Friday, May 4, 2007

Smacking, Unity and Witness

I have to say I was really sad when I saw the news yesterday as the smacking debate came to a head.

What grieved me was not the result as much as the disunity of the Christian Church before the world.

On the one hand you had Brian Tamaki and others from Destiny and others protesting outside Parliament buildings. They are totally convinced that smacking is God's will and that the Government must not intervene in family life. So convinced are they, that they are prepared to travel from all over the country to protest against the bill.

On the other hand there was another group of others who too name themselves Christian in a church declaring their support for the bill equally convinced that the bill is good for NZ, that smacking must be outlawed.

As I have said in an earlier blog, I think that smacking should not be outlawed as gentle to firm smacking that does no more than correct the child in a loving environment as a last resort is permissible. However, I respect Sue Bradford and others and can see their logic. They do not want to allow anyone a defence for violence against children.

My beef is not with either side but with the impact of the two approaches on our witness.

The media has a field day in such situations. They are found at both, reporting Tamaki, taking sound bites and rejoicing in the opportunity. Similarly, they delight in presenting to the world Christians in a church presenting the opposite view; demonstrating to all the world our inability to agree and even parade ministers who present the opposite view.

Now, I fully endorse that both groups feel led to make a public stand in this way; the right to protest is a wonderful freedom in our society. What I wonder is whether either party have considered the impact their disunity has.

With the penchant of the media to make a meal of them both and highlight their disunity, it makes us simply look stupid! What would an unbeliever think watching Christians lining up on both sides of the debate.

To me it is a tragedy. Jesus saw our unity as essential to our mission (Jn 17) and until we rediscover the ability to come together as God's people and come to resolutions on these issues and not air our disagreements in the public domain, our witness will be blunted.

Personally, I believe we need to take great care in going public on these and other issues. We need to realise that there is a greater good than winning points with public demonstrations. We need to find ways of expressing our views while endorsing our unity. We need to work harder to find the points of agreement and together helping find a third way ahead.

In this case both sides of the debate as I understand it agree that violence against children is terrible and steps need to be taken to stop it. Whatever we do we need to stand in unity! Until we do, in a world with a media that swoops on any disunity and makes it public, we will make little progress in re-evangelising the west!

On the outcome; I am not sure who won. Was it Labour who wriggled out of a hole aided by National? Was it National who initiated a solution and resolved the problem. I am not sure on a political level. Then there is the question of whether we who believe that a loving gentle-firm smack is integral to good parenting as a last resort should keep protesting. Some think so. I say, let it lie and get on with life standing in unity with love, grace and humility so that the world may see that Jesus does make a difference and is worth following.


Tim said...

Mark, I'm not sure I (quite) agree with you on this. I'll agree that aggressive and confrontational disagreement damages our witness, but on an issue as controversial and confused as this one I suspect that being seen NOT to endorse one simple party-line is good for our "image". Christians are too often, and too easily, portrayed as simple minded authoritarian... at least honest and open disagreement on issues like this helps avert that stereotype!

Dr Mark K said...

I hear you. I made no comment on the mode of protest. What I am concerned about is the impact in a modern age of confusion which Christian disagreements in public cause for unbelievers. I once had a conversation with a guy who said he would never be a Christian because Christians cannot agree on what they believe. I am not for any authoritarian imposition of belief but that we think very very carefully about our public image in our political and social involvement. I am appealing for us to place the big picture of our mission in the forefront of involvement in the wider world. I am all for Christians getting together to work out stuff and would never want us to feel we can not agree. But it is how and where we choose to air such things that interests me.