There is a debate in Australia about Christian influence in schools, as recipients of public funds.
Many see faith represented across society as a relic of the past. As a Christian I live my faith in everyday life and I am unable to separate who I am and what I do from what I believe.
Track back 40-50 years and our society was the product of a very different world. Those who led our nation on either side of the political divide were usually supportive of the Judeo-Christian values, and it was often politically prudent to do so. People went to church because it was the expectation, and if they didn’t go themselves, they sent their kids to Sunday School to get some of that old-time religion, or a good chance for a lie-in.
In the same way, scripture classes, or religious instruction in school was seen as a way to promote and reinforce Christian values. Local ministers, priests and (usually) older ladies would come to school every Friday morning. We would all be distributed according to our particular ‘flavour’ – Catholics and Church of England usually had the most, Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational. I went to the Baptist scripture because my parents said so.
Sadly, while I was enjoying a happy family and being part of a faith community, there were many young people abused at the hands of those who claimed to represent the church. I fully appreciate that my experience is not the reality for so many.
However, I am no less enthusiastic about my faith today, and I believe that the Christian message remains as relevant and life-changing as ever. But how I express and share my faith needs to be equally as relevant.
“Express and share”
Why don’t Christians just keep to themselves?
This is the real issue, isn’t it?
It’s interesting, that as a ‘brand’ Jesus Christ rates fairly well, and the church, not so. We read in the Bible that Jesus cared about people, he helped them and he championed the cause of the marginalised. He was active and not passive in helping people. As a Christian, literally ‘Christ follower’, I seek to show the love and compassion of Jesus, to speak for the voiceless and to work for justice.
Many of us today, reflect our faith very simply, love God and love people. We acknowledge that we are on earth for purpose beyond ourselves. The essence of the Christian faith is that Jesus is God’s son, who came to earth to provide a way to God. Jesus demonstrated God’s love and his teachings form the foundations of our society. Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the way for me to have a personal relationship with God.
So… Why don’t Christians just keep to themselves?
Because we follow the teachings of Jesus:
Go into the whole world
Teach others about me
I’m not a theologian, just a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ. I can’t just take the parts of Jesus’ teachings that I like and ignore what doesn’t suit me. On the other hand, I also want to ensure that I am real, that I am relevant to the 21stC and understand the cultural mores of the times. I believe I have a life worth living, and if what I have can help another person, then I am happy to share my faith.
For centuries churches were the heart of the community, the place where families gathered. In many ways this is what schools have become. Parents have the responsibility to guide their children according to the values they hold so the place of faith in schools needs to be something that is discussed. It is a timely and my hope is that faith remains in the dialogue, as this adds to the richness of community.
The basic value is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Faith is a mystery. I don’t have the answers to many of the great problems people face, I’m definitely not perfect, but I have the confidence that my life has hope and purpose, that there is a God in heaven who loves me and I couldn’t live my life any other way.