We’ve become used to reading about persecution of Christians by hard-line Muslim regimes in Africa and Afghanistan, communist dictatorships in Asia, and Hindu places in India and Pakistan. But we are increasingly seeing signs of the West turning against its Christian roots. In today’s copy of The Australian, Greg Sheridan published an article that highlights Australian society’s changing attitude towards Christianity.[i] He says:
“We are on the way to becoming, for the first time, an avowedly anti-Christian nation. Not just non-Christian, but anti-Christian. The census tells us. The culture tells us. The law tells us.
The 2021 census represents an explosive dam burst, with a flood of biblical proportions to follow. For the first time in the modern nation’s history, only a minority of Australians identify as Christians.
This is not a gentle decline. It is a bus hurtling over a cliff. As recently as 25 years ago, nearly three-quarters of Australians called themselves Christians. In 2011, 61 per cent was still a solid majority; five years later it was 52 per cent, last year just 44 per cent and still falling.
That’s a staggering 17 per cent fewer of the population who are Christian in 10 years. Nothing as dramatic and consequential has happened in Australian belief and outlook since 1788.”
Quoting a Perth pastor and book author, Mr Sheridan points out that, while Australians in general may not be inclined to be antagonistic, there are such forces driving today’s culture. These hostile forces are keen to bring the church to the public square, “not in order to hear it, but to expose its real and imagined abuses and render it naked and shivering before a jeering crowd”. In other words, they’ll be a spectacle to the public.
That’s the sort of antichristian sentiment Mr Sheridan saw displayed in Hobart a few weeks ago, at a festival called Dark Mofo which, though subsidised by Tasmanian taxpayers, was used to celebrate nihilism and ugliness and to mock Christianity.
“[The event] frequently mocks and contemptuously misuses Christian symbols and terminology, and sometimes celebrates the repulsive and evil. One representative caption says: “Satanise your hands.” The Mofo jamborees have used inverted crosses, an old anti-Christian symbol; they have buried an artist underground for three days in mimicry of Christ’s resurrection; displayed a simulated man being hacked to death; re-created pagan customs; used foul animal carcasses; and much else.”
As another example of antichristian sentiment Mr Sheridan points to the media’s reaction to Mr Scott Morrison’s sermon at Mrs Margaret Court’s Pentecostal church in Perth. Mr Morrison had told his audience that they should place a higher trust in God than in government, or even in the United Nations. Whilst we would say that Mr Morrison is not ordained to deliver sermons and we’d object to the venue, there’s nothing wrong with those words. Indeed, they’re Scriptural and echo what we sing in Psalm 146: “Put no trust in prince or ruler, in a man however wise….” Yet much of the public media—especially commercial TV, radio and the ABC—denounced Mr Morrison for his “inappropriate” and “jarring” comments.
We’ve come to expect this sort of thing from the secular media from time to time, but the unmistakable signs are there that it will become more pronounced. As Mr Sheridan says:
“Christianity’s enemies in Australia stand poised to prosecute a bewildering range of legal attacks against Christians and their institutions, designed mainly to prevent them speaking in the public square. The NSW euthanasia law obliges Christian retirement homes to welcome kill teams into their homes. Legislation in some states, especially Victoria, makes it extremely difficult for Christian schools to hire Christian teachers other than for the principal, chaplain and perhaps religious knowledge teachers.”
Suchlike pressure is increasingly being brought to bear on Christians and Christian institutions. Teaching Christian beliefs is now in the process of becoming “a bureaucratic or even criminal offence”. Says Mr Sheridan:
“If a Christian school merely teaches the New Testament, it could be sued for discrimination. If a school asks a boy transitioning to be a girl to just slow down and think things over, and instead of wearing a dress perhaps wear the sports uniform that is non-gender specific, it could be sued under several states’ anti-repression laws. Pastors have told me that if a man, suffering mentally and spiritually from confusion over sexual matters, asks the pastor to pray with him, the pastor can be prosecuted.”
Although our immigrant forebears have witnessed persecution here in Australia in the past—think of our brothers in the 1950s being ousted from their jobs through ‘closed shop’ union practices[ii]—we, their descendants, have, on the whole, had a cruisy run without strong antichristian hostility. Even at the time of these struggles with the secular trade unions, there was a lot of empathy by the general public and media towards the Free Reformed Church members who lost their jobs because they could not reconcile union membership with obedience to God’s Word.[iii]
As God presses history on towards the great day of the return of our Lord and Saviour, we may—as Scripture reveals, e.g., in Revelation—expect greater hostility. Hence the world’s antagonism should not surprise us. Indeed, it’s been there from the day God placed enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Jesus said, “He who is not for me is against me” and “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you”.
Satan knows his time is running out and is piling on the pressure. And society in general has been deprived of Christian nurture for so long and instead has been fed the lies of secular ideologies in educational institutions and by the media. Deprived of the light of God’s Word, and in rejection of it, society in general has embraced the lies about evolution, same-sex marriage, abortion, LGBT rights and a host of other beliefs that depart from the truth. As Scripture says, they “became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened”.
Hence they “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever”. And so it was that “God gave them up to vile passions” (Romans 1), as we see, for example, in the promotion of licentious and abnormal sexual behaviour. And now, having embraced such practices and beliefs, they must silence those who on the basis of God’s Word resist and expose them for the wicked practices they are.
However, people are but fragile beings, whilst God is the almighty, everlasting God. And whilst men rage and plot and set themselves against the LORD and His Anointed Christ, God—as we read in Psalm 2—sits in heaven and laughs at their puny efforts to be ‘free’ and shake off His authority and laws. Meanwhile, He has given His Son, our Redeemer, all authority in heaven and on earth, giving Him the nations as His inheritance and the ends of the earth as His possession. He shall, Psalm 2 tells us, break His opponents with an iron rod and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. Therefore, the urgent call goes out for unbelievers to repent, while there is time. But as for the persecuted believers, they take comfort and continue to put their confidence in their Lord and Redeemer, since nothing can happen without His will.
The persecutions have been foretold. And perhaps faithful Christians will become a ‘spectacle to the world’ also here in Australia. But let it be our fervent prayer always to be faithful to our God, irrespective of consequences, knowing that He is always faithful and trustworthy. He sees us in all our needs, grants us perseverance through His Spirit, and has laid up for us an eternal inheritance, breathtakingly glorious. “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12b).
[i] Greg Sheridan, “Lost in the secular desert: Christianity under siege”, The Australian, 23/7/2022.
[ii] See G J Bosveld’s Free Reformed Pioneers, (Pro Ecclesia Publishers, Armadale), Chapter 38, pp, 300ff.
[iii] See Harry Kleyn’s My Father’s Journey, (IngramSpark, Australia), Chapter 46, pp. 310ff.