Australia's top book

Meredith Lake’s The Bible in Australia wins another accolade

Even before winning the Australian Christian book of the year tonight, historian Meredith Lake’s The Bible In Australia had already won some accolades that may count for even more than an award mostly noticed only by Christians.

Alan Atkinson reckoned it of “equal importance” to Russel Ward’s famous history The Australian Legend in the Australian Book Review magazine. “Lake makes a good case for thinking that the Bible, as an amalgam of stories, has had a power like Ward’s legend, and a similar nation-forming impact.” Atkinson wrote.

Another prominent reviewer, Michael McGirr, wrote for Fairfax: “She skilfully avoids becoming the prisoner of those who are themselves imprisoned by the Bible. The Bible can be used to create two kinds of jails. One is the sort of gormless fundamentalism that substitutes the book for God, such that the Bible is used to justify all sorts of anger, control and authoritarianism. The second jail is the one that disparages the Bible as a load of claptrap with very little basis in fact.”

“We live in a time when it is difficult to speak of Christian things in public.” – Meredith Lake

The trendy inner-city bookshop Readings in Melbourne described it this way: “A must-read for sceptics, the curious, the lapsed, the devout, the believer, and non-believer.” Perhaps prophetically, Rachel Franks in the Dictionary of Sydney website wrote “The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History will surely dominate the short lists of every major literary award over the coming months and will certainly come to be regarded as one of the most important Australian history books of the year.”

To this list, the Australian Christian Book of the year judges add” “While Bible reading and biblical literacy decline, the Bible is an indelible part of our story. This is a history of national importance and an insight into Australian culture.”

“We live in a time when it is difficult to speak of Christian things in public,” Lake told the audience at the Australian Christian book of the Year awards ceremony. “We need encouragement and support. Thank you, Sparklit.” Sparklit is a charity that supports Christian publishing in parts of the world where it is difficult.

Lake told Eternity as the book was released that when she began the process of looking at how the Bible had been important in Australia’s history, she was very quickly hooked.

“Once I started to think about the Bible and what Australians have thought about it, how they’ve acted on it, how they’ve fought over it, argued with it and about it, I uncovered a really rich seam of stories that have great explanatory power. It really helped me make sense of the society I’m living in.”

“People who’ve taken the Bible as God’s word have changed Australia. And the influence of the Bible in the hands of people who aren’t straightforwardly Christian is also fascinating.”

Even the Bra Boys, a gang based on surf culture notorious for its role in the Cronulla race riots in 2005, have a Bible verse, “My brother’s keeper” (from Genesis 4:9) tattooed on their chests.

“The Bible is everywhere, in very surprising places,” says Lake. “And people make all kinds of interesting interpretations of it.”

Meredith Lake did an explainer video for Eternity.


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