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Australia, racism and the need for a Christian worldview

I recently watched the movie Australia and got thinking about the Christians that were depicted in this story.

I actually thought it was a pretty good, and likely accurate, portrayal; there was certainly self-sacrificing love being displayed by one of the younger priests at one critical point, and even some of those who were depicted as less than likable seemed to be willing to put their lives on the line for what they were doing. The problem, of course, was what they were doing. This was one of the major themes of the movie.

At the time, the government of Australia had a policy of forcibly interning “half casts” (children born to Aboriginal and European parents) in isolated, church-run facilities that intended to, in the words of one of the characters, “breed the black out of them.”

Now my intention here isn’t to only look at this as an example of the error of racism that the church has been involved in, though it is certainly that. But rather, I want to take a brief look at what, I would argue, is the underlying issue. I want to try and explore what led Christian men and women into this most egregious error; one that led to the dehumanization and abuse their fellow countrymen and neighbours (a problem that was by no means limited to Australia, or unfortunately to the past).

What is this underlying error? Simply put, it was a worldview issue. Rather than building and holding to an exclusively Christian worldview, I’d argue they held on to the worldview of their society and tried to exercise and interpret Christianity through that lens.

For example, there is no way that a purely biblical worldview allows for the racial ideas and concepts that were on display in this movie. Eve is the “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20); later, the flood ensured all mankind biologically descended from Noah and his family. As Paul put it in his famous address at the Areopagus, God “made from one man every nation of mankind” (Acts 17:26). There is simply no concept of genetically based race categories of mankind (let alone relative supremacy or worth) in the Bible; we are all men & women created in the image of God.

On the other hand, the society of that day commonly taught such men weren’t really men at all, for example:

  • From a 1914 high school textbook, “At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man … the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.” (Hunter’s Civic Biology .. this was the textbook at the centre of the famous Scopes trial).
  • Influential thinker Ernst Haeckel wrote “the lowest and most ape-like men (the Austral Negroes, Bushmen, and Andamans, etc.) … have to be classed with the animals.” (History of Creation, Volume 2).

These ideas manifested themselves in various ignoble ways, some examples include:

  • In Australia, the bodies of Aborigines were stolen from their graves and shipped to museums for study, there is even evidence that some were killed specifically to provide the desired specimens.
  • In America, a man, Ota Benga a pygmy from the Belgian Congo, was put on display in a cage in the monkey house at the Brooklyn Zoo in 1906.

By looking through the lens of their society’s worldview, the true biblical understanding of the equality and worth of all men was lost to them. In the end they were operating from a belief system that was a mish-mash of truth and error.

However, as I mentioned, my goal here isn’t only to look back disapprovingly at their actions.

If we look back at any period of church history and examine the major errors of the day, I think we’d find a similar pattern; the adoption of accepted societal actions & beliefs by believers even when they were in conflict with biblical teaching. Whenever this occurs, we, as believers, end up twisting and obscuring biblical truth resulting ultimately in beliefs and actions which are inconsistent, if not blatantly contrary, to sound doctrine as defined in the Bible.

My hope is that by looking at this underlying cause of what we now see as blatant error, we will be better equipped to examine our own worldview and beliefs. In what way do we allow the prevailing views of our society colour our beliefs and actions? What errors are now sneaking into our worldview?

I can assure you that many good, Godly men and women of the past have committed grave sins without understanding that they were acting contrary to biblical teaching. I can also assure you that many of us today are continuing in that tradition.

This is just one example of why a fully informed Christian worldview is absolutely necessary.

  • Amen. And there are others who uuoanbtdbly are feeling’ those feelings of could I have ?’ I love our NH family and the sincere prayers going out. My prayers will continue for all those affected by this. Thank you for being real PC, and showing us how to keep our eyes on Jesus through even the most difficult times. God’s Word is True, His love unmeasurable. May His Peace continue to be a comfort to all as we pray for one another, pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)