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Christians as Bad Guys wins Book of the Year

Stephen McAlpine has been awarded the 2021 Australian Christian Book of the Year award

By Stephen Cauchi

Western Australian writer, blogger and pastor Stephen McAlpine has been awarded the 2021 Australian Christian Book of the Year award for Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn’t.

The $3000 award - presented by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Australia, also known as SparkLit - was presented at an online ceremony on 2 September.

According to the book’s publisher, The Good Book Company, Mr McAlpine explains how “we offer the gospel to those around us who view it as not only wrong but possibly dangerous.

“(Mr McAlpine) encourages Christians not to be ashamed of the gospel as it is more liberating, fulfilling and joyful than anything the world has to offer. He also offers strategies for coping in this world, with its opposing values, and for reaching out to others wisely with the truth.”

The judges - Stu Cameron, the chief executive of Wesley Mission; Judith Nichols, the women’s ministry co-ordinator at Dalkeith Anglican Church; and Greg Clarke, the former chief executive of the Bible Society Australia - all praised the book.

“McAlpine is fearless, feisty, and fluent,” the judges wrote. “This book is an overdue reset for Christians that have not realised that they are more like Daniel in Babylon than Solomon in the land of milk and honey.

“No longer just quaint or irrelevant, Christians in Western society are once again regarded as haters of mankind.

“After explaining the ways in which a Christian worldview is unacceptable in contemporary Australia, and the complex situations in which this places orthodox believers, Stephen McAlpine gets down to business.

“There is neither reason or time for indulging in despair or victimhood. Being the bad guys calls a Christian to admit our failures and embrace life as a creative minority.

“As a community on the margins, we can welcome the actual victims of contemporary culture as they look for grace and solace from its bruising brutality.”

The award, usually presented at St Alfred’s Anglican Church in Blackburn North, has been held online for the past two years due to COVID. 

Mr McAlpine, who attends Providence Church in Perth, told the online presentation he was “excited” to win.

Christians in Australia were in for “30 or 40 years of a lot of change”, he said.

“We have to train our next generation of (Christian) young people to cope with a world that’s … more hostile than even we’re experiencing.”

But younger Christians were expecting a more hostile secular environment, he said.

“That was what surprised me, speaking to younger people - university students who are Christian. They just assumed, yes, it’s going to be hard, whereas people in my generation were a little bit more precious.”

Christians had to learn to be good listeners to entice nonbelievers into the Church, he said.

“The first thing is listen more. We’ve geared ourselves up in our apologetic to be good speakers and one of the things I don’t think we do as well is listen to what people are actually saying - we launch into a script.”

While Christians needed to “maintain our distinctiveness”, churches needed a “porus boundary”, he said. 

“And you can only do that if you’ve got confidence in the gospel, if the gospel is true and right and good and if Jesus truly is the king of your community.

“When you can do that I think over time you start to be an attractive option for people who are looking for something more.”

Mr McAlpine said he had non-Christian friends who were “almost envious” of the way Christians in COVID times banded together. 

“Other people found that they were very lonely.”

He also said it was important for Chrsitian communities to spend more time together despite “our constraints of busyness.”

Prior to 2021, Sydney Anglican academics had taken out the award for three years running. 

Centre for Public Christianity research fellow Natasha Moore won in 2020 for her work For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse Than You Ever Imagined; Macquarie University Professor of History Stuart Piggin (together with American historian and Baptist Robert Linder) won in 2019 for The Fountain of Public Prosperity: Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1740–1914; and Sydney University historian Meredith Lake, won in 2018 for The Bible in Australia.

Rémy Chadwick from Victoria won the 2021 Young Australian Christian Writer Award, a $2500 prize, with "Creativity and Faith in Postmodern Australia”.

Megan Southon from Victoria won the 2021 Australian Christian Teen Writer Award with her composition Daisies in Winter. $1000

Mr McAlpine beat nine other shortlisted candidates. They were: The Good Sporting Life: Loving and Playing Sport as a Follower of Jesus by Stephen Liggins

Healing Lives by Sue Williams; How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being That Guy): Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan

I Want to Fix Ears: Inside the Cochlear Implant Story by Graeme Clark

Jesus Through Muslim Eyes by Richard Shumack 

Judging the Macquaries: Injustice and Mercy in Colonial Australia by John Harris

Talking Sex by the Book: Giving Kids a Bible-Based View of Identity, Relationships and Sexuality by Patricia Weerakoon Abundance: New and Selected Poems by Andrew Lansdown

Western Fundamentalism: Democracy, Sex and the Liberation of Mankind by Gordon Menzies.