The Fountain of Public Prosperity
The official religion brought to Australia with the First Fleet was Evangelical Christianity, the 'vital religion' then shaping public policy through William Wilberforce and his fellow evangelicals. That it has shaped Australian history ever since, making a substantial contribution to the public prosperity of the nation, is an untold story. Christian values and identity were the main components of Australian values and identity. Evangelical 'moralising' may be understood as a concern to address the 'hard' cultures associated with convicts, the liquor industry, and male misogyny. The movement provided opportunities for women to work in reform, charitable, evangelistic and missionary organisations, thus laying strong foundations for feminism. In their concern for 'Christlike citizenship', evangelicals cared for the nation's children in Sunday schools and its youth in societies for young people such as the YMCA, YWCA, and Christian Endeavour. The major component of the humanitarian movement, evangelicals ensured that the convict settlement of Australia was more humane than is generally recognised. They did most of the all-too-little that was done to protect the Indigenous population and to educate settlers, keeping alive in the latter a conscience over maltreatment of the former. In a profusion of charities, evangelicals in the nineteenth century, as today, provided most of the welfare for the population's disadvantaged. The Fountain of Public Prosperity presents propositions which require a radical revision of received understandings, an appreciation of unmined riches in the Australian experience, and reconnection with an often buried past. Drawing on these untapped resources is the safest route to reimagining a future for Australia. Conjoint Associate Professor Stuart Piggin was Director of the Centre for the History of Christian Thought and Experience at Macquarie University (2005-16) and Head of the Department of Christian Thought of the Australian College of Theology. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Religious History Association of Australia and was the foundation President of the Evangelical History Association of Australia. He lectured in Religious History in the Universities of Wollongong and Sydney 1974-1990 and was Master of Robert Menzies College at Macquarie University, 1990-2004. He has written over 100 articles for academic journals and seven books. Robert D. Linder is the Distinguished Professor of History at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, and an acknowledged authority on modern religious history. He is the author or editor of fourteen books and more than one hundred articles in history and religion journals. He has visited Australia each year since arriving on a Fulbright scholarship in 1987, and through the Evangelical History Association of Australia, of which he was a founder, and through many seminars and courses he has taught in universities across Australia, he has made a major contribution to Australian religious history.
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