Though Australia is more secular than ever before, its Christian roots should not be underestimated, writes John Warhurst in The Canberra Times.
For the first time, following the lead of the other football codes, the AFL scheduled a match on Good Friday despite opposition from church leaders in Melbourne. The game was explicitly linked to the annual Good Friday Appeal in Melbourne that raises funds for the Royal Children's Hospital. The Easter weekend was also the time for massive Easter egg hunts, so the central Easter message was, by then, thoroughly diluted.
What remained of the original Easter message was shown by the remarkably large crowds reported at many churches around the country as so-called "Easter and Christmas Christians" publicly demonstrated their Christian cultural attachment. Their church leaders were also given special media space, which they generally used to promote less controversial international aspirations, such as world peace, rather than domestic political concerns.
All these social phenomena were happening despite the marked drift away from church attendance Australia-wide. The nation has become more secular than it has ever been, though church attendance on special occasions like Easter shows that Christian roots in the community should not be underestimated.
That makes Easter an appropriate time for a stocktake of Christian political participation just as the political year gets seriously under way at budget time.
The first thing that must never be forgotten about Christianity in Australia is that it is amazingly diverse. No one can ever claim to speak on its behalf.
The Christian community features a large and often politically disengaged centre, but also a right and a left. No church or faith-based organisation is therefore wholly conservative or progressive but can hold varying positions across issues and policies, a picture which is often at odds with media representations and the left-right adversarial games of the main political parties. It is rarely recognised that, outside sexual-morality conservatism, the Christian churches are often more progressive than society at large.
Australia's Christians form a broader political church that most realise (The Canberra Times)