The school next to our church has been involved in a Melbourne-wide controversy about Christian religious education in Victoria. Facebook has been flooded with calls for Christians to write letters, sign petitions and get informed about CRE. The dispute was resolved just this week. Coming from SA, which doesn’t have CRE (and hasn’t for 40 years), it’s been interesting to observe the discussion.
As I understand it, the way it works in Victoria is that students go to a ‘Special Religious Instruction’ class (and they can choose which religion, depending on whether there are volunteers available to teach that religion) unless they ‘opt out’ which they can do by their parents signing a permission slip. But 96% of religious education classes are Christian, taught by volunteers from local churches. Basically, that means that Christians have a tremendous opportunity to offer the gospel to children across the state. For many kids, it’s their only exposure to Jesus. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s an incredibly fruitful ministry that has far-reaching effects.
Victorians ought to be tremendously thankful to God for the evangelistic opportunities that CRE provides and they need to be faithful in the exercise of that ministry. But it’s worth acknowledging that there is no need for fear or hysteria at the prospect that CRE would not continue. It’s not as though without the government’s endorsement, Christian witness will be crushed. God’s purposes do not depend on government funding. Do we not believe that God uses the lowly? Have we forgotten that he has given us his Spirit of power? Do we not remember the political climate in which Christianity initially spread?
Paul saw the gospel as going forth even though he was in chains! Sometimes, a lack of government support actually provides more opportunities for the gospel. In SA, SMG started supported only by Christians from the local community, not government coffers. And school principals now invite the chaplains in, not because they’re part of the establishment but because they believe in the positive impact that those chaplains have – even though they talk about Jesus! Their good lives earn respect and opportunities for the gospel.
Whether the Lord gives or takes away, he is a good God and a powerful God.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.