Kevin Donnelly: Silence not an option in writing new book

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The naivety, the conformity. Youth celebrate at Woodstock in 1969. Photo: RV1864/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The naivety, the conformity. Youth celebrate at Woodstock in 1969. Photo: RV1864/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hobart’s Archbishop Porteous in his book titled Foundations – Preparing the Church In Australia For The Plenary Council And Beyond, describes the challenges and threats facing Christianity and the Church. In addition to being optimistic and outlining the way forward, the Archbishop also calls on the laity to help defend and enrich religious faith.

His Grace refers to Pope Francis’ concept of a “missionary disciple” and the exhortation “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelisation”. At a time of what Archbishop Fisher describes as “absolutist secularism” the challenge is both privately and publicly to enact Jesus’ teachings and to celebrate and defend Christianity.

That such a challenge is onerous and difficult is an understatement given the widespread dominance of what the Italian political philosopher Augusto Del Noce describes as a new form of totalitarianism involving “scientism, eroticism and theology of secularisation”.

Western societies like Australia have undergone a revolutionary change in terms of how individuals define themselves and relate to one another and the wider world. Long held certainties and absolutes in areas like sexuality, the family, what constitutes the good life and how best to find fulfilment no longer apply.

“At the same time, given my father was in the Communist Party, I was enrolled in the Eureka Youth movement to learn about the ‘glorious people’s revolution’.”

Materialism and narcissism abound and the spiritual and the transcendent replaced by what Del Noce terms “scientism”. In addition, neo-Marxist inspired critical theory and postmodernism impose a subjective and relativistic view of the world. A world where the Bible is simply a text to be deconstructed in terms of power relationships involving gender, ethnicity, class and privilege.

Notwithstanding difficulties, and as I write in just released Why Christianity Matters for Us, it is critical the laity takes up the challenge and each person champions his and her faith in God. The harsh reality is: if you vacate the field the battle has already been lost.

Growing up in Broadmeadows I received Holy Communion and Confirmation at St Dominic’s Church. At the same time, given my father was in the Communist Party, I was enrolled in the Eureka Youth movement to learn about the ‘glorious people’s revolution’.

The experience was to sow the seeds for a lifelong interest in what the late B.A. Santamaria told me were two of the most powerful forces of the 20th century – an interest that was rekindled during the late 60s cultural revolution when what is now known as political correctness and cancel culture started to become all pervasive in our universities.

Donnelly’s latest book Christianity Is Good For Us, published by Wilkinson Publishing with a foreword by Cardinal George Pell, shows the deeper currents of life tend to win out.
Donnelly’s latest book Christianity Is Good For Us, published by Wilkinson Publishing with a foreword by Cardinal George Pell, shows the deeper currents of life tend to win out.

This was the time of Woodstock, the birth control pill, the hippy movement and the cultural-left’s long march through the institutions. Central to neo-Marxist inspired cancel culture is the promise of a man-made utopia where religion is banished and where individuals are liberated by mastering their own destiny.

As a secondary school teacher in Melbourne and when completing a PhD in curriculum I discovered the profound and lasting impact of cultural-left theory on education. Literature as I knew it was critiqued and deconstructed, history was rewritten to exclude the strengths and benefits of Western civilisation and Judeo-Christianity was largely ignored.

The Australian Education Union argued radical gender theory should be taught in schools, that Australian society was inherently racist and sexist and that as we are a secular society faith-based schools should not be funded.

The Australian Association for the Teaching of English also championed radical gender theory arguing literature was guilty of privileging heteronormativity.

“But we cannot escape the suffering and the sorrow: there are dark sides to life. Realism forces us to face the fact. And the same realism enables us to trust the light and life and love in which we are enfolded.”

“But we cannot escape the suffering and the sorrow: there are dark sides to life. Realism forces us to face the fact. And the same realism enables us to trust the light and life and love in which we are enfolded.”

As argued by Larry Siedentop in Inventing the Individual, ignored is the fact Christian concepts like the inherent dignity of the person, the right to liberty and freedom and the need for social justice inform and underpin our political and legal systems.

Also ignored, as suggested by T.S. Eliot in Notes Towards a Definition of Culture, is that Judeo-Christianity enriches so much of the West’s literature, art, music and architecture. Examples include Dante’s Divine Comedy, Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress, the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s Pietá, Chartres Cathedral, Faure’s Requiem and Rachmaninov’s Vespers OP.37.

Like many others, having lost a son in a hit and run accident I know to be human is to experience suffering, adversity and loss. At the same time as acknowledged by Julian of Norwich: “But we cannot escape the suffering and the sorrow: there are dark sides to life. Realism forces us to face the fact. And the same realism enables us to trust the light and life and love in which we are enfolded”.

Christianity teaches life is uncertain and unpredictable, that evil exists and that it’s rare to live a life without suffering and pain. At the same time, proven by the resurrection and the life to come, we are surrounded by God’s love and grace. As stated by Julian of Norwich: “And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”.