Saturday, June 23, 2012

Queen Street Boozing and the Book of Romans

All the news reports are saying that Queen Street is chaos in the early hours of the morning, particularly Saturday and Sunday. Young people are everywhere; drunk, drugged, fighting, being lewd, vomiting, urinating and worse. Things are more than a little out of control. The trouble is amplified by a kind of mob mentality. The other night, TV 3 also ran a program on 13 year old prostitutes in South Auckland. Clearly, Auckland is a city whose young people are increasingly unrestrained and something must be done.

It is interesting to ponder this from the point of view of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In my view, Romans helps explains the problem and proposes a solution.
First, Romans explains why this sort of thing is happening. Romans 1:18-32 speaks of the problem of idolatry, sin and debauchery of the Gentile world which Paul observes across the Roman world. The essential problem is not drunkenness, but idolatry—rejection of the one true God. This seems to be NZ’s essential problem too. Paul states that the world should know that there is a God from observation and experience of creation and should worship God and live well; but rather, the world chooses to worship the created rather than the creator. They prefer sin to God. As such, Paul says four times that ‘God gave them over’ to further sin. That is, sin begets sin. As people reject God, the relationship with God is severed and humanity falls deeper and deeper into depravity. God’s restraint comes off the idolaters as they slip out of relationship with him, and a wide range of sins increase, including the sorts of things we increasingly see among NZ’s youth—sexual immorality, drunkenness, debauchery and violence as listed in Romans 1:24-32. What we are seeing then is yet another playing out of Romans 1. As New Zealanders reject God, there is an expansion and acceleration of sin as ‘God gives them over,’ and it is getting worse. They are without restraint and egg each other on. This is the pattern we are watching played out on NZ TV.

So what’s the solution? Romans proposes at least four solutions.
First, there is the gospel and its proclamation, which is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. It is when people hear the message of the gospel and yield to Jesus that the pattern of ‘God gave them over’ is broken as God ‘saves them.’ They are then ‘in Christ,’ the Spirit enters their life, and the power of sin is broken over them, and they are empowered to break free sin’s grip and are transformed. They leave behind their lives enslaved to such sin, and are set free. This happened to me when I was 24, for which I remain truly thankful quarter of a century later. The Christian imperative is to go and share the gospel among the lost youth of NZ calling them to turn from these lives of sin which end in destruction and death, to receive Christ’s Spirit, and find the power to live a new life. This has been done before by organisations like the Salvation Army, and so the church must ‘go’ to these contexts and share Christ. This is not standing on street corners yelling at them, this is incarnating among them, befriend them, and loving them into the Kingdom. This is people giving up their early mornings to go among them to be Christ to them meeting them in their need—a radical and challenging ministry. Who will go?

Secondly, there is the church. In Romans 12, Paul speaks of Christians modelling a different way of living, in communities which attract through the power of love, goodness—churches that reflect the gospel. We need strong youth leadership and youth groups in which these lost souls can find God’s way of living, form meaningful relationships, find healing, and realise how much fun they can have without living like this. There is nothing more important than strong children’s and youth ministries. These must not be isolated from the church in youth enclaves, but integrated with the older and wiser, who can mentor the young. Authentic communities are needed for these young people.
Thirdly, there is the government. In Romans 13, Paul speaks of the role of the state. When society itself is failing and the gospel is not penetrating, it is the government who steps up as God’s ministers to intervene for societies good. With the forces of chaos taking control, now is the time for local government, the police, etc, to intervene firmly. While they must act compassionately, they need to act strongly to break this up. I am not sure the specific answers, but it would seem a strong police presence enforcing bans on public drinking, breaking up the mobs and coming down on this behaviour is timely. I really encourage Len Brown and his team to be bold and strong. It is time for ‘tough love’ to break up what is going on. And as said above, Christians need to be in amongst them, showing Christ, leading in 12-step programs, inviting people to Christ and community to find what real life really looks like.

