Looking Forward to Going Back to the Future

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.

UNINTERESTED YOUTH

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 …

Fr Ant

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4 Replies to “Looking Forward to Going Back to the Future”

  1. Abouna, I agree with your point about uninterested youth. It seems that due to technological advances in society today, our youth as well as youth in general are becoming a little more lazier perhaps- the internet, gps, email, … it makes it all the more challenging if my society teaches me so many shortcuts to then get up and go to church early in the morning for a 2 hour mass or go to midnight praise…

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  2. I don’t think it is sloth. I think I am disinterested because I am too involved (something technology has facilitated) with the world. I do not know if technology has made us lazy (I am too young to appreciate any difference), but from my standpoint, a lack of interest seems to stem from a pervading secular mindset, and this disharmony between the Christian reality with this vapor life we live in; as well as a burgeoning of a generation gap. To me, it is the opposite; the life of Church is perhaps an hour each day (with a few muttered prayers in the middle of the day), and then the Liturgy et al on the weekend. Our real life, seems to be the one we most easily identify ourselves in.
    Couple with this, also, a lack of communication with our elders, because
    (1) elders
    (i) cannot communicate same language
    (ii) cannot relate to youth
    (iii) try to late to communicate with the youth
    (iv) have values that seem hypocritical, yet are so ever critical of today
    (v) too permisive, and hence the fear of the Lord is lost
    (2) youth
    (i) too involved with each other
    (ii) too involved in each other’s state of affairs
    (iii) previous generation is also exhibiting disinterest, and they copy
    (iv) they do not value the difference between our Church and other Churches
    (v) they believe they are rebelling against a culture (which is more permissible), than a religion
    (vi) always wanting their needs to be met (that is what consumerism is), which makes them more hostile to seemingly irrelevant things

    This is not an exhaustive list, but I think there is much more to it than laziness.

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  3. Thankyou both for your thoughts. Tony brings up some very interesting points. The generation gap in particular made me think. Will generation gaps still be as wide between future generations, or will they close the gap a little since they will share the same first language and culture? Is technology the new ‘divide’ between the generations? Will it continue to be so or will today’s children be just as technology-capable as THEIR children?

    Or is the generation gap perhsps unavoidable since the parents will always have a more life experience while children will always want to be rebellious and innovative?

    In the midst of all this, what effect should our Christian faith have on the generation gap? Our Lord Christ taught us to be compassionate to each other, leading the way with His own deep concern for His mother, St Mary. She in turn did not interfere with all the ‘dangerous’ things He was doing. To what extent does our faith minimise the damage done by the generation gap. When our faith fails to minimise the damage, why does it fail?

    Fr Ant

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  4. #

    Thankyou both for your thoughts. Tony brings up some very interesting points. The generation gap in particular made me think. Will generation gaps still be as wide between future generations, or will they close the gap a little since they will share the same first language and culture? Is technology the new ‘divide’ between the generations? Will it continue to be so or will today’s children be just as technology-capable as THEIR children?

    My thoughts: Abouna, from my experience, the Internet has made us increasingly secluded from our family; rather than just a “generation gap”. I, unfortunately, have befriended people across the globe, and exposed horrors that I am to ashamed to say. Suffice to say, children are becoming more exposed to what ungodly people make easily available. I think this will prevail, even if the culture around us does not really “progress” (whatever that means, nowadays). I am quite young, but I can notice a huge difference between my years in high-school and my siblings undergoing secondary school. There is no guarantee of course that this will continue, but my suspicions are that the attractiveness of “individualism” and being “secular”, even within religious schools, will probably continue to undermine the values our pastors and parents try to encourage (I know that I have been quite selfish and hard-hearted, preferring elegance over substance). There are recent counter-attacks, such as net filters by the Government (with ‘counter-filterers’), parents being aware and making sure children only use the net in front of them etc.

    Or is the generation gap perhsps unavoidable since the parents will always have a more life experience while children will always want to be rebellious and innovative?

    My thoughts: I guess. I think it is worse because we are exposed to more ways to feed our evil hearts?

    In the midst of all this, what effect should our Christian faith have on the generation gap? Our Lord Christ taught us to be compassionate to each other, leading the way with His own deep concern for His mother, St Mary. She in turn did not interfere with all the ‘dangerous’ things He was doing. To what extent does our faith minimise the damage done by the generation gap. When our faith fails to minimise the damage, why does it fail?

    My thoughts: Just a question, St. Mary knew Christ was God, so I think her reasons for not interfering would be a bit different to a parent’s. I don’t have much faith to comment- it cannot minimize the wickedness of my own heart!

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