I often receive disbelieving looks from friends in Britain, Australia and the USA when I claim that New Zealand is more secular, more anti-Christian, than any of their countries. So conscious are they of the challenge which they face that they find it difficult to believe that somewhere else could be harder.
But maybe this Easter Sunday provided me with a teeny weeny piece of evidence...
Glancing down the schedule of our leading public broadcaster (TVNZ), I noticed that apart from the usual Praise Be segment, there was nothing on the schedule with either an Easter or a Christian theme. [NB - Praise Be is another topic of interest for me. I suspect the NZ version is more secularised and pluralised than the equivalent versions in Britain and Australia. That is my initial impression after seeing bits of all three].
So I went onto the internet to compare the situation with other countries.
In Britain, BBC1 had its Praise Be but also had a 60min church service from Winchester Cathedral in the morning and a 60min documentary in the evening entitled "Are Christians Being Persecuted?"
In Australia, ABC1 had its Praise Be but also had a 60min morning documentary entitled "The Passion: Films, Faith and Fury" in which the relationship between Hollywood and Christianity was explored. Then in the evening there was a 55min Compass programme discussing a piece of art by Caravaggio called "The Taking of Christ".
In the USA, it is more difficult as things vary with 'local programming' and 'paid programming' (which are so often Christian in content) even within the public broadcasters like ABC, CBS, and NBC. So it is difficult to tell. I confess that while I was surprised that I did not see more explicitly Christian material on those channels, the situation in the USA is such that Christian content does tend to flood TV channels which are readily accessible. No one can doubt the strength of the Christian voice in the US when compared with these other countries.
So I kind of wrest my case! New Zealand is a tough, tough country and I respect all those pastors who have given it their best over this recent weekend. I hope you are able to get some rest and refreshment this week. I feel as motivated as I have ever been to do what I can to encourage and equip you in your role. I particularly admire those who remain faithful to the gospel and yet find a way in which to do so in a creative and compelling manner. Good job!