Christianity in decline? Ask the Church why

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released 2021 census data last week, revealing how the number of non-religious Australians has increased further.

In 1971, 87% of Australians identified themselves as religious and the majority as Christians. Now it’s 54%. What’s more, just five years ago, 52% of Australians identified as Christian. Now that number sits at 44%, representing a nearly 20% drop in Christian belief in just five years.

While many of the usual suspects are pleased with this outcome and are ready to celebrate, others have more wisely noted that the decline in belief has had deleterious effects on our society.

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson declared on Sky News Australia:

“The big question is, what are the connections between the other things that the census tells us about?”

“We know that mental health is now the number one health issue, we have unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression and self-harm among our young people.

“Increasingly, our society frankly seems more fractured, less trustworthy, more fragmented, more divided along identity politics, less cohesive than ever.

“So my question to those who dance on the grave because they think they are Christians – what is the alternative, what is your best way?”

In her column in the Australian on June 30, Peta Credlin expressed similar sentiments, noting how fundamental Christianity is to the foundations of our nation and society. Credlin wrote:

“It might not be fashionable to say it, but the way we live is unimaginable without a Christian cultural foundation. Our democracy, for example, is based on the notion that everyone is equal in rights and dignity, which has come down to us through the Christian gospels.

“Then there is the not inconsiderable question of the contribution of religious organizations in terms of social upliftment. Beyond a values-based education, they run an abundance of health and community services. To refer to the largest Christian denomination, the Catholic Church, for example, there are 80 Catholic hospitals across the country and more than 25,000 aged care beds in Catholic nursing homes, as well as social welfare and wider Christian-based charities – from the Salvation Army, to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, to Anglicare, to Lifeline and to Alcoholics Anonymous – all organizations that are generally considered to serve Australians, as discredited as the zeitgeist may find the faith that inspires their good works.

I couldn’t agree more. And, as much as they would hate to admit it, you wouldn’t have universities without the Catholic Church.

But there is a more fundamental question to ask. Why has this rapid decline occurred? Credlin hints at an answer:

“It is on this very principle (that everyone is equal in rights and dignity), for example, that I reject the idea of ​​a race-based body in our Constitution in the form of an indigenous voice in Parliament and it is disappointing to see some religious leaders supporting it because it is anathema to the foundations of the Christian faith.

In many ways, the Church itself is responsible for the decline in membership.

In my experience in the Catholic Church, the rush to mingle with the dominant culture that the world offers – in other words, Marxism – has not retained the faithful in the Church, but, in fact , had the opposite effect, except in places true to doctrine and traditional precepts and practices.

As I have written before in these pages, the fundamental mission of the Church has always been a countercultural mission. As Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians (4:10), we are fools because of Christ. Our Lord himself said to the disciples at the Last Supper (St John 15:18-20): “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you did. If you belonged to the world, the world would know you for itself and love you; it is because you do not belong to the world, because I distinguished you from the middle of the world, that the world hates you.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of schools run not only by the Catholic Church, but by other Christian denominations, have forgotten this fundamental mission and have embraced the world, with deleterious effects. As a priest friend told me:

“Why would you send your children to a Catholic school? It would only serve to inoculate them against Catholicism.

An example of this was reported in the nine newspapers the day after the census, the results were published. As a child growing up in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Alexandra Wright was raised in a devout Irish Catholic family whose members attended church every Sunday. The article goes on to state that “Wright felt so connected to her faith that she insisted on attending a Catholic high school, St Vincent’s College in Potts Point. At the age of 15, however, she began to “feel” that religion was no longer for her. »

This is where the problem lies. A majority of teachers in Catholic schools are not regular adherents and therefore would have no interest in helping parents impart the gift of faith to their children, or even actively questioning the fundamental teachings of the Church. , rather than giving students the intellectual rigor to defend them. Moreover, these teachers are, on the whole, okay with climate worship and every other woke ideology you can think of.

In the eyes of this correspondent, in an attempt to stem this trend, it is necessary to radically rethink government aid to religious schools. Through the efforts of BA Santamaria, with the agreement at the relevant time of Sir Robert Menzies and Victorian Prime Minister Sir Henry Bolte, governments at state and federal levels funded non-governmental schools. While these giants of Australian politics at the time could not have imagined, the negative effects of this policy are now being felt. Christian schools could be in a much stronger position to argue against governments imposing radical Marxist social policy on their schools if they were not so dependent on government funding. If you want to take the devil’s money, sooner or later you will have to dance to his tune. And why would you bite the hand that feeds you?

If the Church wants to attract its faithful back to its pews, it must remember its fundamental countercultural mission. Like Kevin Donnelly wrote in the australian weekend June 18: (Sir Roger) Scruton says Western societies must regain “the trust […] in the spiritual heritage on which they ultimately rest”.

The sooner the Church realizes this, the better.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Curtin University.

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