By Amanda Murthy
“The Church remains an institution of beauty and transcendent truth, and the more it sticks to its’ core message and rich traditions… the more effective it will be.”
Those were the words of The Australian newspapers foreign affairs journalist and commentator, Greg Sheridan, who recently spoke to The Record journalist Amanda Murthy about his latest book, titled God is Good For You – A Defence of Christianity in troubled times.
The book is separated into two parts – the first being a gentle argument and exploration on why Christianity is true, why believing in God is rational and sensible, the historical contribution of Christianity to human rights and a little reflection on the Old Testament of the Bible.
He is fair-minded in his approach and manages not to sound overly dogmatic.
The second half of the book looks at people’s point of view on Christianity.
This includes three chapters where Mr Sheridan interviews several Australian public figures on their practices, beliefs and struggles faced.
Towards the end of the book, he touches on the modern-day practices of Christianity, offering constructive suggestions on how he thinks Christian leadership can be more effective.
Mr Sheridan said he hoped that people from all age groups, religious backgrounds and beliefs (even atheists) would read and benefit from his book.
“It is not a denominational book as well, so all Christians can get something from it. My intention is to create conversation, and write something everyone can learn something from, whether they believe in God or not,” Mr Sheridan said.
When asked about the inspiration behind this topic, Mr Sheridan said the book was the result of a lifetime of personal reflection and conversations he had on his faith.
“When I started as a journalist 40 years ago, the culture here in Australia gave notional assent to Christianity, and the religion was honoured in a sense, then over the years, Christianity went through a period of growing indifference, and now we are living in a period in time, where the predominant secular culture is advertently hostile to Christianity,” he said.
“I also found that there was not enough teaching and basic information about the faith, in debates, or even in the education system – And I believe that the crisis of faith is partly a crisis of knowledge.
“In mainstream culture, Christianity is being ‘whited out’ – so the Churches are being pushed aside, this is why I found the need to do more research, and write about it,” he added.
Mr Sheridan said he was thankful to be able to interview several politicians, including past prime ministers on their religious views, despite having to convince them.
“The questions I asked were not common questions these politicians are asked in mainstream media – I posed questions like, ‘What do you actually believe?’, ‘Is there a life after death?’, ‘Who is God to you?’, ‘Do you pray?’, and ‘What do you think is going to happen to your kids when they die?” Mr Sheridan said.
“Many people don’t know that many of these politicians are believing, serious Christians – and I wanted to pose a thought to readers; isn’t it interesting that some of the most brilliant people our country has produced have these beliefs in God, in miracles, in after-life, and maybe Christianity is worth having a second look.
“One of my observations from this experience was that the politicians as a class, tend to be more religious than the average of the population, but they are reported on by a media that is much less religious,” he added.
Mr Sheridan explained that he included a chapter on Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, someone who he admires as a brilliant, thoughtful and personable individual.
Archbishop Fisher, representing a senior Catholic leader, shared his near-death experience due to an illness he suffered at the prime of his life.
“When someone is faced with a terrible illness, it is a time that reveals, deepens and demonstrates people’s faith,” he cited.
“Archbishop Fisher shared on the challenges he faced during this time, and truthfully speaks on his prayer life and practises, with such eloquence.”
Mr Sheridan added that young people of today respond to idealism, conviction, passion and authenticity.
“Therefore, I think that successful religious movements which I mentioned in the book, have three key elements – strong leadership, clear beliefs and a coherent and beautiful form of worship.
“The Catholic Church has all of this in abundance.”
When asked to complete the sentence, “God is good for you because…,” Mr Sheridan without hesitation responded, “God is good for you because He is true.”