God increasingly missing from public life

Published in the Courier Mail 22 May 06

The last few weeks has seen an interesting juxtaposition of community and civic responses to the place of God in our society.

Our legislative leaders and their bureaucrats seem to be quietly yet increasingly removing references to God from our public life.

The Beattie Government’s desire to make changes to Religious Education in state schools, in which they would effectively sideline education about Christianity, is one example. They seem to forget, or ignore, that it’s the Judeo-Christian value system which provides the philosophical underpinnings of our nation and way of life.

Also recently, the decision to remove Bibles from bedsides in several Queensland hospitals is indicative of the stance of our civic officials that God and our Judeo-Christian ethic should be increasingly marginalized from public life. One wonders at the motivation behind such a decision. One excuse was that it was to reduce the transmission of infection. That seems a little weak though – or the well-thumbed magazines in patient lounges would also be binned.

Officially at least, God doesn’t seem to be very welcome in Queensland.

However, back in the real world, we see a very different picture being painted.

If we examine the grassroots responses to some current events, such as the Beaconsfield situation, and the accident of little Sophie Delezio, we see a different picture emerging of what the community psyche is.

As footage and reports rolled out from Beaconsfield about the rescue effort at the mine, we were asked to pray – not just by those we’d expect it from, but by media representatives, union leaders, our Prime Minister and even each other. For many long days, we watched – and yes, many of us prayed. In fact, even the non-religious amongst us told of their short but sincere prayer of thanks when the miracle we’d hoped for occurred and Todd Russell and Brant Webb were rescued.

In the midst of that, we were shocked to hear the latest tragedy to befall young Sophie Delezio. Injured previously, when a car crashed into a kindergarten, Sophie had been hit once again by a car and flung metres into the air. The horror was almost incomprehensible and it was staggering that one family had to endure this again.

Sophie’s tearful mum had one request of Australians. Rushing to the hospital, she pleaded with us to pray – and we responded by doing just that. Recent days have seen her recovery described by doctors and media as a miracle. It appears that removing bibles from hospital bedsides is a little out of touch with community sentiment.

We can argue all we want about the separation of church and state – an American concept by the way, not an Australian one – however, our response to crisis tells us a lot about our deepest beliefs.

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arch communities for those with development disabilities said, “Life is a succession of crises and moments when we have to rediscover who we are and what we really want.”

Over the last few weeks, these crises have taught us something about ourselves as a nation. It gave us a chance to rediscover who we are, in the face of political correctness and a skewed notion of public tolerance that shuts down honest dialogue.

I would suggest we rediscovered that, in the hearts and minds of a great many Australians, there does exist a place for God. We don’t need to be ashamed of that, or fearful of admitting it.

In fact, it is only as we honestly acknowledge what our hearts tell us that we can start to have some proper conversations about the part God may, or may not, play in our civic life. But to assert that the Judeo-Christian worldview means little or nothing to Australians, or has lost its relevance, is at best uninformed, and at worst arrogant.

And as a nation, we can do better than that.

Ruth Limkin