Our Christian heritage and the culture wars

May 4, 2021

The culture war drum-beats are sounding again – pounded out by the usual suspects in the Murdoch media and among shock jocks and the Morrison Government.

The mounting hysteria this time is about a new national curriculum which its enemies claim places too much emphasis on Indigenous history. Education Minister Alan Tudge has jumped on the bandwagon saying he won’t approve the current draft and would be “looking for some changes”.

Without denying the need for some Indigenous history Tudge makes it clear that it should  not be there “at the expense of dishonouring our Western heritage.”

It’s a trifle hard to avoid “dishonouring our Western heritage” given all the dishonourable things white folk have done to Indigenous people here and around the world.

Nevertheless, there is a firm belief among the shock jocks and others that the draft curriculum’s intention to teach that First Nations people experienced British colonisation “as an invasion and dispossession of land, sea and sky” is a plot by inner urban elites and identity warriors to obscure the realities of history and the great benefits our arrival bestowed on Indigenous people and others.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that terra nullius claims are nonsense – even demonstrated by the instructions given to Cook – the massacres, the stolen children, the labour exploitation and the ravages of diseases the culture warriors still continue to deny or produce weasel words about all of it.

But there are signs of hope. The Uluru Statement from the heat and the campaign for a Voice to Parliament are enormous steps forward. But the people obsessed about the curriculum efforts are the same ones who want to block the Voice.

The recent Endeavour Voyage, The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians exhibition the National Museum of Australia demonstrate how far we have come from the days when Howard hatchet men on the Museum Council and in the media mercilessly attacked former Director, Dawn Casey.

The recent revelation that Howard ordered the Braille “sorry” messages in the Museum fabric to be covered up with aluminium panels is another indication of just how bad that period was and how far the Museum has come.

At a recent visit to the World Heritage site Budj Bim the Indigenous guide asked those on the tour what the colours on the Indigenous flag represented and a kindergarten aged child immediately put up his hand and gave the right answer. It would be interesting to use the number of LNP politicians who know the answer as a guide to why we need the new curriculum.

Even Scott Morrison felt forced, after the Rudd Apology, to say he felt “proud” and that “There is no doubt that our Indigenous population has been devastated by the inevitable clash of cultures that came with the arrival of the modern world in 1770 at Kurnell in my electorate.”

Putting aside the “inevitable” get out – there is always a get out with the slippery ScoMo – it seems yet another example of a Morrison announcement not followed by actual delivery.

There is also the fact that only a touch over half the Australian population is Christian and their ranks include many who disagree with each other and the Morrison Government’s denial of the need for Indigenous recognition. Plus the fact that there are a lot of atheists, Buddhists, Muslims and others making up the Australian population.

But on the other hand there is much to recommend teaching of Christian heritage in the national curriculum. It is after all more exciting than a slasher movie and would keep people engaged in the study of history and allow events to be linked to contemporary policies.

The murder of Hypatia by Christians urged on by a bishop made a saint by the Church could illustrate modern day attitudes to science and philosophy. Galileo’s problems are another instructive tale.

The auto de fes which murdered Archbishop Cranmer, Giordano Bruno, William Tyndale and thousands of others demonstrate the need for tolerance.

The actions of Spanish Christians in South America and British Puritans in New England are also instructive let alone the role of God-fearing American Southerners in slavery.

And when the culture warriors invoke our Judeo-Christian heritage it is worth remembering that for most of that history Christians discriminated against, persecuted and murdered Jews.

Even Oliver Cromwell, who welcomed them back into Britain from their 1290 expulsions (despite the myth some had stayed), did so not because of tolerance, but because many Christians believed the Second Coming would only occur after it happened.

Modern day Rapture enthusiasts in the US strongly support Israel for the same reason.

The wars since the Iraq Invasion have gone on for longer than the European Thirty Years War and been even more destructive and, weapons of mass destruction myths and conspiracies apart, US Christian fundamentalism played a role in support for the wars.

The fact that most of what the West knows about the past, the classics and the development of mathematics was due to its continued existence in Muslim countries while it was being destroyed in Christian ones.

It is amusing, in the midst of this new manufactured controversy, to think of the shock jock’s, Murdoch’s and Morrison’s reaction if the new curriculum had some sections on how much Western civilisation owe to Muslims.

 

 

 

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