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The 2016 census: whence the church?

By Peter Sellick - posted Tuesday, 4 July 2017


Barney Zwartz has noted the decline in reporting of religious affairs in Australia:

When I began covering religion for The Age in 2002, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian both had highly capable religion reporters, and the ABC a large and active religion department. By the time I finished 12 years later, both the other papers had long been without religion reporters and the ABC had begun its radical truncation of its coverage which is still ongoing.….Most secular journalists are uncomfortable if they have to report on religion: they know it's important to many of their audience and that the field is littered with banana skins. So coverage tends to range from supercilious and patronising to sycophantic.

This means that, for example, the existence/nonexistence of God can be debated, as it was in recent years by the so called "new atheists", without any nuanced opposition. Simply put, the god that the atheists do not believe in, the supernatural unitary being, is completely unlike the God worshipped by Christians who is no being at all as we think of being but is rather Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the truth we see in Christ projected into the future.

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It may be said that surely the Church must speak for itself, and so it should. But I have given up trying to get articles on theology published in the daily papers, they are not interested in material that will demand some sophistication from their readers.

As Zwartz has writes; "I argued that the paper typically only covered three religion stories: priests molesting children, the church in decline, and the troglodyte church holding back women and gays." It seems that the Church is snookered. It is no wonder that even educated people cannot see that the Church has anything for them.

It is about time that the Church realises that the end of the Church as we knew it has arrived and that we cannot go on as before. It is time to circle the wagons and nurture the light of the gospel. It is time to own the fact that we are a dissident force within our culture and that we cannot rely on the old relationships to keep us in business. We have returned to the condition of the early Church; a minority living in a society that misunderstands us and persecutes us. This will be a good thing for the Church as long as it can maintain theological rigor and not lapse completely into folk religion. Such austerity may rescue the Church from nominal religion, which is what the census measures.

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About the Author

Peter Sellick an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences. He has a website called Coondle Art Presentations.

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