A journey into openness and honesty… Distilling truths about ourselves, others and life from shared experiences… Learning to live consistently with that truth… Becoming free to be who we truly are…

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Hurting… Healing

Our words can wound others deeply.
Sometimes they hurt us even more.

Hurting

Eight years ago I was emerging from religious beliefs that held me captive for 40 years. Fear of rejection and condemnation by God had my beliefs locked in black and white. If Bible-based Christianity decreed something wrong, there was no room for argument or question.

It was my step-mother’s 90th birthday. Relatives came from far and wide to celebrate her big day. It was a great opportunity to catch up with extended family. Handshakes, hugs and kisses were exchanged; life’s latest headlines were shared; love, warmth and laughter flowed freely.

I hadn’t seen my relative Tom since he was a child. Now a grown man, all I knew about him was he was gay and in a relationship.

In those days much of the “truth” scripted into my thinking still controlled my attitudes and actions. To me, homosexuality was sin; homosexual relationships were unnatural and repulsive.

Tom and I were sitting at the same table. He introduced me to his partner Mike. I don’t remember the conversation but my feelings remain crystal clear.

Being warm and friendly is my default for relating to others. My ‘love and acceptance’ dial is normally set to ‘maximum’. This time it flicked hard off. I had no intention of being rude or hurtful, but offering Tom and Mike acceptance conflicted with my beliefs. It would be wrong to affirm their ‘sinful’ state and relationship. So instead of being warm and friendly, I was cordial and cold.

The Journey

Reflecting on the encounter later, I felt an awkward, uncomfortable stirring within me. Something about my response was wrong. The call to “love one another” had collided with “homosexuality is evil”.  I was being challenged to question my beliefs.

Withholding love from a person because of their ‘sinful ways’ was in direct contradiction of offering them unconditional love and grace. I realised that I had treated them unfairly and without love.

Ever since that time I’ve felt regret. I hoped that one day I’d be able to set things right.

Eight years later my beliefs are in a very different space. Life experience found my religious belief framework wanting. Black and white beliefs stifle healthy questions; they deny us the opportunity to learn new things and change and grow accordingly; they lead to judging other people’s actions as ‘right or wrong’. Worse still, we judge and devalue the people themselves as flawed, inferior beings. Depending on our beliefs we may see them in need of Salvation (by conversion to our beliefs).

Changing my beliefs and attitudes regarding LGBTIQ people and relationships did not happen overnight. The step by step process of letting my old beliefs go took years. I felt confused and conflicted along the way. Stepping out of a secure belief framework into the uncertainty of ‘no man’s land’ is very threatening, especially if you fear God’s disapproval and judgement. At times I felt very insecure and guilty as I let go of ‘The Truth’ and contemplated a new way of thinking.

Healing

Recently I was on a cruise to Papua New Guinea. Much to my surprise Tom and Mike were on the same cruise! We arranged to meet, and greeted each other with genuine warmth.

In the course of our conversation I apologised for my behaviour 8 years ago. Tom and Mike exchanged knowing smiles and told me I had nothing to apologise for… no doubt they’ve seen this scenario play out time and again. I am one of the multitudes journeying out of the ‘dark days’ of prejudice and discrimination against those who don’t fit bipolar views of gender and sexual attraction.

Tom and Mike felt no need of healing… thankfully they’d been loving enough to not be hurt by my behaviour 8 years ago. Ironically, I was the one who needed healing from the pain and regret that I still carried. It was me who had been damaged by the lack of love that flowed from my previous beliefs.

Live Gently

A few reflections…

If you are currently on the journey of revising your beliefs re gender preference and diversity, be gentle with yourself. It can take years for clarity, peace and a new understanding to emerge out of the disturbing questions and feelings.

If you’ve already made the leap, be gentle with others who are struggling through the transition or yet to reach the starting blocks. Keep caring for those who are not as far along as you. One of the biggest traps is to heap disdain and criticism on those who still hold conservative views. (Sadly, this is all too prevalent on social media.) Before criticising someone else, remember where you have come from, and how long it took you to make the change.

We need conservative people in society. Progressives run the risk of implementing social change without thinking through all the consequences. Our fellow conservatives raise the thorny issues that help ensure the implications of change are addressed before society lunges forward. Let’s be more gracious and less indignant toward them… even be grateful to them for the role they play.

Keep in mind some people will never change. Many will stay locked in their beliefs until the day they die. We must never stop loving and respecting these people. They have reasons for holding their conservative views. Criticising these people as “fundamentalist, conservative, religious bigots” will only reinforce their thinking. Arguing logically with them is unlikely to change their thinking; they see their logic more tenable than yours. If instead you listen to them, treat their views with respect (even though you disagree), and show you value them as people, you might just catch their attention and “love them into the new Kingdom”.

ian-dingo

 

Ian James
1st July 2018

© 2018 Ian James,
http://www.onlivingauthentically.com

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Is Australia (no longer) a Christian nation?

The 2016 Australian Census is almost upon us. The answers we provide on August 9th will be used by the nation’s decision makers to shape and direct Australia’s future.

Changes to the 2016 Census Religion question…

One of the changes to the previous census is in Question 19: “What is the person’s religion?”.

In the 2016 year census No Religion has been moved to the top of the list of choices.

Census 2016 - Q19

In previous years No Religion was at the very end of the list. The reader had to wade through a list of nine religions/denominations, followed by a large text box for Other (unlisted) religions. No Religion followed in an obscure location beneath the text box.

