Friday, January 09, 2009

Radical Christians Are Not Radically Australian

I am teaching a Centre College class on Australian National Identity in Australia this month.

Today we visited with a fine Christian ministry, Urban Neighbors of Hope. They work in poor and immigrant suburbs east of Melbourne. Their main task is to live the gospel of love with those who need it most. I had not realized that they were a project of the Church of Christ, a cousin to the American denomination of the same name. What was even more surprising for a church with such a Protestant heritage, UNOH has a semi-monastic initiation structure, vow, and commitment. They do allow, even encourage, marriage, which makes a huge difference in how a monastic life plays out. They require, though, that both members of a married couple join the community, or not at all.

UNOH produces community for people who want to live a life of radical Christian commitment. There are small Christian communities like it all over the world. This community was started by an Australian, but he and his family now run the international version of UNOH from a Bangkok slum.

It has been hard for almost every Australian we have met to explain what is distinctive about Australian national identity. I think it was particularly hard for the people in UNOH because their vision of Christianity transcends national identity as much as they can.

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