This is an extract of an address given by former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, at the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Annual Breakfast held in March.
Like so many Australians, I watched on with horror at the recent seasonal events—out-of-seasonal natural events in [Queensland]—over the summer period and I want to say to you that our hearts certainly went out to you. We admire greatly the leadership that was shown and the volunteerism and all of the things that went to ensuring that the best of a dreadful situation was made.
It did cause me to reflect on something, and that is that, tragic as it was, and particularly tragic where lives were lost, we are fortunate indeed, are we not?, to live in a country where we have the capacity to mount outstanding emergency responses, and the financial wherewithal to assist communities and indeed the state, frankly, to recover. Those are good things!
The great majority of people who live on the surface of the globe today do not live in societies where such things are possible. Yet we take them for granted. But I want to say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that I don’t think we should take the great blessings we enjoy for granted. I think we are in very, very great danger in the West of seeing our privileged position ebb away.
As a farmer, I’m very conscious that if you want to grow a good crop you have to first till the soil in which the crop is grown. The crop of freedom, of democracy, and all of the good things we take for granted in our lives, is, in fact, Christianity and yet our society has moved away from it and so little understands now, the soil in which the crops of freedom are grown, that I do not believe that we can continue to expect to grow those crops, and I’m deeply sobered and deeply concerned by this. I really am.
You know, it strikes me as a great irony that the atheistic regime in Beijing better understands our history than we do. I’m indebted to … the ABC Religion Hour, if it still exists, for a broadcast they had a couple of years ago. Someone gave me the transcript and it was with a very senior correspondent in Beijing. He was reporting on a major study that the Communist government had undertaken into the Christian church in China; and the report had come back indicating that the church growth in China was amazing and that it is not likely to be stopped.
And it caused great consternation, and that is, of course, behind the persecution of the house-church movement in particular in China. Why? I’ll tell you why, as our correspondent said. The Chinese government understands that it is Christians who start to agitate for the recognition of “the little person”, for the radical idea that we take for granted yet you find in no other culture. No other belief system that I’ve ever encountered. That all have dignity before God, and that the King must respect the peasant just as the peasant is expected to respect the King—the Good Samaritan story.
The Bible, of course, is based on the whole idea that each is precious; and the Chinese understand the European history! It was that radical notion that built the idea of representation in Parliament, peaceful means of removing those who become corrupted by the lure of power … and you need a peaceful means to resolve that and democracy has evolved out of it. Nor do we understand the way in which transformed and renewed lives have transformed our society.
My political hero is a man called William Wilberforce. To many of you he’s still a hero today—to Christians every- where. Here is a man who came from Hull, entered Parliament as an extraordinarily privileged and wealthy young man with the world at his feet, in an age of great moral ‘messiness’ in Great Britain. It was a ‘Superpower’ but it was a dreadful place; inequitable, corrupt, vice-ridden, and he had everything to gain by remaining the sort of dissolute young man that he was, but he got converted.
He got converted and he was trans-formed, and this man went on to do something that was extraordinary for somebody from the mercantile class; a very wealthy man. He came to see that people with black skin mattered equally to God to those with white skin and he led the greatest human rights campaign of all times, that which freed the slaves.
The Left in this country used to prattle on about human rights, until whales became important … but we’ve erased our understanding that it was the Christians who gave rise to our democratic freedoms and to the idea that slaves should be freed, and so on and so forth. We’ve jettisoned it all.
Now England, the country that exported Christianity and freedom; you know, the ‘mother of the parliaments’ and what have you, has changed. Like Australia, there was a time when Christianity, even if you didn’t go to church, was seen as true; then there was a time when it was just one of many truths. Now, according to the intelligentsia, it’s dangerous and you shouldn’t expose your children to it! And England’s busily exporting the new atheism—the Richard Dawkinses of this world and the Christopher Hitchenses.
Christopher Hitchins wrote God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything. Are you all aware of that book? He was in Sydney about twelve months ago. He was at the Opera House with the ABC … They had this “Dangerous Ideas Conference” you see. So here’s one of their great heroes, Christopher Hitchins—a brilliant man who’s against God—he’s up there.
At the same time, ironically, I have to tell you (I’m an Anglican) the Anglican Church had an outreach thing called “Thirty-nine Prominent Australians Talking About Their Christian Faith”. And they were prominent Australians (well, thirty-eight of them were—I was the thirty-ninth)! Remarkable men, from captains of industry to Peter Costello to sportsmen to scientists to medicos, proclaiming their belief in the resurrected Christ—while Christopher Hitchins is saying that only an imbecile believes in a resurrected Christ today!
I would have thought that that was a potential ‘field day’ for the media. Thirty-nine (thirty-eight plus one) prominent Australians saying they do believe while the Great Atheist is saying only an infantile believes. Isn’t that rich ground? And yet the media, confronted with something unfortunate, like a whole lot of thinking, intelligent Australians who believe in a resurrected Christ—it’s easier just to ignore it, isn’t it? What have we come to?
Christopher Hitchins has a brother. His name’s Peter. Peter was an atheist too. Then he went to live in Russia for quite a while and he saw what seventy or eighty years of atheistic Communist rule had done to the people, and he converted, and he’s written a book called The Rage Against God. In that he mounts, incredibly powerfully, the argument that we are being blind and foolish beyond belief. He says we’ve silenced God; we’ve mocked Him, we’ve sidelined Him; we won’t give Him a role in the public square. Must we learn it all again—that no society that says it can do it without God preserves its freedoms or lasts for very long? The brother of a great atheist; that’s what he says; and he goes on to talk about some of the disastrous results—and again, he’d have seen them in Russia.
Do you know the first thing he nominates that’s been so damaging out of all of this? The trashing of marriage. The trashing of family; and he argues very powerfully, and I agree with him because I can see it—I saw it in public life—your elite, your intelligentsia, the ‘trendy’, who are at the forefront of trashing traditional marriage and traditional family and seem only to speak for adults, and never for the interests of the children who have to grow up in some sort of environment, ladies and gentlemen, so they, in a way, are the least to suffer from the trashing of marriage. They can go and find a ‘trophy bride’, or a yacht, or a chalet in Switzerland to take their mind off the pain, but as it filters down through society the results are more and more and more devastating.
There is a little town not far from where I live which used to be a good, honest working town; it’s now a social security town. The school has shrunk and shrunk. There’s twelve kids in that primary school today; they have between them three mothers and five fathers.
Will those children—precious every one of them—be selfless givers to humanity, able to contribute to society; to take their place in our community and help us build a bigger, stronger community and families of their own? Or will they be people tragically locked into a cycle of welfare dependency and of deep need drawing on the rest of the community—I ask you?
They will be preoccupied with self and that is another enormous price we are paying for the abandonment of Christianity. Selflessness built our freedoms. Selfishness is destroying them.
Read the full text of John Anderson’s speech at www.historymakersradio.com