John Anderson: no new
messiahs.
 

The mess facing modern Western society, and which threatens to engulf it, flows from the loss of the religious values that underpin it, according to former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson.

Mr Anderson said the West was in absolute and relative decline but called on Christians to “re-energise this culture” and not to be downcast. He said the growth of Christianity in other parts of the world, such as China, offered hope.

The former leader of the National Party, who served as deputy to John Howard in the federal coalition government from 1999-2005, was speaking at a lunch at Parliament House in Melbourne on 18 November. The lunch was sponsored by the Bible Society of Victoria and Australian Marketplace Connections, which seeks to promote Christian witness in the workplace.

Mr Anderson said people often sought someone commonly referred to as “a new messiah” and expressed sympathy for US President Barack Obama because of the expectations put on him. He said all the great leaders with whom he had worked closely – John Howard, Peter Costello and even his political opponent, former Labor leader Kim Beazley – “all of them know their history, all of them read voraciously, all of them reflected on our society in order to give them a reference point”. But there was no leader providing a vision in the West.

Economists had identified trends similar to those that had led to the Great Depression of the 1930s – protectionism and the beginnings of a trade war.

“At the very least, we are undoubtedly [witnessing] the absolute and relative decline of the West and particularly of the English-speaking world,” Mr Anderson said.

At the same time, countries such as China, India and Indonesia were emerging as vibrant economies.

Mr Anderson spoke about the qualities of leadership and the legacy of British Christianity, especially leaders such as John Wesley and William Wilberforce. Both men had demonstrated the essence of leadership – a vision of where you wanted to go, an ability to articulate that vision and the ability to inspire people to help you achieve it.

Wilberforce had inspired John Newton, a former participant in the slave trade who became an Anglican priest and hymn writer, to help him achieve the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, though the abolition of slavery itself was not to occur in the British Empire for another 26 years.

Wilberforce and his abolitionist supporters comprised “the greatest human rights movement of all time”, Mr Anderson said.

“The thing I particularly want to note was the way he worked with others. He was broken and humbled. That is what made him so admirable.”

Mr Anderson said the Clapham Sect, to which Wilberforce belonged, was characterised by Bible-reading Christians who showed humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and humble reliance on God.

“The other thing that came out was that Britain became the springboard for global mission,” he said, noting that Wilberforce was on 67 different committees, from the Bible Society and Church Missionary Society to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Over time, America eclipsed Britain in wealth, influence and mission. “Now we are standing on the cusp of a very different era”.

“We are the inheritors of this undoubtedly rich and true tradition given to us by the Christ who died on the Cross which transforms lives,” Mr Anderson said.

He said Australian Christians should use their resources and expertise to build up theological colleges in emerging Christian countries. Ten to 12% of Chinese were now Christians and some estimated that if conversions continued at this rate, there would be 500 million Chinese Christians by 2050. In Africa, 70% of the population of the continent was Christian.

In Australia, Mr Anderson said Christians were called to re-energise the culture and win it from the “free-choicers”. “It has been won and lost a couple of times,” he said. 

 

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