faith

The Loss of Faith in Today’s Australia

1 February 2022

4.9 MINS

A former atheist from China reflects on how post-Christian Australians have a similar mentality to her former comrades, not appreciating the great gift of faith in Christ which is their inheritance.

When I was on parenting leave, our family of three went to live for a year in China. I know we talk about how China is developing so fast and so on, but when you are really there, it is still mind-blowing. The lifestyle was so different from here.

I was able to do all my shopping online — you just place your order, and it might turn up on your doorstep the next morning. On one of the most popular shopping websites, Taobao, there are over 600 million shops a day on that one website.

We were staying in a city called Shenzhen. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in China. It’s also a very special city because it was the first part of China that was opened up to the world after the Cultural Revolution. It was a little fishing town or even just a village with about 30,000 people in the 1980s when it was first designated as a “special economic zone” and it looked like this:

old Shenzhen

old Shenzhen

But now it looks like this:

new Shenzhen

new Shenzhen

This is after just over 30 years of development, and its current population is over 15 million.

They currently have five subway lines in the city, but by 2016 this number will become twelve, and each of them will have about thirty stops.

Unhappiness

Compared to the past, people in China now have so many more accessible goods and services, but they are not necessarily happier. They are facing constant anxiety and insecurity from all sorts of things. Food safety is one of the biggest problems.

Even babies have ended up with kidney stones (caused by infant formula with industrial waste in it). People who can afford to, go to Hong Kong to do their grocery shopping. While the whole world is relying on Made in China goods, Chinese people consider being able to afford overseas products as a privilege. What is going on?

Always Falling Short

I look at these changes, the rapid economic development, and the thousands of years of this country’s history, and I’m so proud to be Chinese. Yet when I look at those horrible things that are happening to its society today, which were caused by the lack of morals, my sadness and concern are beyond what I could describe.

We’ve done so well as one of the oldest civilisations of the world — different dynasties and eras rose and fell — yet we never seemed to be able to break out of this bad cycle, where the majority of people are struggling but not enjoying life.

Why? Where is our hope as a nation? This is not the first time I asked myself this question. Nine years ago when I first came to Australia from China, this was one of the questions I was hoping to find an answer for. Western society was a whole new world to me and I wanted to see how “other people” live. How they’ve come to be what they are like, and why we’ve come to be what we are like.

The Key Difference

Guess what I found? Christian faith, is my answer. I’m pretty certain that many fundamental differences between the Chinese and Western cultures are caused by the influence of Christianity.

For example, the concept of equality of individuals (Chinese people have a stronger sense of social hierarchy and have less respect for people with a lower social status, but here people are more likely to show respect for others because you have the belief that all individuals were created in the image of God); the concept of justice (compared to Chinese people, Westerners have a stronger sense of justice around following the law, which also originally came from Christian teaching)…

Yet on the other hand, many people in Australian society nowadays don’t seem to be able to see this, and don’t cherish the Christian faith anymore. I taught Christian Living to high school students and I was surprised by the students’ interpretation of Christianity. It seems to many of them that Christianity is just something ancient, something out of date, an unintelligent belief.

Even for the only few that called themselves Christians, Christianity is just like some sort of traditional, cultural symbol that sits in a very small corner of their identity, which doesn’t have any effect on their life choices and decision-making. And this is almost exactly the same as how I understood Christianity when I was in China, receiving atheistic education only.

I was surprised. Why have a majority of people come to such an understanding in a society whose values are rooted in Christianity?

Faith — in What?

A while ago, I went to a professional development training about “well-being” for teachers. It was suggested by Positive Psychology theories that having faith is one of the most important factors for someone’s well-being.

Yet when it came to the definition of “faith”, it said, instead of faith in God, you could just “believe in something that is older, bigger and better than you”. By this definition, Chinese people do or did have a faith — they had faith in communism.

Many westerners might think that communism equals to dictatorship, inhumanity, or even Nazism, but it’s actually about trying to achieve the best that human race can achieve with the absence of God.

In an ideal communist country, everyone is equal, respected and can get whatever resources they need; people think collectively, serve and work for the group, even sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the group. Isn’t this the ultimate utopia? Isn’t this a great “faith” to have?

However, look at what China and its people are like now. Many people are still struggling day in and day out, and they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A truth faith should be able to bring people through all sorts of difficult circumstances and always give people hope. So what should we base our faith on?

I would like to finish with a C.S. Lewis quote:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Image: Kraken Images/BigStock

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