Former PM to launch new book on Christian faith’s timeless relevance

Catholic Weekly contributor Dr Kevin Donnelly, author of a new book on Christianity's importance, looks at why the Christian faith has never been more needed than in today's world. The book will be launched by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott on 19 May in Sydney (details below)

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Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott will launch ‘Christianity Matters In These Troubled Times,’ (details at end of article) edited by Catholic Weekly contributor Dr Kevin Donnelly on 19 May in Sydney. The book, which includes contributions from figures such as Cardinal George Pell, Tim Costello and Tess Livingstone, sets out the relevance of the Christian faith in a time when Christianity may appear to be receding but, as its contributors argue, is needed more than ever before. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Culture wars

Such is the destructive impact of the culture wars and political correctness, now rebadged as being woke, the British philosopher and cultural commentator Roger Scruton in his book Conservatism details what is an epochal shift in the battle of ideas.

According to Scruton the intellectual debate is no longer focused on “market economics and free trade” but instead on “exploring the roots of secular government in the Christian inheritance” and re-establishing “confidence not in our political institutions only, but in the spiritual inheritance on which they ultimately rest”.

Sounding a clarion call for action Scruton exhorts conservatives to “rediscover what we are and what we stand for, and having rediscovered it, be prepared to fight for it… And what we stand for is a religious as much as a political inheritance”.

Many voices for Christianity’s importance

In an increasingly secular and materialistic age the argument is put Judeo-Christianity is of little, if any, significance or value. Ignored is that for all its sins, in Western liberal democracies like Australia, Judeo-Christianity underpins and safeguards our political and legal systems and contributes much in areas like health, education, welfare, literature, music and the arts. Christianity Matters In These Troubled Times is published by Wilkinson Publishing. Photo: supplied

Hence, the publication of Christianity Matters In These Troubled Times by Wilkinson Publishing. Cardinal Pell writes in his chapter the Bible represents a unique and compelling message that redefines the nature of existence and how individuals define themselves, interact and seek intellectual, moral and spiritual purpose and meaning.

His Eminence writes: “The Church teaches that this one true God is Spirit; merciful, all-powerful and ever faithful. God is good and wise, neither cruel nor capricious. God is infinite, without beginning and without end, the all-powerful lord of history, who will oversee the final separation of the good from the bad.  Unlike the capricious pagan gods of ancient Greece and Rome, God is interested in us, cares for us, and has told us how to live.”

As noted by Augusto Zimmermann, while Australia is a secular society where there is a clear distinction between church and state the reality is our political and legal systems inherited from Britain are deeply imbued with Christianity.  Zimmermann writes:

“… the fact is Western legal systems have been largely influenced by the moral convictions of Christian lawyers and politicians who believed in a higher or superior law that is above the law of the State. The belief in higher or superior laws has been enshrined in all the most celebrated documents in Western legal history”.

Society owes Christian faith – bigtime

In the words of the American Declaration of Independence, the liberty and freedom we take for granted are “endowed by their creator” and this explains why the preamble to the Australian Constitution includes the words “humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God” and why parliaments begin with the Lord’s prayer.

Concepts like being a good citizen by promoting social justice, a commitment to the common good, serving others and human flourishing, as detailed by Tim Costello in his chapter, also are largely Christian in origin.

Costello writes: “In Matthew 25, Jesus’s parable instructs His followers to care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned – the marginalised, in whom His face can be revealed. The imagery is powerful as Jesus commands us to care for ‘the least of these.”

Difficult times for faith

Among the contributors to Christianity Matters In These Troubled Times is Cardinal George Pell. Photo: CNSm Robert Duncan

Christian aged care facilities, hospitals and charities dominate Australia’s health and social welfare sector.  Christian schools enrol approximately 34% of Australian students.

While Christianity is an inherent good and responsible for defining what is best about Western civilisation and our way of life these are deeply difficult and troubling times for the Catholic Church and those of faith.

As detailed by Stephen Elder, Catholic schools face the challenge of remaining true to their religious calling in a time when absolutist secularism driven by neo-Marxist inspired critical theory argues there are no absolutes or sense of the spiritual and transcendent.

Facing up to the past, celebrating Christianity’s importance

Wanda Skowronska also details the destructive and debilitating influence of cultural Marxism that can be traced to the Frankfurt School in Germany during the late 1920s.  The academics involved and their long march through the institutions has had a profoundly nihilistic and destructive impact of religious beliefs and faith.

Notwithstanding Christianity’s benefits and strengths, as acknowledged by Peter Rosengren, it is true many sins have been committed in the name of religion.  Rosengren admits Christianity’s story “is one of both light and dark” and that “there is no stage of Christian history that is free of what might be called the sins of its members”.

At the same time the Church has to confront and redress evil sins like child abuse there is cause for optimism and renewed hope.  Tess Livingstone writes “For Christians daunted about the best way forward, the most reassuring words are surely those of Christ ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age’”.

Christianity Matters In these Trouble Times will be launched by Tony Abbott May 19th in Sydney. Both the book and tickets are available here.

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