A new agenda of questions was highlighted on Radio National's Late Night Live with Philip Adams interviewing social researcher Hugh Mackay on Wednesday night 3 July 2013. I'll come to the central new agenda question. (www.abc.net.au)
The traditional set of questions highlighted those conscience issues that every person asks themselves as they lives their in whatever culture and economic circumstance. They cut to the heart of the matter regardless of birth-religion dictates and are the source of many a heart searching further afield to find satisfying answers.
As a Christian evangelist introducing a Christian world view to many, these traditional questions have been a mainstay so as to engender a fresh way of thinking toward that of a salvation in Christ and away from a salvation associated with humanism and hedonism and any other 'isms'.
Who am I? Is an important first step toward such a movement of the heart as it engages the recipient in such a way that for the very first time for many, they have philosophically questioned themselves as to their true identity.
Where do I come from? This is an issue for which all of us ponder as we each have parents and grand-parents and the television program "Who do you really think you are" touches on this parentage issue. But it gains a different dimension when applied philosophically.
Where am I going? Recently the Radio National program Encounter took their microphone onto the street and asked people their understanding of 'heaven'. It was fascinating listening, as it was a mixture of a fairy land myth and that of an enriched experience within a very different life encounter.
Who determines right from wrong? This is Christian theology 101 but for many from an array of cultures and societies there is a wide array of answers, but all with a common denominator of a need for justice. Injustice is the bane of all societies.
What is reality / truth (real as opposed to artificial)? This question is the easiest of all to explain in that the advertising world simply exposes it. Are they selling you a pup? Are the shiny teeth (advertising a tooth paste) a true reality? The importance of discernment necessarily becomes the new reality. This is pure evangelism as to the place of Christ in one's life. This is the evangelists' challenge!
Who needs me?
Who needs me? Is a totally different question and its philosophical direction is away from questioning one's world view, to that of a legitimate question of life and for many people it is the core issue of existence.
Our tiny tots and children learn very quickly that their parents and wider family members need them desperately. It provides an inner assurance of their existence and validity. It provides an under pinning for their lives as they grow up in loving situations.
This where the value of family discipline enters and secures children's philosophical understanding. Thuy Yau wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald – "I'm glad my parents were hard on me!" (www.essentialkids.com.au)
But what of those without such a bountiful upbringing or those who have been shunted from one set of foster parents to another and then another, the question: Who needs me? Becomes a central issue.
But it gets worse. There are any number of scenarios and circumstances in adolescence, latter teenage years to young adulthood to life without a partner, to widow/hood where this question becomes paramount. Who needs me?
Likewise the unemployed, middle management being retrenched, executives being cut, sports stars dumped, actors in limbo, coal miners with mines closed, manufacturing workers without anything to manufacture, academics sent packing due to budget restraints, Prime Ministers losing their job ….. Who needs me?
The outworking of each of these is an / article / an essay / a study / a book / a library as each has so many different dimensions and side roads. Who needs me? Is indeed a vital question to our well being and a holistic world view.
As an evangelist, the question, Who needs me? likewise becomes a central focus as the core message of the Gospel, that you/me are so valuable that Jesus Christ died on a Cross for me personally. Christians recognise that without the Holy Spirit's intervention within a person's heart, otherwise these are simply, 'words that compete' with other 'words'.
A recent ABC 4Corners program (1 July 2013) followed six people (families) in the throws of desperate poverty without the pleasantries of life, even a mild expression of the opulent, and this question, Who needs me? Became the critical question.
Suicide (youth or otherwise) in Australia is the second highest anywhere in the world. The question, Who needs me? Appears to be a central issue. There is growing understanding that some men are particularly vulnerable in families where women dominate (its never about dad) or where there is a need to provide for their intimate women (such as farmers) this this question becomes paramount: Who needs me?
My wife of 36 years Delma regularly reports from her many community ministry engagements that widows or widowers are tormented by this question, Who needs me?
It seems to me that Christian ministry through the churches and community ministry projects have an open door in helping to answer and meet some of the dilemmas associated with this question, Who needs me?
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html