Tuesday, 20 March 2007

19 March 2007 - When should Christians get political?


Monday, March 19, 2007
When should Christians get political?
On one hand, Christianity is not party political. It is not beholden to the Right or to the Left of politics. The Lordship of Jesus over all cannot be summarised by a political approach. It is too big for that – and perhaps there is more than one way to conduct a society that reflects the values of the Kingdom of God.

On the other, because Jesus is Lord of all, Christians must be political in the broader sense (for a helpful article by John Dickson on this click here). We must love our neighbour in society – by engaging in the dialogue politics is – on the nature of ‘the good’ of society. What good are we seeking, and what means will best bring it?

Probably, the biggest caution to Christian involvement is that the church has an agenda far bigger than politics can encompass. It draws people from every nation, tribe and tongue and submits itself to the lordship of Christ. We will not agree on every approach to politics, and there is a danger of turning a platform of ‘All one in Christ Jesus’ into a platform of ‘All one in…’ (fill in the blank). We must give a broad margin of political freedom to Christian brothers and sisters.

However, each Christian must take responsibility to speak the truth in love – and not just in the context of church. After listening hard to our public debate, after carefully investigating the claims being made, we are all called to make judgements. To leave the field to others is to abdicate responsibility. We are not left that option.

Recently, the New Zealand parliament addressed itself to a bill that aims to remove the defence parents currently have against charges of assault for using force in disciplining their children. It provided a defence for parents who use some kind of minimum level of force to teach and to discipline their children. It was left up to juries to evaluate whether this was reasonable force or not. The defence was used successfully less than 10 times in its history.

So the proposal is to remove this defence. To say force is never legitimate discipline – on the grounds that all force is violence. And to demonstrate their commitment to this non-violent approach, they will empower the State to use force against parents who do so! Ironies abound….But the nightmare for parents who believe that in some cases some use of physical force is required to discipline their children – is that this will provide clear grounds for removal of children from their parents.

The proponents claim that this simply won’t happen. That Police will not act in this way. Unfortunately (a) the Police have not backed them up on this claim and (b) whether or not the power is used, the power is there in law ready to be used whenever community opinion shifts. Parents are expected to hope that Police will make judgement calls not to prosecute parents whilst we would expect as common sense would have no legal protection in law.

Peter Collier, assistant minister at St John’s Latimer Square in Christchurch has decided that this issue is too big to stay silent on. He has now spoken and written publicly against it. I think what he has to say is both compelling and disturbing – and would encourage others to read it and write to their politicians. In particular I’d encourage people to tell their politicians clearly that they will not vote for any party that supports this bill or that opposes the Burrows amendment (an attempt to distinguish between light smacking and abuse).

What are your thoughts?

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