The pendulum is swinging
The age of laodecia (Revelation 3) -– laos (peoples) decia
(rights) is surely with us. And what's wrong with having rights? Nothing - if
they're handled right!
1200 people died in New Zealand as a result of violent crime
between 1991 and 2001. Each of these lives precious and invaluable -– and now
they're gone. "Zero tolerance for violent crime" is the call from a
society which has had enough. We want streets which are safe enough for our
children to walk down at any time of the day. We want an education system which
propagates respect for others. We want our young people to grow up 'normal and
balanced' - and able to choose the right way. Basically, what we want
is for 'society to do the work we are too lazy and short-sighted to do for
ourselves and our families'. Starting with simple discipline at an early age
-– to nurturing and directing into having hope and vision as a child develops.
We want freedoms, rights and liberties without responsibility. What's changed?
While society cries out for tougher sentencing and heavier
penalties for those perpetrators of hideous acts, few take any personal
responsibility. We say 'What these thugs have done has nothing to do with me
-– lock these social misfits away where we can't see them, and dispose of the
Maybe one day we will wake up to the fact that nothing 'just
happens' in isolation. That cultures are created over time, and are simply a
reflection of what is considered the acceptable, or normal behaviour of a people
I am astounded by western societies' calls for harsher
penalties for criminals, and then in the very next breath demands for more 'freedoms'
or liberties. Have we not been alerted to our responsibility as adults to train
the next generation to be responsible? The realities of not offering training in
this regard are screaming at us.
Every freedom granted an individual carries with it
responsibility. When we fail to pass on the responsibility with the
freedom, we actually set people up for failure. A catch cry in recent years
has been 'let's empower people -– let them make up their own mind on things'.
Great, but empower them with more than just the 'freedom to act' -– empower
them with 'the wisdom to manage the freedom'. Instead of just saying 'Yes'
to the children...because society says 'this is normal kid behaviour',
parents should be able to discuss responsibilities which come with the
Opportunities to engage in this type of discussion and
communication don't just happen -– they come with time spent building special
relationships within families...but we don't have the time.
We empower young people with responsibilities their young
shoulders can not carry -– and then wonder why they disappoint us (and
themselves). 'Lower the drinking age' we say 'and penalise the young
idiots (with longer jail sentences) to pay for the stupid things they do whilst
under the influence'. 'Let the kids decide whether they want to have sex
outside of marriage' we comment before 'Silly fools, how they neglect their
children?' We have empowered ourselves with freedom of speech, freedom to
choose what we will and won't do - and with whom, freedom to choose to have
families, freedom to leave the slavery of working for a boss -– and take on the
spirit of free enterprise...freedom! As Pierre Nolin of the Canadian Progressive
Conservative party said with reference to drug use "In a free society like
ours, it's up to the individual to choose whether to consume cannabis or not".
That's true -– but our society is complaining on the other hand that our
young people are going off the rails! With each freedom - there is
responsibility, and there appears to be a major disconnect when we express
rights with no regard for responsibility or trustworthiness.
Every time I witness the en vogue comments made by the clever
people of our Western cultures, often sneering at the values of yesteryear
(values based in the wisdom of God) I wonder at our strength of intellect.
Orwell said "There are some ideas that are so preposterous that only an
intellectual would believe them" -– the notion that we can create healthy
societies without doing the ground work at home is one such idea.
As to whether men and women (and society) have become worse
than ever before -– don't get too excited. We haven't become worse -– we're
exactly the same as any other generation who have chosen to ignore Gods wisdom
and live according to our own.
Gambling with lives
An article in The Dominion Post, 16 August 2002 failed
to increase my confidence in the professional management of some of our criminal
minds. "Psychiatrists' advice likened to coin toss -–
Psychiatrists were no more accurate in predicting the future danger of violent
and sex offenders than tossing a coin would be, a lawyer has told the Court of
Psychiatrists, and more recently psychologists, are asked to
help judges considering imposing sentences of preventive detention. The court
has to look at the likelihood of re-offending before imposing the open-ended
In Wellington yesterday, lawyer Tony Ellis said lawyers and
judges were not taking seriously enough the sentencing process where preventive
detention was an option...
Mr Ellis said studies had shown psychiatrists were no more
accurate in predicting a person's future conduct than tossing a coin would be..."
