(A Short Post on) Public Faith, Cultural Privilege, & Confected Culture Wars

Mike Frost* posted the following statement on social media yesterday:

The church has grown so accustomed to cultural privilege—a privilege it should never have had in the first place—that its erosion feels like persecution, when it’s not.

As a result, instead of meaningful engagement with society, we draw battle lines in confected culture ‘wars’ featuring praying football coaches, dissenting county clerks, and recalcitrant wedding cake bakers.

To my mind, this is one of the most piercing (and succinct!) analyses of the state of public faith (and flawed understandings of ‘mission’) in places like Australia and the U.S.—and I’m sure a number of others—that I’ve seen in a long time.

I won’t add any further comment on the statement here, but would love to get a conversation going around it in the comments section.

* Mike is a leading voice in the missional church movement, Vice Principal of Morling College (in Sydney, Australia), author, speaker, and a bunch of other things (including, some might say, provocateur).


Published by

Josh Dowton

Student of history/theology/nonviolence/permaculture/missional thinking. Large of limb, red of hair. Semper in excretia sumus, solum profundum variat.

7 thoughts on “(A Short Post on) Public Faith, Cultural Privilege, & Confected Culture Wars”

  1. I think it might be a stretch at the first statement. Perhaps at least in Australia… If this guy is part of Morling College it may be a safe assumption to suggest that and evangelical/reformed viewpoint is standard and the only acceptable one. This could also suggest why he has only used examples from the USA to highlight the confected culture wars.

    I agree on the most part but truly, I don’t think the Church is Australia takes too much for granted. At least not here in the Hunter. I think we (the ACC movement) work very hard to serve the community and relish the rewards its brings, but rarely do I feel that recognition is expected or demanded from those I have worked with.

    1. Mike does spend a significant amount of time teaching and speaking in the U.S., which may give his statement a North American flavour, but I think the statement stands just as strongly in the Australian context. As cases in point, I’d suggest that the same-sex marriage ‘debate’ and the scripture in schools issue illustrate that fairly clearly.

      This doesn’t mean that *all* Christians in Australia are fixated on those issues, but I’d put money on those sorts of issues being the ones that are heard most loudly by many non-Christians in Australia.

      1. Yeah those are very valid points indeed. Perhaps here in Australia the Church does feel entitled to have its position to be the only one on those issues. Their arguments I’m sure we both know very well so I won’t elaborate; I do think it is well worth noting our rule of law is based heavily on the bible over the past 1000 years or more that our modern legal system has grown into what it is today.

        I think the point you made above about Australian non-Christians hearing mostly about same-sex marriage and scripture in schools gives a bit of weight to the points I was making above about community engagement and a servant attitude in these areas.

        One last point is that same-sex marriage is still “illegal” in this country and scripture in schools is still very legal. I don’t know too many Christians who want to force themselves into schools but are taking advantage of the fact that they can’t be refused.

        I think there is much greater value in school chaplaincy (being a school chaplain at a state school) than scripture being taught. But that is another thing altogether 🙂

        1. I’m not sure I agree with the (widely repeated) sentiment about how heavily influenced certain aspects of our society are on Christianity. I would readily agree that there is a heavy influence from Christendom, but I think that’s quite a different thing.

          I do totally agree, though, that our posture must be one of loving, faithful service. I think that this should be our faithful witness whether it’s ‘successful’ or not—though I think it’s got a much greater chance of being welcomed than some current approaches.

          In regards to religion in schools, I think it’s going to end badly. There’s often a combative stance that seeks to exploit historical arrangements, and it’s going to burn us in the long run. I’d much rather see Christians seeking to serve the school communities they are part of through P&C groups and with programs like Kids Hope Australia (check it out!). We are in a situation where there is (rightly) much distrust towards Christianity around children, and we need to work hard to regain that trust (rather than organising our battle lines).

  2. I like the distinction you’ve made between Christianity and Christendom. That’s quite helpful but will fall on deaf ears for those outside of both I think (sadly). Much the same way that people outside of the church will focus on same-sex marriage and the general “Christian” position; the difference between Christendom and Christianity is of no consequence for people outside of the church.

    As far as I am concerned, and most Chaplains I know… Chaplaincy is the “outside” ministry. One that seeks to serve without the recognition of its Christian roots. Most chaplains I have met are thoroughly motivated by a desire to serve their communities through ways similar to the Kids Hope Australia (which I did check out and looks great!). To see the requirements for accreditation with Chaplaincy Australia head here

    The point I am trying to get across is that there are ministries within the church system that fit very well with Christ’s model of servant-hood. My work as a chaplain is working with kids in a similar role but understanding the limitations of the role and not overstepping those boundaries.

    On another note, I was recently at a Christian gathering where a petition was presented to gather support to prohibit the building on a mosque in the area. Not one person (I noticed) chose to sign it, offering different but all very loving reasons for not signing it. I was quite happy and proud of the gathering. Especially given that the general community sentiment is one of negativity.

    1. The chaplaincy program is a really interesting one. It’s been made more difficult due to some of the chopping and changing around the funding (and some very silly statements from certain Christian groups), but I think that, where it’s done with transparency and humility and genuine relationship with the school community, it can be a really good thing.

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