I can’t believe it! It has finally happened. A dream has come true: the ancient and venerable Coptic Orthodox Tradition has at last met another of my loves, Science Fiction! I’m talking of course, about the brilliantly produced and exquisitely acted Back to The Future: Coptic Version currently showing on Youtube and produced by our own band of merry men.
I loved the remote controlled Church. No more straining to reach those wall-clingers with the Holy Water at the end of the liturgy! But I did miss the interactive screen embedded in the mangaleya – we’re endlessly searching for missing Katameros Books (Readings for the liturgy) and Synaxarium Books.
But seriously, what IS likely to face our Church in the decades to come? There is an old saying that to be forewarned is to be forearmed, or in other words, if we can guess what we’re in for, we can prepare for it. Well, here are three of what I see as the major challenges we as a Church in Sydney are likely to face between now and 2038 AD…
THE ATHEIST MINDSET
The trend towards atheism is nothing new in Western society; it has been slowly growing ever since the rebellious days of the Renaissance when everything was called into question. What is new is that atheism has now reached a stage where it is set to become the majority view in Western society. Already, in many universities and TAFEs Christians are marginalised and made fun of because of their faith. But authors such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Sam Harris (The End of Faith) have brought their ‘gospel’ right into the mainstream media.
What I fear is that the God-free mindset is becoming more and more embedded in popular culture. It is becoming the ‘default’ foundation upon which to build the stories that influence our lives in movies, TV, books and so on. For example, I recently heard a Professor of Philosophy discussing the philosophy behind the hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He pointed out that the creator of the series is an avowed atheist. Not surprisingly, it is human beings who defeat the powers of darkness by their own efforts, while any religious characters in the plot are portrayed as weak and irrelevant. In fact, contrary to the long tradition of vampire stories, the vampires in this series do not care about crucifixes or holy water! These are subtle points, but they are all the more dangerous for their subtlety.
The first generation of Copts to come to Australia were highly motivated and fiercly driven to succeed. If they weren’t, they probably wouldn’t have had the initiative to leave their homeland for a new and strange country.
The second generation of Copts in Australia have grown up guided by this strong motivation from their parents to work hard and do well in life, whether spiritual or material. They have seen how hard their parents had to struggle to carve out a life for themselves, but they have had it a lot easier than their parents. They have grown up with English as their first language. have gone to school in Australia, and have had the benefit of a wider social network to help them through life.
We are beginning only now to see the third generation of Australian Copts as they grow up and approach maturity. Of the three generations, perhaps they will have life easiest of all. They will have the benefit of parents who are already reasonably comfortable in life, who will provide them with many comforts they will take for granted. What effect will this have on their personalities? How will it affect their spirituality? Will they be willing to put in the effort to stand for a two hour liturgy to enter into the depths of the presence of God, or will they demand an abbreviated 15 minute version because that’s all their media-shrunken attention spans can cope with?
It is well known that material wealth makes it harder to be spiritually strong. Our Lord Jesus Himself warned us that it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to enter through the eye of the needle. How will this privileged generation fare? And what can we do to build their personalities strong so that they do not miss out spiritually?
MIXED UP MORALITY
Western society has been through the sexual revolution of the sixties, when the pill separated sexual activity from having children. Over the ensuing decades, a new morality seems to have become accepted, one in which pre-marital sex, adultery, pornography and divorce are all pretty standard and acceptable. So far, active members of Christian Churches have been fairly insulated from these changes, but many of them are now cracking and giving in. Not long ago, an Anglican bishop was heavily criticised for daring to suggest that couples should not live together before getting married.
Fortunately, the Coptic Church will not be alone on this one, as the other Orthodox denominations and the Catholic Church are still holding on to their Bible principles pretty strongly too. But what will happen as society becomes less and less Christian, and we find our congregation becoming increasingly isolated in their morality? How can we keep our future generations strongly devoted to living true Biblical Christianity, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks?
What do you think? You may or may not agree with my guesses. Perhaps you see something else as being a major issue? Please share your thoughts (write a comment, below) so we can all get thinking about it, praying about it and prepared!
By the way, if you would like a glimpse into the future of our Church, take a peek at:
Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1etQoH4hOM
Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejaEXrEw9FY
Judging by these fine examples of Coptic youth, our Church is in good hands … I think …