I’ve been on holiday over Easter, going to the National Folk Festival in Canberra, which is why I haven’t posted for a while. One thing that struck me during my break was the Easter editorial in the Oz. In place of the usual vague pieties, it was a full-scale blast of Christianism, demanding that Australians respect the specifically Christian nature of the holiday. This was followed up by Nikki Savva (not someone who has ever struck me as showing any religious feeling) denouncing Bill Shorten for desecrating this sacred holiday with mundane politics.
The underlying assumption is that Australia is a Christian (and, implicitly, white Christian) country and should remain so. This of a piece with the general upsurge of Trumpism, which can be explained, in large measure, as a as a reaction by white Christians against the loss of their assumed position as the social norm.
Understood this way, Trumpism looks like a lost cause in Australia. To be sure, the 2011 Census data showed a majority of nominal Christians (61 per cent), but that seems likely to be quite a bit lower for the 2016 Census, given the combined impact of Demography (older Christians being replaced by secular young people and non-Christian immigrants), Disaffiliation (people consciously abandoning previous Christian affilation) and the Default effect of making “No Religion” the first option available rather than a residual category as in the past.
To check my impressions on this, I found the McCrindle blog reporting survey results which showed, among other things that
* around 22 per cent of Australian adults attend church at least annually, and around 14 per cent do so regularly
* around 38 per cent answer positively to the statement “I consider myself a Christian,”
* If “spiritual, but not any main religion” is added to the usual Census options, around 44 per cent of people would claim a Christian affiliation.
* Australians have positive views of Christians in general, but mostly negative views of “Born Again”, “Evangelical” and especially “Fundamentalist” Christians,
In the past, this kind of division would have been uncorrelated with party politics. But as the Oz illustrates that has obviously ceased to be true, here as in the US.
To finish off, a bit of a contest. Nominate, to the nearest tenth of a per cent, the proportion of Australians (adults and children) giving a Christian affiliation in the 2016 Census . I’m going for 53.2 per cent. I’d guess that the 2021 Census will be the first in which nominal Christians are a minority.