This Easter, AFL football throws up its first Good Friday match, as a majority of patrons barely bat an eyelid over yet another de-Christianising change in society. Does it matter? This one amendment is itself hardly upsetting to many Christians, judging from the reactions. Perhaps this is a sign of how far we’ve come. The broader phenomenon of the erosion of Christian values is more disturbing when examined over time.
When Frank Penhalluriack controversially opened his hardware store on Sundays in the 1980s, few could have imagined what the ensuing years would bring. A few rebel traders were supposedly a mild aberration in the otherwise tranquil day of weekly rest enjoyed by most people at the time.
Nevertheless this would have been unthinkable when Australia regarded itself as almost entirely Christian little more than one hundred years ago. Sunday was a day for church and rest. The notion of easy divorce, same-sex marriage and tens of thousands of abortions annually, would also have been alien to Christians just decades ago. What was biblical and right then, seems to have been reframed in favour of protecting extra-biblical ‘rights’.
A generation after the recalcitrant handyman’s weekend protests we now have innumerable workplaces trading regularly on Sundays and rostering their staff for often-unwanted weekend work. Teen employees, too, are taking shifts that interrupt family times or regular church attendance, once prized on Sundays but nowadays increasingly rare. Moves are afoot to remove weekend penalty rates and render Sundays a day like any other.
No problem? A day of rest can be had on any day of the week? No need for legalism?
It’s true that we can rest at any time, but it just doesn’t happen as easily, nor does worship happen as consistently, when the majority are not enjoying a common day off. In just thirty years, weekly church attendance from committed Christians now sees many of those same people attending barely monthly.
In time, Good Friday observance will be a mere option on the smorgasboard of indulgence we call a long weekend, one increasingly associated with rest and relaxation rather than the greatest event in history. Direct clashes between football and church services is hardly the point.
Jesus’ death and resurrection can and should be celebrated all year round, but there is something lost when its prominence falters at Easter. Another loss of Christian centrality just further demeans the faith that still calls everyone to repent and turn to Jesus as Saviour, without whom there is no Heaven beyond the grave.
And for those inclined to proffer the now tiresome line that Christianity is associated with child molestation at the hands of clerics, it is useful to remember that such repugnance is actually condemned, not condoned, by the Bible.
For those similarly inclined to accentuate Old Testament violence and thus severely distort a properly contextualised Gospel of peace and good news, perhaps a little more Christianity would actually see its immeasurable benefits properly understood and appreciated.
This Easter, it behoves us to remember that the cause of Christ not only offers the good news of the gift of eternity to everyone who will respond, but it has revolutionised Western society for the better. Substantially.
Only as we have become less attentive to its compelling vision has our nation indulged itself in an eclectic mix of customised values and inevitable contradictions that are progressively eroding morality with hedonistic abandon.
For many, their objection is to organised religion more than Jesus. Approaches to our worship, however, will always be inferior to the object of our worship, and the imperfections of our human contexts cannot contain Christianity’s reassertion above those forms that try to contain it, anyway.
This Jesus is the Christ of Easter and His message is increasingly being suffocated. Rather than fight against the politically-correct madness of taking Easter out of schools and out of society at large, though, it is time for Christians everywhere to take advantage of the season and proclaim the greatness of Jesus who still changes lives today. Front-foot faith needs love, but it also needs intent.
Diversionary ridicule or apathetic disinterest from objectors nevertheless do little to quash the repeated re-emergence of Christian orthodoxy throughout history. I for one, want to continue to be yet another voice in the rising tide who still affirm with confidence and conviction that Jesus is still on the throne and prayer still changes destinies.
This faith is still history’s great survivor and may once more, this Friday, need to prove its resilience in the face of yet another challenge to the supremacy of Christ. And while I’m not going to directly oppose the footy, I am going to shout the praises of the greater salvation cause on this ‘Good News Friday’.