Census 2011 Q19

The value of a census lays in obtaining accurate data. The layout of Q19 has been changed for the following reasons:

  • In the previous layout No Religion could be easily missed, leading people with no personal religious beliefs to inaccurately select a nominal affiliation (e.g. their parents church, the church they were christened into, or where they attended Sunday School).
  • Completion of census form questions is made easier by having the most commonly selected options listed first. No Religion may well be the highest result (above any specific religion or denomination) in 2016 so it makes sense to move it up the list.
  • Having No Religion at the top simplifies completion of the question by effectively breaking it into two parts. Those who identify with No Religion can select this option and move straight to next question. Only those who identify with a religion need to go through the list to make a selection.

The implications…

When this change was introduced in the New Zealand census in 2013 the No Religion result increased from 35% to 42% (compared with 2006) while the total Christian tally decreased from 56% to 49%. For the first time less than half of the NZ population identified themselves as Christian. (Ref 1)

The 2016 Australian census may see a similar result. In the 2011 census the total Christian tally was 61.1%. The impact of No Religion trending steadily upward (22.3% in 2011, 18.7% in 2006, 15% in 2001) (Refs 2, 3), combined with the change to Q19 may result in less than half the Australian population identifying as Christian for the first time. (Ref 4)

The top three options selected in the 2011 census were Catholic 25.3%, No Religion 22.3%, then Anglican 17.1%. (The total of all other Christian denominations combined was 18.7%.) Given Catholic outranked No Religion by only 3% it is highly likely that for the first time No Religion will outnumber each of the Christian denominations individually in 2016, displacing Catholic from the top of the list. (Ref 5)

Percent people reporting No Religion - ABS

Some challenging questions…

Will government funding to Christian organizations be affected?

Secular groups lobbying for the Q19 change argued that a more accurate answer to this question would help ensure that government funds are distributed more fairly

“Many government services and resources depend on census accuracy, and the figures are used by religious organisations to maintain their status and influence in terms of grants, tax-free services, access to schools for religious instruction, and for their generally privileged position within the community,” president of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Meredith Doig, said. (Ref 4)

In the lead up to the 2016 census some secular groups have been actively campaigning for people to select the No Religion option if they don’t have an active religious faith. The Atheist Foundation of Australia website argues… “Accurate census data helps policy makers and political leaders make all sorts of planning and funding decisions. So if you’re not religious any more, mark the ‘No religion’ box on the 2016 Census.” (Refs 6, 7)

Will the claim that “Australia is a Christian nation” still be valid?

The claim that “Australia is a Christian nation” has been used by some far right wing political and religious groups promoting fear-based arguments that Australia should reverse becoming a multicultural, multi-faith nation. (e.g. Fred Nile, Catch The Fire Ministries/Rise Up Australia, One Nation) (Refs 8, 9, 10, 11)

If less than 50% of Australians identify themselves as Christian their claim will no longer be valid. If they dare acknowledge this will they revert to arguing “Australia has a Christian heritage”?
Personally this argument rankles me… Yes, we have a Constitution and legal system based on Judeo-Christian values. However Australia had an indigenous heritage in place for thousands of years before white men arrived. This heritage was replaced by a ‘heritage’ of British occupiers whose actions towards our indigenous people were anything but Christian.

A challenge to Christians and church leaders…

How should the Christian church react? How will the church react? Will the church react at all??

Regular church attendance has been falling significantly for decades. Fewer Australians have an active Christian faith or identify with a particular Christian denomination than ever before. (Ref 12)

The church has taken little effective action to date to stop decades of decline. If less than 50% of Australians identify themselves as Christian in the 2016 census will the church wake from its slumber and take action to stop it becoming progressively more irrelevant to Australian society?

Each increase in the No Religion result strengthens the case being made by secular groups to remove tax exemptions for religious organizations. If one day this case succeeds the financial impact on Christian denominations will be huge and further reinforce the demise of the Christian church in Australia.

Looking to the future…

While it is highly unlikely that the number of people identifying as No Religion in 2016 will exceed 50% (it would need to more than double from 22.3% in 2011) is Australia heading in this direction along with other Western world countries?

A recent National Geographic New article reported, There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities.” (Ref 13)

What do you think?

  • What is your reaction to the Q19 layout change?
  • Are you concerned about the No Religion result rising significantly while the Christian tally falls?
  • Do you think Australia is a Christian nation? A multi-faith nation? A secular nation?
    Why?

I’m very interested to hear from both Christians and secular readers on this. Please feel free to comment either here on the blog or on the associated facebook post.

References:

  1. http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-culture-identity/religion.aspx
  2. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features30Nov+2013
  3. http://profile.id.com.au/australia/religion
  4. http://www.smh.com.au/national/is-australia-losing-its-religion-20150827-gj94ts.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Australia
  6. http://censusnoreligion.org.au/
  7. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-22/census-2016-allows-people-to-select-no-religion/7653208
  8. http://www.christiantoday.com.au/article/fred.nile.in.nsw.upper.house.australia.is.not.a.secular.but.a.christian.nation/13382.htm
  9. http://riseupaustraliaparty.com/our-policies/policy-principles/ Policy principle (20).
  10. onenation.com.au/policies/islam Policy on Islam.
  11. Pauline Hanson on ABC TV Q&A 15/07/2016.
  12. http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/a-demographic-snapshot-of-christianity-and-church-attenders-in-australia
  13. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/

 

Ian JamesIan + dingo
07/08/2016