Tim Costello is dead right. We’re not being persecuted like Christians around the world and we need to suck it up. I’ve said that for a while now. We’re not getting the level of sheer violence and terror that Christians experience around the globe on a daily basis.
But Tim Costello is dead wrong in how he played out that conversation today in his new role as a senior fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX).
You can read the full Guardian article here. And of course it’s been picked up by everyone. He’s certainly going to generate publicity for CPX. He has some interesting things to say, and I agree with a bunch of it.
But to be honest he’s missed the point about what is going on for many an Australian Christian. I hope CPX qualify what he has said, because there’s been a pile on from many in the media lauding his words.
Why? The issue in Australia, is not whether Christians are being persecuted like they are in Pakistan. No one for one moment believes that to be the case.
The problem is not persecution. Tim is so, so right. The problem is privatisation; the withdrawal of Christianity from the public square; either of its own volition, or because it’s told to leave it at home by a socially woke workplace that is equally and oppositely religious in another direction. And Tim walked straight into that conversation with nary a word of encouragement for those who already are sucking it up.
The issue is whether Christianity is a private religion that should be kept in the private sphere, or whether it has a vital and increasing role to play in the public debate of our country, and a freedom to espouse a diametrically opposing worldview to that espoused by many of our institutions and an increasing number of our workplaces.
Tim is right. People around the world are worshipping in secret for fear that they will be hauled off to jail. Christianity is in the firing line in many countries around the world even when it is private. UK Foreign Minister, Jeremy Hunt has highlighted the shocking level of persecution around the world for Christians, stating it is the worst it’s ever been.
But here? In lazy, languid Australia. It”s not going to happen like that. Ever.
But Tim is wrong in the way he told Australians to suck it up. No one is truly suggesting it is becoming like Pakistan or elsewhere here in Oz. And if they are, most Christians don’t take them seriously.
As long as you keep your faith private – cos religion is after all a private affair – you will always be able to say what you wish and do as you wish ad infinitum. Whatever happens in our political landscape, private Christianity will be given a biscuit for rolling over and keeping it private.
But that’s the problem isn’t it? Christianity isn’t private. And that’s where Tim blows it as a spokesperson for the Centre for, er, Public Christianity. Christianity announces public realities, and does not recognise as spiritually valid, although it lives side by side with, alternate versions of reality.
That’s why no one is interested in funding, or working for, a Centre for Private Christianity, and Tim, as someone who has done admirable public advocacy on the basis of his Christian faith, should be well aware of that.
But we don’t get to pick and choose which bit of Christianity can be public and which can be private. We desperately need places like CPX to show those working in the secular space a way forward, not just on the matters that the secular media love us for, but for those that they despise us for.
The question we’re facing is whether you can, without penalty, offer a dissenting voice in the public square on the new religion of sex. And if Tim’s got some advice for those who are suffering penalty for that I’d sure love to hear it. But maybe that’s just something Tim does not quite get, because when it comes to taking a risk in the workplace to voice Christian thought on this matter, Tim has zero skin in the game.
There are actual people in the actual workplace who draw a wage from somewhere other than a religious organisation who are currently sucking it up, and feeling conflicted about their silence. What does Tim have to say to them, given he just triggered the biggest pile on from an adoring media who have zero understanding of religion?
They’re sucking it up, day in day out. Keep it private, keep it private, keep it private, that’s the mantra. Then along comes the newly minted senior fellow at the Centre for er, Public, Christianity, telling them to suck it up. Hey Tim, they are! What about a bit of encouragement for them? Perhaps you won’t be lauded by every mainstream media outlet, but standing with the scorned requires intestinal fortitude.
A couple of brave Christians in the public square, who while admitting we’re not being persecuted, but who nevertheless challenge the prevailing push for Christianity to “keep it private”, wouldn’t go astray. And I’m not sure today’s events were a step in the right direction.