As co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX), John Dickson (author of Humilitas) works to engage Australia's mainstream media and general public with thoughtful content that explores the relevance of the Christian faith for the modern world. Marshall Shelley and Drew Dyck sat down with Dickson to discuss what American church leaders can learn from his experience with CPX.
How would you describe the public's perception of the church in Australia?
In recent years it's become a dominant perspective to say that religion starts all the wars, religion rapes and pillages, and religion is damaging for society. The subtitle of a Christopher Hitchens book—How Religion Poisons Everything—has become a secular mantra.
Recently in Australia a TV talk show was discussing the problem of drugs. One of the hosts said, "Let's put this in perspective. Drugs have not killed anywhere near as many people as religion. Religion is far more damaging to society than our drug problem." And it got applause from the TV audience. What a sad day we've arrived at when you can get away with that and, worse, get applause.
How does the Centre for Public Christianity try to counter this perception of the church?
CPX is trying to communicate that there's another story here. We can concede the bad stuff that the church has done. As an historian, I know the bad stuff, and we will freely admit it. Yet we also want to tell about the positive contributions Christianity has made in Western history. We try to articulate that some of the things we love most about Western secular democracy are actually gifts of Christianity to Western culture.