Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Fake Julia? Social and cultural traditionalism and the not-quite-boomer generation.

There is a lot of angst about, including from one of my regular commentators on another post, concerning Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's comments over the last few days over the desirability of teaching the Bible in schools, and her attempts to assure us that she really is a 'social and cultural traditionalist'. 

Because despite being an unmarried atheist living in a relationship, she is currently working hard to try and convince us that she really does oppose gay marriage and euthanasia, and supports teaching the Bible as part of Australia's cultural heritage.

Rejoice in fake Julia

First of all can I say, whatever her real position, shouldn't we be glad that she has committed herself to voting and leading the right way on these issues?  No matter whether her reasons for deciding to oppose same sex marriage and euthanasia are anything other than pure politics: surely, in a purely political context it is what the legislator actually does that affects the rest of us, rather than why they do it?

And while her claimed ability to recite Bible verses is obviously no substitute for actual belief, I for one support the idea that our education system should actually acknowledge and teach the Western cultural heritage that has shaped our country. 

Now it is true of course, that the secularist idea of just how the Bible should be taught clashes fundamentally with the Catholic one, and Ms Gillard's new curriculum does seem to suffer from more than a few rather fundamental flaws on this front, as an interesting piece by Chris Berg over at The ABC's Drum explains (from the secularist perspective).  But surely better that the importance of the Bible at least be admitted, at least opening up the possibility of debate, than for Western culture to be erased from the curriculum altogether as has been the case in recent decades!

Is it fake?

I'm also not at all convinced, despite The Punch's take on the issue that this actually is all political fakery. 

First, being an atheist doesn't automatically mean supporting gay rights.  I know more than a few aggressive atheists who have little sympathy for the Green social agenda on this front, despite their support for other aspects of it.

But more fundamentally, I come from the same generation as Ms Gillard - and I know lots of people of a similar age and background who hold a bundle of similar, albeit admittedly on the face of it contradictory, positions.

Baby boomers tail-end
In fact there is an interesting generational break, I think, between the true babyboomers - the 56 plus age group - and the 'intermediate' generation of those born of us, like Ms Gillard (born September 1961) in the early 1960s.

Many 'golden' babyboomers refused and continue to refuse to formalize their relationships in marriage.  They - the brainwashed Vatican II generation - are the generation of true social progressives, the generation that support same sex marriage, and despise the patrimony of the West, and especially the patrimony of the Church.  I've spent many a long hour arguing with them!

But many of the generation hitting their 50s now and a little younger, such as Ms Gillard, while often sharing some of the peculiar ideas of the babyboomers, are much less ideologically driven about it.  Many of my friends, family and acquaintances - those close to my own age  - chose to live in relationships without marrying for example, but kind of, sort of, half regret it, and would perhaps change their minds if they didn't think it would make them look silly. 

They also like the idea in principle of understanding the basis of Western civilization and the Christianity - at least until confronted with its actual content.

And unlike that slightly older generation (and the younger, much more secularist one that followed it), actually accepted some of the views of their parents on issues like homosexuality.

Now I'm not suggesting this distinction applies across the board.  I'm talking about a highly biased sample of those of this age group who went to University and, mostly at least, actively engaged in politics to some degree or other.

Still, there is a bit of social research around that supports the idea of a distinction between 'cultural boomers' and nominal the tail end of the baby boom generation.

A confused generation

Ms Gillard herself claims to have been thoroughly catechized but rejected her (protestant) faith. 

Mind you, if the extent of the catechesis was learning bible verses off by heart (and yes I too have a certificate from proddie bible school attesting to a like achievement!), one can perhaps understand why.

The reality is that the typical experience of this particular generation, protestant and catholic alike, was of a completely inadequate catechetical formation.  

The reality is that those of my age group who actually do believe in the faith have come to it despite whatever education we may have received in it, not because of it.

Mine is the generation after all, who made their first communions at a time when the texts of the Mass changed every other week.  At a time when there was every indication that the Church was going to say contraception was ok, but then, to many people's shock, came Humane Vitae.  A time when the main catechism used in the US was subsequently rejected as theologically inadequate.  When  experimentation was the norm, not the exception. 

And many protestant churches were pulled into this revolution as well.

My generation weren't necessarily old enough to understand the full import of the revolution: because we hadn't ever been taught anything different, we didn't have to actively reject the old traditional view and embrace the revolution.  So we were less fervent in its embrace than those who stayed as nominal Christians.

But we were old enough to be confused by it!  And we were old enough to feel its effects indirectly as our parents voted on the Vatican II revolution with their feet, emptying the Churches of congregations, religious orders of religious, and priesthood of priests.

But still room to hope!

Not everyone of course went under or were dragged under.

And some of those who did, through God's grace, found their way back.

There is still time to unconfuse the remainder...

So we should pray for the conversion of Ms Gillard.

And in the meantime, in my view, rejoice that at least on some issues her votes will go the right way.  Even if we do have to put up with some secularist baggage along with it!


A Canberra Observer said...

Terra, you are correct - if she is indeed a fellow traveller on at least some issues, and supports the natural law and moral order thereby, then we should applaud and cooperate with her in those debates.

Time will tell.

On other issues of course she will continue to be aligned with the forces of darkenss, though the votes have already been cast on these matters (eg abortion, stem cell research). And she is not alone there with politicians of all stripes voting to support consequentialist legislation.

PM said...

Another way of looking at her is that she is part of a generation that had at least some Christian formation (however narrow) and has some familiarity with and respect for it; she is obviously still close to her chapel-going parents. (Hawke was another in this mould: I got the impression from his eulogy for Kim Beazley Snr that he half-envied Beazley's faith. I cheered when he said that Beazley had a far better mind than Whitlam and would have made a far better leader and prime minster.)

It's the generation after, which know nothing but Ditchkinite slurs, which are the worry. (Not to mention those who emerge from 'Catholic' schools utterly clueless.)

John Warhurst gave an interesting lecture a while ago in which he pointed out that few Australin prime minsters have been more than nominal believers and that we have had atheists and agnostics on and off for a long time - not to mention, in Alfred Deakin, a theosophist.

R J said...

Hmmm, is PM's analysis demographically accurate? All I can say from my own experience is that the Ditchkinite squalor comes overwhelmingly - as do Dawkins and Hitchens themselves - from the Vietnam-protest baby-boomer generation, not from either the Julia Gillard generation (to which I, being two months JG's junior, belong) or from the kids studying at university now. (The latter are for the most part ignorant enough, heaven knows - if they went to schools mendaciously called Catholic it is safe to say that their intellectual formation is nonexistent - but they seem to lack the deranged cocksureness of the true Ditchkinite.)