Anglicanism in Nineteenth-Century Australia

Joshua Newell '91 (English 34 [now 27], 1991)

Historically, religion in Australia has largely been confined to rural areas, and is conspiciously absent as an urban cultural force in Australia, separating itself from the machination of the state. However, one must not underemphasize their regional influence; churches remained a dominant educational force throughout the nineteenth century. Thanks to large amounts of aid from the mother church and extensive missionary efforts, Australia witnessed a proliferation of a various Christian sects. The Anglican Church, largely because of extensive aid from the wealthy Church of England, established itself as the dominant church in the nineteenth century, and today 34 per cent of all Australians are Anglican. (For information of Australia's religious history consult A.L. Mcleod's The Pattern of Australian Culture.)

A pervading fear reigned over Christian minds in nineteenth-century Australia: the rising threat of a philosophy of doubt to the established doctrine of the Christian faith. The Anglican Dean of Melbourne feared that the teaching of philosophy would introduce an "unknown quality" which would be antagonistic to the tenets of the Church. Fearing intellectual insurrection, the Christian faith polarized into the preaching of religious dogma, and churches throughout Australia engaged in vicious disputes over the true teachings of Christ. Plagued by what cultural historian A.L. Mcleod has called "the doubting spirit of the nineteenth century" (Mcleod, 138), Christians responded to the rising influence of scientific rationalism by pressing for orthodoxy.

Questions to keep in mind while reading Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda:

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