The final solution is always prayer—we need to be interceding for our city, for the police, for the youth involved, and especially for churches in the vicinity of the central city. We are praying for a revival of the gospel and churches that gives spiritual homes for these lost young people. Each person involved is either the result of a tragic story like a broken home, or they have been swept up in this seduced by its seeming joy. When the centre of our city is being over-run in this way, it is time to cry out to God for his redemption (Rom 12:13).


Lisa Humphrey said...

Sorry Mark but this way of thinking is complete bullocks! Young rowdy people have been a factor throughout the ages... Since the beginning of time. To covert over the fact that this life stage is sin or depravity or Godlessness is ignorant. What you're really proposing is what.... Young people jump a developmental stage you have an Adult Mind ?Do you suggest and stay home and watch TV with a bag of chips and a bottle of fizzy? In 10 years time these young people may be respectable citizens with a few life experiences under their belt. And as far as Prayer as a solution ... Well that's just passing the buck with ones hands tied back. Wet blanket Paul was obviously socially inept. Teenage discourse is not sin it's a life stage . It would be interesting to know the people who use the 13 year old prostitutes... Usually 'grown up men'? Probably a few Christian men and maybe the odd policeman. Supply in demand.

Gene Lawrence said...

If I understand history correctly 'teenage' is a modern term made up by politically correct do-gooders to enable young people to 'be themselves' obviously something society still isn't happy with. In Jewish terms children became adults around 13 years of age and were then trained to be responsible adults through integration into the adult world. Church should be an example of this to the world. Keep up the wise words Mark. '.

Anonymous said...

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... " (Hesiod, 8th century BC, commonly attributed to Socrates).

"What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?" Plato.

"The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress." -- Peter the Hermit, 1274.

Haha, I love Plato's one, it's evokes today's Occupy movement, rioting in the streets, inflamed with wild notions...

So. The term "teenager" may be recent, the phenomenon it describes is not.

Those who want to judge others on this issue would themselves be much more aggressive, much more prone to taking risks if they had a daily shot of testosterone equivalent to what our teens have to cope with every day of this difficult life stage.

Studies show that the brain goes through an extensive ":rewiring" process during adolescence. This changes the ability of teens to e.g read other people's emotions. They are literally less sensitive to others than they were before puberty. Again, this has nothing to do with which god they do or do not think exists, or even if they are willfully choosing to act like this. It has everything to do with that organ of ours that causes us to behave as we do.

The facts of history clearly show older people have often thought the youth in their day are particularly unruly. Does anyone disagree with that?

We know that elevated levels of some hormones make us more agressive, more likely to indulge in risky behaviour, AND we know that teens have elevated levels of these hormones. Does anyone disagree?

We know that pubescents are less sensitive to other people, not because they are "evil" or "wicked", but because their brains are undergoing a process of change, a process they cannot prevent (and given it's part of their development, a process they should not try to prevent, even if they could).

These realities (and many others) explain why teens are so aggressive, reckless, noisy, oblivious to consequence, etc.

Or, you can ignore all these, and insist it is because they don't believe in your god that no one can see or hear or detect in any way. Think about it. Which is more reasonable?

Anonymous said...

That first anonymous comment was by Simon Humphrey, who couldn't be bothered signing in... as this one is, obviously.

Mark Keown said...

Of course it is bollocks to you Simon, you don't believe in God nor Paul nor the Scriptures. What you say reinforces the truth; after all, Paul was observing normal human life, and it spans the world from well before Paul to the present. We Christians are tied up in too, guilty as charged. The thing is, what I sense Paul believing is that when sin abounds, the gulf between God and humanity grows--things escalate. God is not one who imposes relationship and his ethic on humanity by force. He woos humanity and wants relationship. When humanity plunges deeper and deeper into depravity, the gap grows, the situations worsens. His restraint comes off, and things escalate. I see this playing out around me, I suspect you don't. Time will tell :)

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