Thursday, February 04, 2010

Colonization and Australia's Social Conscience

Many of Australia's early explorers, pioneers, first schools, and institutions were Christian. That's worth knowing and celebrating.

But even knowing that history, I wonder whether there is still an unaddressed problem within the social conscience of many of us Aussies - especially the younger generation.

It's all very well that many of our first white pioneers happened to be Christians. That's a fact of history that shouldn't be understated and which is definitely worth preserving and celebrating.

However, in our public education system our school children and University students are continually being confronted with a more fundamental question:

What gave our forebears the right to come here and start imposing British sovereignty here in the first place (irrespective of whether they were Christians or not)?

Unless we equip our children with a clearly articulated, moral, ethical, and Scriptural (theological) answer to that question - I feel sending them to school is like sending them into battle without anticipating what armour they might need.

History curriculums in our schools do not merely inform our children about the facts of our history - the curriculum is actually encouraging our children to question the morality of British colonization in the first place.

So I feel it's up to us - as parents, educators, or ministers - to provide our children with a clear, moral, ethical, Scriptural answer to that issue - or else, if we don't, their worldview will be informed from somewhere else.

Furthermore, it isn't only school children and University students who are being confronted with that type of thinking. All of us occassionally hear Australia Day being called "Invasion Day" by the Media.

Even though we may celebrate Australia's Christian heritage - still, somewhere in the consciousness of many Australians, is the awareness that it was not to "Terra Nullius" (Land Belonging to No-one) that our forebears sailed, but it was truly to a land already occupied by some 400 highly-organized indigenous nations, each with its own established social system, laws, property rights and language.

Everytime we hear an indigenous person expressing hurt and pain over the issue, our conscience seems to beg for a clearly articulated, moral, ethical and Scriptural answer.

Kevin Rudd apologized for the 'stolen generation' - but what about the aborigines' 'stolen' sovereignty? To ignore that - isn't that a bit like apologizing for stealing somebody's mobile phone yet not apologize for stealing his house?

So on one hand the apology dealt with part of Australia's public consciousness, but on the other hand it didn't address the more obvious question.

The question still exists in many minds despite knowing our nation's Christian heritage.

Until we are able to articulate an ethical answer, our conscience won't allow us to fully celebrate Australia's history - irrespective of how Christian it was. We will only be able to celebrate our Christian heritage in part.

When we are seen to be celebrating our Christian heritage yet not addressing the more foundational question, it can be seen as ignorance, bigotry, or insensitivity.

But if we demonstrate a willingness to address the question head-on - to face all the issues of our nation's colonial history - both the good and the bad - and provide a responsible, ethical, Scriptura (theological) compass - it will give our children boldness to celebrate our Christian heritage without intimidation. Then we may even encounter less resistance (say, from indigenous people or from secular academics) whenever we celebrate our Christian heritage.

I imagine it might be the same in Canada, and the US. They also celebrate their Christian history, but like we do here in Australia, their children are being taught to question the morality of colonial America.

What made it right for 500 native American nations to be 'forced' off their traditional lands then rounded up and placed into Reserves?
they are encouraged to question.

It's one thing for American parents and Churches to teach their children about the Christianity of their nation's founding fathers - but it is a more foundational question that their children are being confronted with at school.

Perhaps the grandparents' generation was not confronted with that type of commentary on history like their grandchildren are nowadays.

And further back, during the 16-19th centuries, it seems the Church, government and society in general felt they had a moral mandate - based in ethics and in Scripture - for founding colonies around the world.

Whether the basis for their perceived mandate was flawed or not, at least they felt they were able to give an answer if challenged.

But what about us - now that our children are being encouraged to question the values that founded the colony in Australia, do we equip our children with answers, or are we going to leave them with a vacuum in their social consciousness?

Certainly, the answer is not as general as black or white.

But if our colonizing forebears were guilty of misapplying the values contained in the Scriptures especially in the New Testament - then lets identify the errors and teach our children the right values.

Or, if our forebears got it right by founding colonies in Australia, then let's explain to our children why it was right - so they also enjoy the same foundation in their social consciousness. Let's recover the mandate and keep blessing other nations.

But let's not leave our chiildren to flounder for an answer themselves, when their education system challenges why they should celebrate Australia's Christian heritage.

We all need a moral compass to govern our worldview.

"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

The answer ought to be found in the Scriptures, especially in the New Testament.

We and our children can only benefit from being armed with an ethical and Scriptural assessment of Australia's colonial and aboriginal history. Rightly assessing histor in the light of Gospel truth will give us an accurate moral compass.

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