What can I say? Sounds a little like the blind leading the
Youth Issues -– blame the 'gene'
In my work within the Corrections Department in NZ, dealing
with both inmates and staff, I spend time with many young offenders and observe
their plight with great interest. Whilst I do not espouse to understand the full
picture (the only people I know who boldly speak out as if they 'have the
solutions to these social issues' have normally never worked with troubled
people -– having possibly popped into a prison once or twice with a Church
youth group, sung a couple of songs of conviction and then quickly retreated to
speak of their experiences somewhere), I do know that human nature is a constant
meaning, given the right conditions and circumstances, every human has the
capacity to be evil.
As with pretty well every other problem area in
society -– some scientists are doing their best to pin accountability to 'a
rouge gene', an enzyme which increases the vulnerability of an individual to
end up committing crime. So nowadays if you are overweight, or an alcoholic,
or a homosexual or a criminal -– you can blame 'the gene' - It's
not your fault!
In New Zealand we are experiencing major problems within the
youth sector. The Sunday Star Times printed a headline I agree with on the
14/07/2002 "VIOLENT TEENAGE CRIMINALS A PRODUCT OF CARELESS MODERN SOCIETY -–
Don't blame it on video games and rap music -–
psychologists say there is no single reason for rising teenage crime...
'More and more kids are getting involved in serious crime,'
said Auckland clinical psychologist, Nigel Latta. He said their worlds are more
sophisticated and behaviour is based on a combination of things...
'I think it's failure at a societal level to provide
enough stuff to give kids hope. It's also a failure at the level of the family
-– people who let their kids run wild and who don't know where their kids
are. They must take some responsibility for ensuring their kids get some
education and learn to be moral people.' And he said, 'it's a fault at the
individual level of the individual kid -– because people know when they are
doing bad things'.
He said it was too easy to blame violent behaviour on video
games, song lyrics and the internet. "I'm not sure I buy into that one. They
said Elvis Presley encouraged young people to worship the devil because of the
way he moved his hips'...
Sue Mafi, child Psychologist said a mix of factors could
contribute to violent offending by children, including exposure to violence
(real or simulated), loss of self worth and respect, lack of attention, lack of
guidance and rules, trauma and feelings of discrimination and injustice. 'Often
when we react in ways that are disproportional its because its raised a ghost of
something that's happened earlier on that we've still got some strong
"One of the things that frequently astounds me as a
psychiatrist is how long a kid has been in difficulties and no-one has done a
thing about it, emeritus professor John Werry said.
Kids, who get into serious trouble fall into three
categories, he said. There were those who had been in trouble since pre-school
and who had a long history of aggression and poor adjustment. This group
represented 5% of adolescents in trouble, but committed 50% of the crime.
The second group consisted of previously trouble-free kids
who hit adolescence and wanted to grow up too fast, Werry said. This group
caused parents a lot of heartache but mostly grew out of it and the main action
required was 'a slap over the wrist and a tightening of controls'.
The third group was the 'odd and eccentric loners'. The
boys responsible for the Columbine High School shootings in the United States
fell into this category, Werry said...these were teenagers who were rejected and
sometimes bullied by other kids. "Those kids who are a bit strange and often
obsessed with strange things." Werry also said society needed more charity -–
to be more willing to help those who needed it if tragedies were to be
Yes -– I would agree that society needs 'more charity'.
I Corinthians 13:13 "Now abides faith, hope and charity -– and the greatest
of these is charity". But we need to define the building blocks established by
charity: starting in the home.
Historically -– biblically, God has blessed children who
have learnt to respect and obey their parents. Our Western culture has not
continued in this path of understanding, nor sought to protect and nurture the
value of communication within families. We now see the fruit of deliberately
trying to escape from values based education -– our children are not living
long on the earth.
It all starts with communication -– learning to talk, and
exchange ideas and express honest feelings in a safe environment. In my view the
old saying 'The family that prays together, stays together" is not complete
in itself. The family that prays together, and works on communicating
together -– will stay together. First the natural -– and then the
Ephesians 6:1-3 paints a beautiful picture of 'order' as
God desires: "Children obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honour thy father and mother which is the first commandment with promise; That
it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And ye
fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture
and admonition of the Lord".