Pointers June 2015

Pointers Volume 25 No. 2, June 2015

In this issue:

The Economic Impact of Religion in Australian Society: Possibilities and Challenges in Its Measurement 

While most religions provide ways in which people can access God, the divine or the sacred, they also encourage the adoption of particular views of the world, beliefs about the nature of life, values, and patterns of behaviour. Indeed, it has been argued that the great transformation of religion which took place in human society between 700 BC and 400 BC, the period known as the Axial Age, developed that dimension of religion associated with human values. It was a period in which Confucius, Buddha, Jeremiah and Socrates and many other religious leaders and prophets proclaimed that the fulfilment of life or the appropriate response to the divine would be found in compassion and a concern for social order and justice and not just in paying respect to the gods or God (Armstrong 2006). Through the centuries, all the major world religions have encouraged a range of pro-social values and behaviours.

The Impact of Faith on Society: Some Global Perspectives
The Critique of Christian Faith
The critique of the Christian faith has become much louder and more persistent in recent years, particularly in northern European societies. The debate has been getting more intense and the voices more shrill. The criticism of religion is present not only in northern Europe and Australia but in many other countries, as shown by responses to questions in the International Society Survey Program which was conducted in 44 countries. On the other hand, a recent World Values Survey (2012) provides some valuable data for looking at the other side of the ledger and evaluating what contribution religion is making in societies around the world.

The Global Growth of Christianity
According to Gordon-Conwell University which puts together the World Christian Database, the number of Christians around the world is continuing to grow. This year (2015), it has been calculated that 2,419 million people identify themselves as Christian, constituting 33.4 per cent of the world’s population (7,325 million people).

The Future(s) of Religion
On 13th April 2015, Prof Grace Davie, a worldrenowned sociologist, delivered a lecture at Tabor College addressing the future of religion. The lecture was sponsored by Tabor College Victoria, Harvest Bible College and the Christian Research Association. Prof Grace Davie’s lecture drew substantially on her latest book, Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox.

Edward Bailey and Implicit Religion
Edward Bailey was a maverick in the study of religion. He was an Anglican priest who was Rector of Winterbourne, Diocese of Bristol, UK,from 1970 to 2006. In the 1960s, he studied for his doctoral thesis by becoming a waiter at a pub and listening to the conversations of the customers. He argued that, underlying those conversations, were forms of ‘implicit religion’. He spent the rest of his life pursuing the study of this ‘implicit religion’. While remaining rector in Winterbourne, he taught at universities and spoke at many conferences on religion. He developed his own annual conference on implicit religion, which became known as the Denton Conferences. He founded a scholarly Journal of Implicit Religion which is now published by Equinox. He started a Centre for the Study of Implicit Religion at Middlesex University. He wrote several books and published many articles around the term.

Children and the Church

Another great publication from the Christian Research Association.

Child cover

Children and the Church – Vivienne Mountain

Was launched by

Dr Rachael Kohn – ABC Presenter “The Spirit of Things”

Rachel Kohn

on 20th November 2014

Purchase your copy now: click here

Youth Ministry

A recent book from the USA, Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, is built on the observation most American young people who are engaged in religion are ‘luke-warm’ about it. They see God as wanting people to be good, nice and fair to each other, but God is not involved in their lives, except to help them serve problems. The author, Kenda Dean, argues that young people are reflecting the attitudes in their families and in their churches. She suggests that young people are not articulate and passionate about the Christian faith because they have not heard a high level of articulation or experienced a high level of passion in their homes or in their churches.

However, Dean does not take into account the research which indicates that young people do not simply copy what they hear and see. They develop it in their own way, to meet their needs and to fit into the picture they have of what life is all about – a picture which is described in the ‘midi-narrative’ of young people. Dean’s suggestions for youth ministry should be taken seriously. Certainly, the faith of parents and church can have a significant impact. It is important to ask if young people have opportunities to express faith, not just verbally but through engagement in projects and mission? Are there opportunities for learning and deepening their sense of what the Christian life is about? Are they engaged to contemplate the deep questions of life? One of the key questions for youth ministry is the extent to which we help young people to find answers … and the extent we focus on those processes which encourage the asking of questions.

For a full review of Kenda Dean’s book, Almost Christian, see: https://www.cra.org.au/products-page/pointers/pointers-vol-23-1-for-downloading/

Church Attendance Among Australian Teenagers

Getting accurate information about the church attendance patterns of Australian teenagers is very difficult. We do know that, if both parents attend church, 52 per cent of their teenage children attended. If just the mother attends, 20 per cent of the teenage children attended, and 6 per cent attend if just the father attends. However, about 22 per cent of young people who go to church schools attend even though neither parent attends.

National surveys indicate that about 15 per cent of all parents attend a church monthly or more often. Our estimation that around 10 per cent of all Australian young people in secondary school attend. However, better information is needed to confirm this figure.

For a discussion of the problems in getting accurate information, see Pointers Vol.23, no.1. To purchase the downloadable edition, go to: https://www.cra.org.au/products-page/pointers/pointers-vol-23-1-for-downloading/