The Christmas/New Year holiday season provides the opportunity to reflect on the year that has just finished and to look forward to the year ahead. As a missiologist and student of culture, I spent time reflecting on the Australian cultural landscape, and, in particular, five key cultural behaviours or events. Cultural practices and behaviours are important as they provide an indication of beliefs and values that exist in society. These behaviours should not be ignored as they manifest themselves both outside of and within Christian communities. The challenge for God’s people is to conduct theological and missiological reflection on these cultural behaviours and to explore the implications for Christian engagement and discipleship in the Australian context. Each of these developments and trends raised a number of questions for me.
Firstly, in December the Prime Minister launched the $1.1b innovation and science package to boost jobs and the economy. The focus on innovation in order to adapt to the changing global economic context provides an opportunity for believers to reflect on innovation in the Christian community and to respond to the changing religious environment. What is necessary for innovation? How do we approach innovation? Where does the innovation need to occur?
Secondly, colouring books for adults made the top 10 for books sold over the Christmas/New Year period. My wife received a book as a Christmas present from a family member, and the house we minded over Christmas had one by the front door. Why? The need for mindfulness (meditation with no religion) is growing. Meditation and stillness is sought in a crazy, fast paced world of social media and technology. What occurs in our Christian gatherings that facilitate opportunities for being mindful in the presence of God and being in a position to be still and restful? How can believers use colouring books to engage with others?
Thirdly, the rise of Big Bash cricket both in terms of crowd attendance and TV audience. This is linked with the perception of the demise of test cricket (the crowd at the traditional Boxing Day Test was just over 50,000 compared with the Big Bash Melbourne derby of over 80,000). Why? The Big Bash focuses on providing fun and active entertainment in a much shorter period of time. How might this trend impact our Christian communities? How can interaction and participation be creatively and appropriately incorporated in worship? How can we balance the hype and energy of the crowd experience at the Big Bash with the need for stillness?
Fourthly, the treatment of Christmas in 2015 again reflects the decline of Christian knowledge in broader Australian society. Examples of this trend abound; in Lehmo’s Kids Christmas Rules segment on the Project on 18 December 2015 the focus of the kids was clearly on Santa with only one knowing about Jesus. How do we communicate the real meaning of Christmas? How can the life of Jesus speak to to the needs being expressed through the search for hope and enjoyment in the mythology of Santa? Greater use of the Saint Nicholas narrative may help in this.
The final noticeable event was the arrival of the latest Star Wars movie and its immense cultural footprint. How could you escape the crowds attending the screenings (many multiple times and queueing to be the first), the Facebook posts, and the myriad of merchandise and products displaying Star Wars promotions? Why is this narrative so strong? Is it just about escapism? How do the words and teaching of Jesus relate to those seeking hope and life in the Star Wars narrative?
May God richly bless your ministry in 2016 as you seek to explore these and other cultural dynamics and find ways for the Christian tradition to contribute to and speak into Australian society.
Coordinator- Intercultural Studies, Tabor Adelaide