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The Age's reporting of Christian Religious Education

By Nicholas Tuohy - posted Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Those scheming and secretive Christians are trying to get our children. Well, so The Age thinks with its regular vindictive and vilifying prattle it is attempting to pass to us as journalism. I have lost count, but every week or so for the last couple of months, The Age is continuing its unjustified and unfair attack on Christian Religious Education (CRE) in schools and chaplaincy. The main target is the long-time established Access Ministries. The latest smear concerns the phrase used by Access Ministries head, which referred to making disciples of children. She was of course referring to words used by Jesus when he invited people to become his disciples. Now here are a few salient points:

Firstly, why shouldn’t children have the right to learn about Jesus and, if they so want, become a follower or, ready for it, a Christian? One example in The Age article refers to a child who ended up taking herself and her parents off to the local church after having CRE classes. Shock horror, call in the troops! A family heading off to church together? The Age thinks this is somehow sinister.

Secondly, we often hear about the need to understand and address the root causes of terrorism (another way of saying it is the West’s fault radical Islamists want to kill us). We also need to understand the root causes of religious fundamentalism. When a militant secular agenda is forced upon a society, like what The Age and its buddies at the Humanist Society are seeking, people of faith can move into a ghetto-like mentality. The way to avoid this is to have open and robust conversation about religion, kept alive, and not pushed to the margins.

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Thirdly, I think Australians are largely fearful of religion. That’s why no one talks about it and media campaigns like The Age are always trying to sideline religion or make it out to be some sinister and suspicious practice we need to protect our children from. Like it or not, our very education system comes out of the Christian heritage of Western nations. Great learning institutions like Oxford were started by very Christian people. It is absurd to say that Christian faith is some threat to kids. Even the most vituperative critics of Christianity, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, have recently expressed praise for the role the King James Bible had on literature and Western culture.

Fourthly, are there not more pressing needs to protect our children from? A recent conference in Melbourne was held concerning the increasingly disturbing sexual portrayal of children in the media. In relation to the findings of a 2010 survey by the Advertising Standards Bureau, Melinda Tankard Reist said "the proliferation of ads sexualising children showed self-regulation was failing." What about the increasingly violent video games and movies that children are regularly exposed to, not to mention hard-core pornography that is now only a click away? Then there is the epidemic of childhood obesity. With significant challenges and threats like these, it defies imagination that The Age and the crusading humanists take up arms against "Love your neighbor" and "Blessed are the poor".

Fifthly, what about proselytising? Everyone does it. Football teams, soft drink companies, fast food joints, and newspapers. That is, If we believe we have a ‘product’ that is worthwhile we will want to share it and promote it. The gaming and alcohol industries spend hundreds of millions a year to get people to buy their products, and everyone is fine with this? Get a few well-meaning and good Christian people telling kids that God loves them, to do unto others as you would have them do to you, telling the story of the Good Samaritan and The Age sees fit to launch a witch-hunt against Christians? I know first-hand that CRE and chaplaincy goes to great lengths to offer no-strings services and does not attempt to ‘convert’ children.

Finally, here’s the corker for me. My nephew had on his prescribed school reading list great titles like ‘The Day my Bum went Psycho’, ‘Bumageddon’, and ‘The Final Pongflict’. I have not read the books but he tells me they are about a group of unruly anuses (or is that ani?) and a global conflict. These books were even on the Premiers Reading List. Sure, they are just harmless and fun titles. But where is the ennobling and inspirational literature our children are learning? The Bible is the most influential and inspiring book in the history of humanity, as well as the most read and most sold. Let kids learn about obnoxious bottoms, but don’t deprive them of the beauty, wisdom, poetry, and challenging literature we call the Bible. As well-known literary critic and cultural commentator, Peter Craven wrote recently, “however much we might decry the crimes committed in the name of religion – the bloody deaths and persecutions and maiming of minds – of course we should keep alive the stories of the Bible and the beauty of the language in which they speak. Does anyone really want their children to be without knowledge of that heritage?”

The Age and its humanist buddies are red in the face crying “Yes!”

Jesus dying on the cross cries out “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do…”

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About the Author

Nicholas Tuohy is an ordained Baptist minister whose professional career started as a chef. He is completing an M Phil on the relationship of food and spirituality.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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