A book exploring the Bible’s impact on Australian culture has won this year’s 2018 SparkLit Australian Christian Book of the Year.
The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History charts the national story of the Bible throughout the past two centuries, from the arrival of the First Fleet to the Cronulla riots.
Written by historian Meredith Lake, the book argues that the Bible has served as a tool to assert colonial dominance and an instrument for liberation and social justice.
The book covers four major periods of Australian history post-1788:
- Missionary expansion and immigration
- Federation and war, and
- The shift towards secularism in the 20th
In awarding the prize to The Bible in Australia, the judges said the book offered an insight into an often-neglected aspect of Australian history.
“Meredith Lake gives an arresting and comprehensive account of how preachers, suffragists, unionists, politicians, musicians, immigrants and Indigenous peoples have used the Bible to shape Australian history and culture,” the judges said.
“Even while Bible reading and biblical literacy decline, the Bible remains an indelible part of history.”
SparkLit Awards coordinator Michael Collie agreed the book was a worthy winner in a year that saw entries from many accomplished writers, historians and storytellers.
“The Bible in Australia is a timely and revealing contribution to our debate about the role of faith in Australian life and public conversation,” he said.
“However contested and misunderstood, the Bible is a living text that has fundamentally shaped our country.”
Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker, Coordinator of New Testament Studies at Pilgrim Theological College, reviewed The Bible in Australia in The Conversation earlier this year.
“Lake shatters the dominant competing myths that Australia is either a ‘doggedly secular society’ or a ‘straightforwardly Christian nation’,” she said in her review.
“I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand more fully the role of the Bible in Australian history as well as in contemporary culture and public debate.”
More than 70 books were submitted for the award, with the winner chosen from a shortlist of 10.
Jessica Dinning won the Australian Christian Teen Writer Award with her manuscript The Mirror, which explored issues of body image and identity.
The event was held at St Alfred’s Anglican Church, Blackburn North, on August 18.