Interview with Christian Union and Catholic Society

Joe Molander in conversation with two members of the faith societies

Joe Molander
26th February 2021
Image: TravelTriangle
Joe Molander talks to Julia Justianano, President of Catholic Society, and Tom Ackroyd, member of Christian Union, about faith and the pandemic.

Trigger Warning: dicsussion of Christian views towards the LGBT+ Community

How has faith intersected with coronavirus? For example, has it been a help to the members of your societies?

Julia I think faith has played a very big part in helping me get through this isolating period, especially since I have a community to practise my faith with. The community was able to help relieve some of that weight, and help me to see and acknowledge that I’m really not alone in this trying and isolating period.

Tom One of the joys of being Christian is meeting together. It’s been really tough not being able to do that this year and the end of last year, that’s really made it quite hard. At the same time, being on Zoom has been good: it’s been great being able to meet up without having to leave home or travel.

What do you think is the most enjoyable part of your faith?

Tom I think the surety that it gives, the certainty that I have a life waiting for me after this one, and a God who loves me and wants to know me better. No matter what I’m facing day to day, year to year, I know that I’m going home to Heaven, and to a father who knows me and loves me and wants to be with me forever. That’s the hope and joy it gives to me on a day to day basis.

Julia I think what’s keeping me together is the reliability of faith, and the knowledge that it’s very universal and adaptable to all kinds of situations.

Why do you think people are still drawn to faith as opposed to philosophy?

Julia I don’t think they’re exactly mutually exclusive, but I think people are still drawn to faith because there’s a very sincere and personal aspect to it. There’re some things that academics can’t explain all the time, and going by faith alone will help us go through difficult situations.

Tom Philosophy’s very interesting, but without what I feel is the core of philosophy – God and Jesus – I think it’s a bit colder. For Christianity, I think Jesus being at the centre of faith is what makes it a personal religion. A God who loves and knows you personally, I think that’s what draws people in, more than anything.

What do you think is the biggest misconception you’ve encountered about your faith?

Julia [laughs] There’s quite a lot. One misconception about people who practise faith is we’re too optimistic about life and very naïve. In our faith, we would like to follow values and practise a certain mindset, like turning the other cheek. I guess people see it as a very naïve way of living, where people can just walk all over you. A lot of people don’t subscribe to that, so I guess that’s why people are turning away from faith now.

Tom The one I come across most often is that people assume because you’re born to a Christian family, you are therefore Christian, and you inherit the faith of your parents. That’s actually not true for a lot of Christians. I grew up in a very keen Christian family, but for me, faith became a lot more personal when I looked at it for myself. I think all Christians look at their lives at some point, whether they’re born into a Christian family or not, and investigate it for themselves.

Is there a misconception you’ve found particularly true or unfair?

Tom Views on things like homosexuality or same sex marriage. People think because some Christians disagree with that, we therefore hate them. I don’t hate anyone. We’re taught to love people. If I disagree with someone’s lifestyle, be that drinking or sex before marriage, doesn’t mean I hate them. There’s this idea that if I disagree with your lifestyle or something you do, I therefore must hate you, but that’s not at all true.

Do you not think it’s unfair to compare being gay to excessive drinking?

Tom Absolutely, that’s not an exact comparison. Sexuality is not something you can control, and it is a part of who you are. I don’t think you should try and change your sexuality, that is who you are. There’s lots of keen Christians out there like Vaughan Roberts who are what he calls ‘same sex attracted’, but he doesn’t believe that’s right. He chooses to abstain from that side of his life. But yeah, it’s not a fair comparison, sorry about that.

Julia, what about you? Is there any misconception that stands out as particularly unfair?

Julia My first thought was between the different religions. The Catholics have Mother Mary, from whom we ask for prayers, and we have the misconception that we pray to her instead of God, those kinds of different beliefs. When it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are not a hating religion. In fact, we support them in joining our family and our community, and practising the faith. We do not want to discriminate on them simply based on their sexuality, which is something they can’t really control.

Are your societies trying to take a liberal position on things like LGBT issues?

Julia We put it out there that we’re not discriminating against or not restricting any LGBTQ members from joining. Our main focus at the moment is just trying to get the overall crowd to join, because our numbers are getting quite low.

Tom We’re definitely not trying to go out and make anyone feel uncomfortable. All we want is for people to meet Jesus. There’re issues you can come onto later yourself, but all we’re really putting out there is that here’s this person Jesus, we really want you to meet him because we think he’s great, no matter who or what you are.

Do you think religion needs to adapt to consider issues that have only developed after religion’s conception, like global warming?

Tom Absolutely Christians need to be thinking about modern day issues. Global warming’s only cropped up in the last fifty years, and we need to be thinking “okay, what do we think about this?” With modern day issues, we do need to be thinking about them quite carefully and thinking what our approach to them is, with a basis in what the Bible says.

Julia I’m not so sure about adapting the religion itself. These religions’ foundation is already made very universal and adaptable to all kinds of situations, but I think it is important to address the current issues. For example, recently, Pope Francis said it’s a moral obligation to get vaccinated for the wellbeing of the whole of society.  

Julia, do you feel an expectation as President of Catholic Society and a leader in youth faith to help people like Pope Francis in addressing modern issues?

Julia I do feel the responsibility to ensure Pope Francis’s message is heard, but I think more of the responsibility is as a Catholic, not necessarily as the President. We don’t really practise the hierarchy within the society.

What’s your hope for faith in the next few years?

Tom My hope would be that more and more people on campus would get to seek Jesus and meet Jesus, and decide whether he’s someone they want to follow or not.

Julia I hope people wouldn’t shy away from the thought of practising religion, or think about it totally negatively. I hope to see more people be open to it.

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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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