The Centre for Public Christianity aims to promote the public understanding of the Christian faith. The Centre offers free comment, interviews, and other web based material. For more information go to publicchristianity.org.
Brexit, Trump ... and the Voice? Australia’s political divides
British journalist David Goodhart on the Anywhere-Somewhere divide challenging national unity abroad and at home.
Is Australia polarised?
The country is no UK roiled by Brexit, or US torn apart by the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency in 2016. But we’ve had our own brushes with polarisation – most recently on the question of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
On this episode of Life & Faith, we look at the issue of national division from a sideways angle: could the Anywhere-Somewhere divide explain contemporary polarisation and the gulf in people’s instincts?
The terms belong to David Goodhart, author of The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics and Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century.
People in the Anywhere class, Goodhart says, tend to be well-educated, mobile, and cosmopolitan, making up about 20-25% of the national population. Their Somewhere counterparts, on the other hand, tend to be more rooted in their local communities, perhaps more conservative and communitarian, and make up 50% of the population.
Neither worldview is better or worse, he argues, but Anywheres tend to run the country, and don’t reliably read the national room. For Goodhart, this explains the cry for recognition of recent populist movements – and raises the question of where someone might seek what Goodhart calls “unconditional recognition”.
“The institutions that gave people unconditional recognition like the family, like the church or indeed the nation, all of these things are weaker and the weakening of that unconditional recognition bears most heavily on the people who are the lowest achievers, as it were, in modern liberal democracies.”
David’s book The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics
David’s book Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century
David’s “Too Diverse?” essay for Prospect
Brigid Delaney’s piece in The Guardian after the 2019 federal election
The LSE blog post on British Parliament’s “class problem”
The SMH report on the backgrounds of Australia’s federal MPs
Seen & Heard V: Getting disenchanted with disenchantment
Our cultural narrative says there is no supernatural or transcendent realm. The CPX team wants to break that spell.
Seen & Heard is back – and this time, the team have disenchantment in their sights, or the belief that there is no more supernatural or transcendent realm to life, that science is the only verifiable path to truth, and that all things religious are debunked, once and for all.
But is this true? The books and films we’ve been reading and watching might disagree.
Natasha highlights beloved Australian author Helen Garner’s encounter with an angel and our flirtation with the supernatural through occasions like Halloween, before taking us through the supernatural stylings of the latest Poirot film A Haunting in Venice, based (extremely loosely) on Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party.
Simon has been reading the biography of tennis icon and former World No. 1 Andre Agassi who, it turns out, hated tennis and wrestled with fame, but discovered that helping people is the “only perfection there is”.
A world that has cast off religion and the transcendent also leaves behind any account of the good life that goes along with those claims. Yet Agassi discovered that being the best tennis player in the world didn’t fulfil him. Only serving others did, which resonates with the Christian claim that the good life is a life lived for others.
And Justine raves about Susannah Clarke’s novel Piranesi and its vivid portrayal of what the disenchanted view of the world lacks: wonder, deep communion with the world, joy, and hope. Plus, Justine makes a bold claim: Susannah Clarke is the 21st-century successor to C.S. Lewis.
Helen Garner describing her angelic encounter at the 2018 Sydney Writers’ Festival (from 30 mins)
Sean Kelly’s column mentioning Hilary Mantel’s possibly demonic encounter
Trailer for A Haunting in Venice
Natasha’s article on Halloween, published in the Sydney Morning Herald
Andre Agassi’s Open: An Autobiography
The Guardian’s interview with Susannah Clarke
Piranesi by Susannah Clarke
Wikipedia entry on the real-life Piranesi, the 18th-century architect and artist
Coming to Faith Through Dawkins
A new book tells the stories of people whose encounters with New Atheism set them on the path to Christianity.
“He said, I’ve been a scientist all my life and I was an atheist – quite a happy atheist, you know, I wasn’t particularly looking for other worldviews. Until I read The God Delusion in 2006. And that really shook my faith in atheism.”
