“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13).
God told us not to be surprised. But I’ll admit it, sometimes I’m still surprised!
We Australians have failed to teach our children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD, so subsequent generations have spurned Him. Like the Israelites, we have grown lazy in our wealth and not given proper honour to the Giver of all good gifts. What used to be a Christianity-infused nation is fast driving out anything Christian-related.
What will fill its place? We are creating a new national religion that is broadly a copy of the same religion being formed in other western nations. We are made to be worshippers, so if not the LORD God, we will find idols to worship.
Wherever you look around the world, people live in groups that often become nations. These groups are usually tied together by shared cultural, geographical and religious identities. Australia is part of the multi-cultural globalisation experiment, where we have tried to create a nation that has no shared cultural or religious identity, and, many of us are removed from our geographical roots. We have little that ties us all together except a citizenship.
The cliché says “nature abhors a vacuum,” and more pointedly, Satan will leverage any opportunity to oppose God. With the decline of Christianity and its cultural effects comes something else to fill its place.
We Christians were deceived. We thought that with the rise of more religions and more “alternative” points of view in Australia that Christianity would simply be a voice among the many, and a loud voice at that. After all, we can just be tolerant and respectful of differing views, right?
We thought that in the public sphere that it would be a true contest of ideas, where the best ideals for humanity would be vigorously tested and enshrined in law for the good of us all. Surely God knows best, so His ethics and ideals would always win, right? If it were a fair debate, with unbiased participants, that would be the case.
Alas, when the masses are left to their own devices, their carnal desire drives the agenda. It is only by the grace and design of God that anything but godless chaos can come out of us.
The fool says in their heart “there is no God, and I hate Him.” And so it is no surprise that when given the option, most people will trend away from the LORD and His Word. Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Pro 1:7).
What is this new religion being formed in our society? It is a new paganism. It is disguised as being no religion at all, it is portrayed as the progressive movement toward a utopian society (just like communism before Christians are oppressed, murdered or exiled).
The new paganism is much like the old versions, seen in animism, Hinduism or Greek/Roman religions. There is a proliferation of gods and associated idols. There are respected priests and temples. There are rituals to be observed. The state will endorse certain elements of the religion, and rejection of this religion is seen as being incompatible with one’s cultural identity. In fact, refusal to pay homage invites the wrath of the spirits or gods, and so people who won’t bow the knee must be excised from society for the safety of everyone else. Perhaps this paganism can tolerate our subversive faith, but only if we keep quiet and hidden.
It’s worth exploring the shape of this religious development further, but there is not the space here. Instead, let’s look at the fruit, or evidence of this shift that is quite visible to Christians right now.
The Church and its Christians are not respected on the public stage any longer. Both are being muscled out through mockery, furore, indignation and false humility, all at the behest of the new pagan ideals. The pagan adherents hate Jesus and they act on it by shaming and punishing his followers (Jn 15:18–25).
Example 1; Israel Folau controversy
Israel is an evangelical Christian footballer. He believes the Bible. He posted on social media the truth that sinners will end up in hell unless they repent of their sins and turn to Jesus. Included in the list of sins that led to damnation was homosexuality. This created outrage! He wouldn’t abase himself before the pagan priests, so he was fired.
Israel was not allowed to publicly profess the tenants of his faith and be a high-level footy player.
Example 2: Victorian Liberal Party Exposé
The ABC recently did an exposé on implied branch stacking by Christians from Gippsland. It appears that a whole bunch of new members of the Liberal party were all Christians and from connected churches.
Now while there may be concerns from my end about their theology and practice, getting involved in politics is fine! The principle that ordinary Australians can get involved in a political party to contribute on policy and candidates is a significant element of our political system. It is a good thing for Aussies, and specifically Christians, to contribute to making political parties and politicians better under Christ.
Yet, the fact that the ABC highlights accusations of infiltration by Church groups quoting people saying “It’s very unnerving,” “worrying me,” “completely taken over,” goes to show how Christians are seen as a threat and not a benefit to a political party.
Example 3: Essendon CEO
Andrew Thorburn was made CEO of the Essendon Football Club – a powerful and prestigious position. Yet, after only one day in the job, he was forced to resign!
Why? It turns out that Andrew is also on the governance board for City on a Hill, a group of evangelical Christian churches across Australia. It was decided that Andrew could not be a leader in his church and a leader of a football club. Some media outlets made much of the fact that City on a Hill has teaching that condemns abortion and homosexuality, and so it was in conflict with the values of the club.
When faced with a choice between the two – Andrew chose to serve the Church. He then said: “Today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many.”
Stories like these are coming up more and more, and not just around evangelical Christians. The other day there was controversy surrounding a planned Bible reading at a service at a catholic school! It was the content that was the problem; it went against the new pagan ideal.
There’s also been recent stories and legal action around evangelical Christian schools with Biblical sexual ethics that show up in their Statement of Faith and Codes of Conduct for students and staff.
Do not fear.
Do not be anxious about these things.
They are only mentioned so that Christians may observe the trends and be aware of what is happening around them. It should help us prepare for what we might face in the future. (To be fair, my assessments may be off. Perhaps you have better insight?)
We shouldn’t be surprised when we face pushback, persecution, public shaming, ridicule, rejection and the like. Jesus told us it would happen.
What do we do? How do we respond? In some sense, nothing should change. We should continue to be faithful to the LORD; Repent of sin, trust Jesus, obey him, and proclaim his Gospel. In fact, this is how we overcome the world opposed to God:
“This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?“1 John 5:3-5
We don’t need to shrink back. Although we may wisely choose to group geographically and institutionally with other Christians, we don’t need to hide away. Our faith is one that will overcome a sinful and rebellious world in Jesus Christ so let’s wear it with joy.
God has plans for making this world a better place, including what we presently call Australia, and we should get aligned with His plans. It starts with discipling the nations to trust and follow Jesus (Matt 28:18-20). It was also prophesied:
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.”Psalm 22:27
That prophecy doesn’t take a back seat because we’re not socially acceptable right now. God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), “and everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved” (Joel 2:32), but “how then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom 10:14).
God changes nations by changing individuals. If we would desire to see our nation forsake this new pagan religion and turn to God, then we must make disciples. We can only make disciples when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to those who need to hear it.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”Isaiah 52:7