Former Australian Idol winner, Guy Sebastian, recently released a new song, “Get Along”. Ultimately it expresses his journey since winning Australian Idol almost ten years ago. Back then, Sebastian was famously identified with traditional Christianity, but then in October this year he admitted to having rejected it. He suggested in an interview that “Dogmatic teachings invariably lead to” followers behaving “in unreasonable, socially unacceptable and even violent ways”, but that he was relieved that “it seems societies around the world are becoming more aware, educated and open-minded.”
This is all reflected in the song:
And when all the worlds collide
All they know is to divide
And it’s easy if they’re faceless
To hate the other side
For Sebastian, the problem is that our worldviews were born in isolated ignorance. Now, when worldviews collide, we instinctively define ourselves by our own, and demonise others because of theirs. Our prejudice is motivated primarily by a perceived threat to our nice, comfortable, established worldview. But if we got to know those “others”, we’d realise they’re not such a threat after all.
In the song, Sebastian also offers his solution:
Dear God, dear soul
Dear Mary, Mohammed
Can we all just get along?
His argument is that our religions are just constructs of those isolated worldviews. Breaking down our prejudices will reveal that nothing in those worldviews is true, in the sense of exclusively summarising reality. Instead, Sebastian suggests they are all true, in the sense of inclusively summarising reality – they are “ballpark guesses” of impossible mysteries, all “half-right… kinda”. And people shouldn’t have to die (or kill) for a guess that, if it’s kinda half-right, is also kinda half-wrong.
I want to affirm Sebastian’s heart for the destruction of ignorance through dialogue. Even the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God reveals Himself to everybody: Romans 1:20 says that, “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” And it is in the process of dialogue that we can discover not only the humanity of those we previously demonised, but also some pretty awesome things about the world, beauty, God, everything.
The sad irony, though, of Sebastian’s noble intention is that the kind of relativism he is advocating, historically hasn’t solved the problem. All it does is perpetuate a different kind of ignorance, by creating a new justification for avoiding dialogue altogether.
Relativism perpetuates ignorance, not through threat, but pointlessness: if nothing is really true, and if our current worldview “works” (at least “enough”), then why bother talking to others and learning about their worldviews? Sure, it might be nice, but it just doesn’t seem worth all the hard work of dialogue, when we can use that time to watch a funny youtube video instead.
The irony goes deeper. Sebastian is abandoning one of the chief encouragers, and beneficiaries, of intercultural dialogue – Christianity itself. While it is true there are Christians who live their faith in isolation, perpetuating prejudice by refusing dialogue, that has usually not been the case. Christians have frequently left their current worldviews and sought dialogue with those from outside of it – that’s what missionaries have always done. And, despite common caricatures to the contrary, the missionaries’ prime tool wasn’t intimidation or deception, it was dialogue. They sat down and talked to people across the world, because they were confident that when Jesus’ story was openly compared to other stories, the historic reality of Jesus was far, far better than anything any other worldview had to offer.
And the fruit of that dialogue is the greatest evidence that they were right. Across the world, including Africa, Asia, and South America, vast swathes of people decided Christianity was better than what they’d had, thanks to missionaries promoting dialogue. Furthermore, even as those people affirmed Christianity is exclusively true in a very real way, they have included their own perspective upon it, adding a deeper appreciation of how Jesus is the King of the nations.
If we don’t get along, we’ll get nowhere. But relativistic “getting along” seems to just offer to get us to a different nowhere. Christianity offers that, we get along best when we use getting along, to stop killing and start talking, in the hope of getting Somewhere.