Yesterday the question was asked, why can Christian belief be so readily attacked willy-nilly in the media and society without the blink of an eyelid? - This is a philosophical question as our media now finds itself in something of a confused state.
The reason is that there are now laws associated with discrimination and racism. Therefore, does the media blast away at Christian belief because it is part of the main stream culture or is the media in effect, trying to detach Christianity from the main stream culture in that the society the media portrays is secular?
As soon as anything critical is said about other religions - belief systems, world views, ethnic backgrounds, historic conflicts, political positions, historic theocracy-militarised culture: somehow "a great sensitivity" is engaged by the media, politicians and business. As seen yesterday, the claim is that this same sensitivity is not offered to Christianity.
This is at the essence of the disharmony many Christians feel in Australia: there is no level playing field in these areas. These are further issues for consideration:
The economy stupid
Western economic policies serve big business and they react to the global market and this determines whether they do business in your backyard which in turn provides employment and retains established standards of living. We're all a witness to this with the car industry closing up by 2017.
In this sense, the economy requires a harmonious population without conflict and Western governments are caught between a rock and a hard-place in that religious or ethnic minorities need to be catered. Every knee is bended and head bowed through policies and positive media coverage to ensure they receive, what in effect, becomes what's perceived to be favoured status.
Although difficult to articulate, this is another of those arenas where many Christians perceive there is no level playing field.
Two world views with daylight between them
It was former Labour Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr who spoke of the growing divide between Islam and the West and the world must avoid the nightmare of a ''clash of civilisations''. ISIS illustrates this to us all. Was he castigated, yet now ISIS has it well acknowledged.
Battles are won or lost on the philosophical (the Australian Government is big on this with ISIS), so it is crucial we look at these two broad philosophical differences which affect how people live their lives. The media plays a central role in this.
In Australia's constitution there is a separation of Church and State. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a theocracy, the State and the Religion have shared governance. Take two examples: a cartoon offensive to the religion, or the religion's book is burnt, the offence is like a dagger to the heart. People die in the protest. The passion involves the shared responsibility of State and Religion. In other words the State is required to punish perpetrators' acts against the Religion (even if it occurred in another country). There is a Global economy and Global religious passion.
In Australia, or anywhere else in the western world for that matter, where there is a separation of Church and State, this is where the debarkation line "should be drawn". So what if someone draws an offensive cartoon of a religion? Or holds a cartoon competition of the Islamic Prophet as in the USA recently - a good discussion of this was written by young writer Kara Greening in NZ Stuff.
But what we witness is that "reasonable criticism" of the theocracy is done with fear and trembling, as the threat of violent outcomes is real. Here's the rub – in the West artists can present works such as 'Piss Christ' and fictional films about Jesus and his disciples in homosexual relationships, and it's all part of the great unwashed in free speech. Everyone recognises there is daylight between two philosophies. If anything ISIS has been the great demonstrator of this.
Not just these two world's clash – it's never that simple
China is different again. Belief systems that are entrenched are threatened by the message of Jesus Christ's message of freedom. Christianity it now touching many areas of China including economic inroads (yet the latest reports are that the Chinese authorities are encouraging Christians to be part of the new economy with their committed hard work, honesty and ingenuities). Here Christianity is a minority religion. The difference is that there is no free robust press as there is in Australia. Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world is different again, they have a working democracy. It is never simple.
In a world of differing philosophies, religions and world views, it is never as simple as it sounds. In global politics 'oil' seems to be a major 'calling card' and this affects the way the West handles foreign affairs. (Although the USA is almost oil import free with its huge Shale oil outcomes.) Moreover, the West ensures that those living within their borders who hold non-western philosophies, regardless of their religion or political world view, are guaranteed freedom of worship and political activism. These are the hallmarks of the West. The media is ready and willing to be robust.
'Soul Liberty' as opposed to 'Submission'
This 'clash of civilisations' is really important to get a handle on. The tenant of Christian belief is to relish criticism, illustrate its variety through scholarship and service to others. It witnesses people coming to faith in Jesus Christ through their own decision making processes as the Spirit of the Lord touches their souls. In theological speak, this is 'soul liberty'.
It is very different to the Islamic theological idea of 'submission'. One 'submits' to the will of Allah. The very essence of these two world views spells out why Christian belief can be so readily attacked willy-nilly by all and sundry as its 'soul liberty' spells freedom and freedom to be criticised and freedom to be laughed-at and freedom to have its scholarship critically challenged.
The theocratic world view, in this specific example of 'submission', demands a philosophy that the media, the politics and big business all equally 'submit' to the religion.
'Submission' is ultimately rejection, as no person can submit totally and unreservedly (Jesus said no man can fulfil the Law and we know this from our own experience of sin). Moreover, 'submission' applies stringently to the media who dare not offer fearless analysis of the theocracy and its governance as the religion is indispensably party to it.
ISIS illustrates this by their own video releases that any infraction from submission ends in execution, many by public beheadings, drownings, explosions, burnings .....
'Fair-minded' is a better word than 'tolerance'
In Australia, the reality is that whether it is Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Cavenism, Drudism, Paganism or whatever - they get given a good run in the media. Australia is a fair-minded society which bases itself on the "power-of-the-pen" rather than that of the sword. 'Fair-minded' is a better concept that 'tolerance' as we have laws that define the limits of tolerance, such as road rules, neighbourhood by-laws, rules for business practise, and the like.
Christianity, the main stream of the Australian society, where church and state are separate, has no lawful preferences. Rather, as the main stream, it's given closer examination. There appears not to be a level playing field in reporting. It is more than this though. It seems to apply at all levels of government where there is a soft approach to avoid any claim of discrimination or racism. An example is that of local suburban sporting facilities for school girls. For two centuries school girls have got changed into their sporting attire and vice versa in 'Women' change room facilities. The team philosophy is 'one-for-all' and 'all-for-one'.
There was a push to cater for Muslim girls to have individual cubicles in every women's sport change room across the nation in order to exercise their religious 'modesty' requirements (although Church and State are separate). One can see how Sharia Law is being quietly enforced upon us all. Some see this as an example of an Islamisation of Australian by stealth, much the same issue as Australians are seeing 'Halal' (Islamic approved food - on their supermarket shelves and what was available being slowly but surely removed from sale. (The French dealt with this issue as a 'civic matter' as they did with the issue of attire). There is no issue with Halal for the export market but not on Australian shopping shelves.
In reality, it's demanding that the way of every-day-life Australians have enjoyed for two hundred years, is being redirected to that of the philosophy of a minority whose essence is not freedom, but submission. Yet British Prime Minister David Cameron is willing to call Britain a Christian country and haul in these kinds of issues. Where is our Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a rejoicing Catholic.
Christians hold fast that the death of Jesus on the cross for our sin to offer freedom. Christians in Australia can continue to serve their communities, continue to make inroads in people's lives for the cause of Christ. Moreover, when illegitimate, unfair and bias reporting is in evidence against this cause, be prepared to give a logical and sound defence of Christian belief.
As Paul instructed Timothy to be ready with the Scriptures through which the Holy Spirit speaks into the hearts and minds of hearers: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 16.
But this freedom we have in Australia it is not sacrosanct and could be lost. We should be frightened when those escaping north Africa to Europe to find a new life results in Christians tossed overboard and drowning by the hands of Muslims – not radicalised Muslims, not Jihad, not ISIS .... It's news, nationalistic or law breaking, horrific maybe, terrifying possibly, but for the generic media it's news and nothing more – unless they as individuals are in the firing line! Then it's too late. Look what happened to Peter Gresta? It could happen here.
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 mentors young writers and 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 http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html