Christianity and the Census

"The new Australian Census data today reveals a further significant drop in those who say they are "Christian" and a further significant rise in those who indicate they have "No religion". For the first time in Australian history, Christians are officially a minority of the population.

I am happy-sad.

People will differ in their interpretations of the data, but here are my few thoughts:

1. Genuine Christians have long been a minority in Australia. This official data is just catching up to reality.

2. When Christians were a statistical "majority" (and pointed this out), sceptical friends frequently countered that a significant portion of those ticking "Christian" in the Census were simply nominal Christians. I'm sure that's right.

3. As the Church has lost its social respectability - for reasons that are obvious - the civic motivation to tick "Christian" has declined, and so the declining percentage of "Christians" in the Census reveals the steady dropping away of this nominal class of Christians.

4. I have long said that the percentage of Australians that actually have some type of heartfelt trust in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ is something closer to 25% (and, yes, I include trusting Catholics and Orthodox, as well as Protestants, as genuine Christians). So, we may have a long way to go in these declining percentages of "Christians" in the Census.

5. In a few more Censuses (say 2037) the decline will likely bottom out, as nominal Christians drop away, and I expect, by God's grace, we will see the number of Christians once again increase. That increase is already happening - people are becoming Christians all over the country - but it is currently obscured by the large cohort of (declining) nominal Christians.

6. Whatever the case, it is time (over time) for Australian Christians to recognise and embrace their minority status. How I pray that we will be a confident, humble, and cheerful minority."

John Dickson


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