God, Where are You? Living in the ‘70s

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us, only sky

Imagine all the people

Livin’ for today

Ah

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion, too

Imagine all the people

Livin’ life in peace

Imagine – John Lennon 1971

When Joanne arrived at Teachers College she still thought of herself as a Christian.  After being leader of the ISCF (Inter School Christian Fellowship) in High School she, along with Margo, began attending the college equivalent, TCCF. However it was not without some reservations.  For a start, some of the people there were just too inflexible and unbending.

Having a father who challenged her to think about what she was taught in Sunday School opened her mind to alternate ways of thinking. Even at the age of ten she wondered why her religion was the only right one in a world of different beliefs.

In her small township of Yerrinbool the Baha’is held their annual summer school. With nothing else to do she enjoyed the company of other teenagers at the camp. As well as hiking to the creek for a swim or playing games, she sat in on some lectures explaining the philosophy of the Baha’is. It seemed Jesus was one of many prophets sent by God, the last being Baháʼu’lláh.  She liked their belief that all religions have the same spiritual foundation, despite their apparent differences. She also thought they were on the right track when they said no one can describe God because they don’t have the mental ability and everyone’s view of him was coloured by their own experiences and cultures.  They didn’t believe in the use of alcohol or drugs unless prescribed by a doctor, as it destroyed reason and led people astray.  However they did believe in dancing, singing and enjoying themselves as she found one New Years Eve.

Her best friend at school was a Seventh Day Adventist so she spent time at their holiday camps, listening to their beliefs and experiencing a vegetarian diet long before it was fashionable. When her friend married a Methodist, Joanne and Leo wondered which religion would win out. The ceremony was held in the Methodist Church but then they moved on to a Seventh Day Adventist Reception Centre. Leo wished vehemently that the reverse had been the case as he ate his gluten steak, bemoaned the lack of wine, stared around at the unadorned women and worst of all, spat out his decaffeinated coffee!

Joanne was disturbed and puzzled at the examples of hypocrisy where people she had respected refused to participate in events run by other religious denominations. She had the time of her life as a model in a mannequin parade organised by two local Catholic Colleges. All the local Secondary Schools were asked to volunteer two models but her equally tall, third best friend refused to participate on religious grounds. One afternoon a week she would catch a bus to a grand house in Burradoo where the group of girls would meet, trying on clothes and walking the improvised catwalk. Joanne felt a stab of envy as the students from Dominican Convent took her up to their Science Lab to check on their mice. They seemed to be having so much fun at boarding school, reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers.’

When Joanne started dating Leo they would drive to a scenic lookout and watch the moon over the Tasman Sea. Talk invariably moved to religion and they had long discussions about the nature and existence of God. Leo was enthusiastic about science being the basis of all knowledge. Charles Darwin was his hero and to him, his theory of evolution made absolute sense. While they didn’t agree on absolutely everything they both decided that organised religion was not for them.

Joanne reasoned that if all the religions of the world were the same and only altered by their environment and way of thinking, then maybe they were man’s way of explaining the creation of the universe, life and death. She decided that if there was a God, he had created them and left them to it. It was up to them to do the best they could with the world they lived in.

Leo had already decided he was an atheist but Joanne was hedging her bets, just in case.

Of course, Joanne still told her mother everything. They had been so close since her father died that they used to think as one. Leaving home was changing their relationship as Joanne insisted on discussing religion and the pros and cons of sex before marriage, oblivious of her mother’s increasing concern.

Annie had walked out with thousands of others to rededicate her life to Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade in Sydney (1968) and now her once religious daughter had turned against God, all because of the new boyfriend.

Dr Billy Graham arriving in Sydney 15 April 1968 [picture] / John Mulligan

Several years later, when she found her Dutch husband, Annie faced her own religious dilemma.  Lars was a Catholic so they agreed to marry in a Catholic Church.  Joanne had to laugh when the priest read from the service that the couple were to bring up any children they might have in the Catholic religion.  After all they were in their sixties!

It wasn’t long before her newly married mother converted to the Catholic faith.  Joanne wondered what her atheist father would think about it all.  Before he died he told her he would try to contact her from the afterlife if it was at all possible, but he didn’t think there was anything after death but a long sleep.  She had never heard from him in the nine years since his death so she could only conclude that he was right.

It amazed Joanne that some people never thought about religion at all, while others found that faith was enough to sustain them without question. She was careful not to offend and avoided the topic except when Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on her door. This was the only time she could discuss religion in depth with someone who actually wanted to listen and debate.

9 thoughts on “God, Where are You? Living in the ‘70s

  1. I had always thought of myself as a Christian, but I was not overly active about it. Went to church because my parents essentially made me go. During my college years of the seventies I started exploring a lot of religions and getting a good background about other belief systems. The quest essentially strengthened by Christian leanings though I still rarely went to church. Later in my forties and raising 3 daughters mostly on my own I started taking them to church where they became involved in activities as did I. It was a good move I think. Now that they’ve gone on to their own lives with kids of their own they are not particularly active about church. My current wife of 25 years and I rarely miss church now though we aren’t involved much otherwise. Still the church provides an anchor of sorts for us.
    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Liked by 1 person

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