicated a preference (known as Jesus) to be part of us rather than greater than us, the reputation which sabotaged divine/human relations from the beginning of humanity’s religious awakening until now.

Not sure I entirely agree with Father Bob’s theology (although I prefer his to Dawkins’) but you can’t deny his ability to get into places few other Christian leaders even dare think of going. PH