25 April 2012
by Dr Philip Church
As I write it is ANZAC day. I didn’t get up for the Dawn Parade; in fact I confess I never have. From time to time it has crossed my mind, but usually only briefly. It might be because of my generation. It seems to me that ANZAC day is much more important now than it was when was growing up. My father served in the Pacific in World War II, but ANZAC day seemed to hold no significance for him either, but then again, neither did Easter. He was very conservative in his outlook, and attending the “Breaking of Bread” each Lord’s Day was he believed the Lord wanted him to do, rather than celebrating some annual festival with pagan origins. I have moved on from that. Easter has become one of the most significant seasons in the Christian calendar for me. But ANZAC day still has little significance.
The fact that ANZAC day and Easter are always quite close together highlights something else for me. Today, the secular media are giving ANZAC day wall to wall coverage. The best they could do at Easter was an extra edition of Praise Be on Good Friday, The Vicar of Dibley on Sunday, and a news item about the 4,500 teenagers at the Baptist Youth Ministries Easter Camp on Monday. Of course this is better than Ben Hur or The Robe, which were regular Easter fare a few years ago.
What this highlights to me is that we now truly live in a post-Christian Society. Of course ANZAC day recalls a significant event in the history of New Zealand and Australia, as well as Turkey. Several years ago I was at a restaurant in Istanbul when the waiter asked where I was from. When I replied that I was from New Zealand he embraced me, called me his friend, and invited me for dinner. He just ignored colleagues I was travelling with from the UK and the USA. Indeed, they needed to buy visas to enter Turkey. New Zealanders just walk straight in for nothing. Yes, ANZAC day and Gallipoli are etched on our national memory, and this is right. Significant freedoms have been won by our uncles and fathers in the two World Wars of the twentieth century, as well as the other conflicts New Zealanders have been involved in. But should it be New Zealand’s pre-eminent “holyday” I wonder. For that is what it seems to have become.
Surely, the freedoms won by Christ that we celebrate at Easter are far greater. The secular media seem to have forgotten these. But, hold on. Should we Christians to expect special mention of the events that are significant to our faith any longer. I am not sure that we should, although ironically, I think Diwali gets more media attention than Easter.
It is worth considering why the days when the secular media marked Easter in some way are long gone, and why we live in a post-Christian society. I wonder if it has something to do with the way we Christians have not really heard call of Christ to “Go and make disciples of all nations ...” Before we lament the poor media coverage of Easter along with the (seeming) over the top coverage of ANZAC day we might need to lament our poor efforts as evangelism.