Last week we printed John Dickson’s reflections on Christianity and the Census. I agree with his comments but wish to reflect further on one of his points.
John’s third point was: “As the Church has lost its social respectability - for reasons that are obvious - the civic motivation to tick "Christian" has declined…."
The church is losing its social respectability in public opinion – agreed. Why? I suggest this for three reasons. First, our shortcomings or mistakes are well publicised: abuse, bullying, discrimination, misogyny. Second, we are seen as negative. We are against abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, etc. Third, we fail to wholeheartedly affirm the politically correct moral issues of our culture: supporting LGBTQI+, giving voice to minorities, etc.
How to respond to this is a simple and complex issue. Our first response ought to be to repent and apologise. Where we have failed to love and protect, we should admit this freely, be humble, and seek to put right and change. The wider church’s track record in certain areas is poor. Peter tells us that “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household….” (1 P 4:17).
Is the church's record in these areas worse than it has been in the past? Is it worse than it is in other areas of culture - in sport, scouts, or politics?
In some sense, it matters not. Peter’s point is that we must look in our backyard first and repent. Whether others have their house in more or less order than ours is not our concern.
At the same time, I suspect the reporting and publicity of the church’s failings are more newsworthy. They are more enticing clickbait. Australians see us as power-hungry tall poppies.
Part of what we get in the media is fair; part is not. Don’t be surprised if we are misunderstood and judged – Jesus was.
By Rev. David Rietveld