It’s around 15 years ago that the so-called New Atheism – represented most prominently by the “Four Horsemen” Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and of course Richard Dawkins – had its heyday. The conversation they instigated gave many people permission to fully and publicly embrace disbelief in God; perhaps even a strong belief that religion was harmful and should be done away with.
For others, encountering the work of the New Atheists had quite the opposite effect. A new book, Coming to Faith Through Dawkins: 12 Essays on the Pathway from New Atheism to Christianity, edited by Alister McGrath and Denis Alexander, tells the stories of people for whom, paradoxically, New Atheism became a doorway to Christian faith.
In this episode of Life & Faith, co-editor Denis Alexander explains how the book “wrote itself” and why it’s not meant to be a triumphalist read. And contributors Johan Erasmus and Anikó Albert explain why the New Atheism had such a significant – and contrary – impact on their lives.
Buy Coming to Faith Through Dawkins: 12 Essays on the Pathway from New Atheism to Christianity
“Mere Christianity”: why does C.S. Lewis’s unlikely classic continue to hold such appeal?
This week marks 60 years since the death of CS Lewis and that seems like an appropriate moment to return to a very popular episode from a couple of years back.
A lot of people know the date 22nd of November 1963 because that's the date that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. That dramatic event overshadowed another death that same day on the other side of the Atlantic – the death of the beloved writer and public Christian CS Lewis, best known still today for his Narnia stories. It's 60 years this week since Lewis's death and that seems like an appropriate moment to return to a very popular episode from a couple of years back. In 2021 we marked 80 years since the origins of Lewis's book, Mere Christianity, which in an unlikely turn of events became one of the most influential books of the past century. Mere Christianity and Lewis's other writings have only grown in popularity since his death in 1963, and this episode goes some way to explaining why.
Andrew Hastie: Lessons from the combat zone
Seeing war up close and surviving nonetheless leaves its mark.
Andrew Hastie would not be the first person to join the defence force out of both a hunger for adventure and deep-seated sense of duty.
After a distinguished career in the army, including being an officer in the elite Special Air Service (SAS), Hastie speaks to Life & Faith about the experience. He explains why he joined up, his gruelling entry into the SAS and his three tours of Afghanistan.
Here we learn about the Afghan people Andrew worked with, the pressure and intense experience of engaging an enemy in an unfamiliar land and culture, and the toll of responsibility when the stakes are so high. This is a raw and honest assessment of the cost of war, the ethics of battle and the weight of the hard-won lessons of the combat zone.
What can faith offer to those experiencing the wounds of moral injury so prevalent in those who have been taken out of civilian life and placed into the extreme environment of war?
The psychology of hope
Hope feels scarce, but it’s not lost – and it’s within our power to be people of hope.
“I certainly have clients who are in their twenties who are saying to me, I will not have children because look at the world! So, the question is, where is the vision of hope?”
Clinical psychologist Leisa Aitken gets that hope seems in short supply right now. Daily headlines are a barrage of bad news – of wars and rumours of wars, politics in breakdown, the life support systems of the earth in crisis. Rising rates of poor mental health among the young show that the next generation is struggling. The future doesn’t seem all that bright.
We need collective action to address the world’s growing disorder. But who do we need to be in the face of our present hope crisis?
Leisa has been researching hope for the past decade. In this interview, fresh from her 2023 CPX Richard Johnson Lecture, she runs us through the psychology of hope, offering us tools to help us cope with the times in which we live.
Leisa also covers the limits of mindfulness, the correlation between hope and feeling connected to something bigger than the self, and what is within our power to do – right now – to be people of hope.
“It’s easy to spend our lives just in distraction. But we can surround ourselves with people who are going to help us bring about our hopes and we can have eyes to see the glimpses of what we hope for – and to be those glimpses,” Leisa said.
“The beauty of glimpses is we don’t have to change everything in the world to bring hope about. We need just a taste. Just a glimpse.”
The “sunny nihilism” article
Fancy some marriage advice from Leisa?
More on mindfulness from Leisa