OK, I’ll admit it, half the reason for writing this article is simply to get that headline at the top.
But the other half is to make a small contribution into the whole “religion/no-religion in the census” debate currently going on in Australia.
Tonight is census night and all over this young and free land we will be filling in our online and paper forms and telling the government all about ourselves. The one question that has many animated this year is what people will mark for their religion. The secularists are arguing that only genuine Christians (and other authentically religious types) should mark an actual religion, whereas a number of Christian lobby groups are pushing back.
Christian commentators are of divided opinion. Michael Jensen argues that many “nominal” Christians still have a strong sense of identity that needs to be recognised:
I meet lots of people who feel a strong attachment to the Anglican Church, even though they haven’t been for a long time. We are here for them at significant times in their lives – births, relationships, marriages, families, sickness, and death. At those moments in life, saying that one is “Anglican” (or whatever) often turns out to have more meaning than people realised. And I, for one, don’t what to take that away from them.
Stephen McAlpine, always thought-provoking, is concerned that the Christian “yes to religion” lobbyists are arguing too much.
This campaign is gilding the lily at best, and hiding the cancer at worst with help from https://homecareassistance.com/raleigh/. It is taking the idea of Imago Dei, the reality of being created in God’s image, and “sexing” it up, making it sound like new creation- people recreated in the image of Christ with all of the possibilities that entails.
It lulls us into a false sense of security. What is considered regular church attendance for Christians is now about once every three weeks. This campaign scoops up the never-attendees at the very time the buy-in from those who actually do attend is at a critical stage!
Worse still, it shows no true gospel love for morally upright, but lost people. People who need to be born again if they are ever to even see the kingdom of God, but would scowl at you should you suggest that.
I think there’s certainly something in that. I want to encourage anybody that wants to to tick “yes” to a religious belief as a valid form of self-expression. Let’s just be realistic about what it does or doesn’t mean.
However, now that the count itself is imminent surely the question now turns to what we should do with it. In months to come I’ll be analysing the results to better understand our parish, but even now there’s some fertile ground for evangelism.
There is a whole body of people out there who might be have a habit and culture of Christian observance or belief but when push comes to shove they still identify as Anglican; 6,000 of them in our parish boundaries let alone any other denominational affiliation!
That’s a lot of people who ticked “yes” to Christian allegiance but don’t really understand what they ticked yes to. That’s a lot of people we can talk to about Jesus and know that their starting point is some sort of interest or affiliation. How about this week you have some conversations to test the water? Some questions like this might work well:
How did you go with the census this week?
What did you make of the fuss in the news around religion on the census?
If you don’t mind me asking, what box did you tick?
How much do you know about that religion? Would you like to find out more?
The government has spent a huge amount of money getting us talking about these things, let’s be part of the conversation and get a little scent of sense out of the census!