How do we get change to restore a moral society?
I used to look to an election to bring in new waves of righteousness into our nation, if we could just elect the right people. I know that sounds silly; the very idea that somehow the Kingdom of God could be advanced through the election of responsible and godly politicians who would instigate laws that were just and righteous. To elect such people, voters would need to cast their prejudices aside and diligently research the issues and each candidate’s responses to the issues. As well as this, they would need to take due consideration as to the personal credibility, integrity and life experiences of each candidate. But more than that, the majority of voters would also have to have the Kingdom as their key priority and be earnestly praying to that end.
Fortunately, in God’s mercy to us, often good people do win. A lot of great people won seats at the last Queensland State election. I am discouraged thought that they now sit, warming seats in Brisbane. There is legislation that we need to see, like banning abortion on the basis of gender selection, or even just collecting accurate records of how many abortions are being performed and the reasoning behind each one. This type of legislation seems to be completely ignored, not even debated, and yet far more heavy-handed, unpopular legislation is pushed through without any hesitation or debate, removing the right of the State’s judges to be trusted to take the complete context of a crime into consideration and instead forcing their hand to sentence in a way that is plausibly unjust.
Now, this supposedly conservative party is testing through social media on whether they can get away with removing restrictions from smoking cannabis; anti-family, immoral legislation if ever there was any. Could it be, that if we want to see change in society, that we shouldn’t look just to a government, no matter how benevolent it may appear?
What is the answer? How do we facilitate cultural change if not through politicians and law makers? How do we bring about a legal system that is compassionate toward victims and seeks the rehabilitation and redemption of the perpetrators? Often a self-righteous society demands revenge, screaming for judges to throw away the key, but expensive, harsh, sentences where a man is confined to rot is rarely the answer. Creating a society where people are less likely to want to offend in the first place would seem to me to be far superior.
First and foremost, the answer lies with the family and childhood of offenders. As Barnaby Joyce MP recently said, “the family is the best law-and-order policy, the best aged-care policy, the best healthcare policy.” It would seem to be common sense, yet so few of us seem to see it. Why is the government often so reluctant to implement policies that help families become stronger and so keen to implement policies that weaken the family? Strong, successful families mean a strong, successful culture.
How can we radically remodel society so that the family is a stable unit where children are raised, taught self-discipline and become versed in the art of taking responsibility? How can we transform into a society where the unborn and the elderly are less vulnerable, where the disabled are cherished, and where raising children to the best of your ability isn’t some abstract, passing thought, but rather our mission and our destination? What would it take for us to see our nation’s customs reflect Biblical mandates? How can we advance the Kingdom?
Historically, if we look at great but difficult moral change in western society, we can see that William Wilberforce used his involvement in politics to promote change. Initially though, the issues of slavery seemed absent from his radar. If it weren’t for the lobbying work of Hannah More, Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp and Charles Middleton, Willberforce may have never entered into the twenty-six year political battle that eventually saw its abolition.
Here is our first strategy for change – having an articulate, patient and moral politician is crucial in bringing positive, legislative change and just as important is to have honourable people who are prepared to band together and present truth to strategic, influential people.
Secondly, I’d look at the change brought about under the leadership of men such as Martin Luther King Jnr. He led mass demonstrations of peaceful protest against an unjust system that was characterised by a condescending hatred of those who were different to you and the corresponding oppression of a vulnerable subsection of society. This was fraught with danger as the hatred that resistance against the tyranny stirred became murderous.
What was effective here were the large numbers of people presenting the truth – too many to be ignored. The crowds weren’t hateful or violent but they were big. As they stood united and worked through one decided course of action together, it moved a nation.
A large issue with this, is the way the media selects which images you see, thus skewing the perception from the truth. Thus, for example, one might see a pro-life demonstration with thousands of people, but the twenty or so anti-life demonstrators are the ones who manage to get the attention and sympathy of the media.
In my home town of Rockhampton, a pro-gay marriage demonstration gathered less than 100 people but a pro-life demonstration a couple of months later gathered well over 300 people. The print media’s amount of coverage was similar for both, however the television media reported on the first but completely ignored the second. There are plenty of factors at work here. One may have occurred on a slow news day and the other may not, but there seems to be an observable trend of the television news presenting a biased ideology, particularly as you move more towards the capital cities. Nowhere is this evidenced more than with the ABC. The problem is that the viewing audience accepts what they are presented as the complete story. Nevertheless, presenting a strong crowd, whether it be by petition or by demonstration, is definitely an effective strategy in bringing societal change. The proviso is that the imagery and narrative of the popular media needs to support the cause.
If we were to look at other contemporary examples of change, potentially what we’ve learned from the issue of smoking has something to offer. The recreational use of tobacco is known to be a health risk, and as such, the government made the decision that there must be change. They used a multi-pronged approach to change a culture where smoking was cool and common to an activity rendering the participant being likened to a leper. Firstly, an information media campaign based on negative emotions and fear was run at the same time as it became illegal for tobacco companies to advertise. Concurrently, laws were designed that resulted in smokers being alienated. Finally, revenues were raised as taxes were increased on the items so that increasingly, they became prohibitively expensive.
This approach is one of controlling a message while placing the vice out of reach as much as possible. Some may believe that it was partly motivated by the government’s financial gain on the matter both through taxes and lower medical outlays. Making smoking illegal would never have stopped the act, but rather have created a whole new breed of criminal. Reporting of the results has been mixed, depending who commissioned the study but it would seem overall, that legislation against an activity has born little effect on the practice of that ‘evil’, but plain packaging with the removal of all art work other than disturbing and powerful images of the damage that may be caused, has had a dramatic effect.
Another modern day example where legislation is practically ineffective is that of abortion where in Korea some of the world’s strongest anti-abortion legislation exists alongside some of the world’s highest abortion rates. This seems to be changing there as societal values change because of the consequences of such a low birth rate. Here in Queensland, it is illegal to have an abortion, and yet a blind eye is turned in my home town, to the large primary school-sized crowd of unborn babies that are killed every year. It would seem that legislation doesn’t always create a strong impact over culture.
So how do we bring about a change of mind within society? I hadn’t really looked into the issue of global warming and just accepted pretty much what the Rudd government and the media was telling me. I went along with the culture of needing to make big changes because of a fear for the future. Since the 80s, I had been doing what I could to fix the hole in the ozone layer, save the trees, keep development to a minimum, all the while longing for the governments to pass legislation to save us from ourselves. What was worse, during my teaching career, I had been unquestioningly teaching the children in my classes the same thing. I knew what I was doing was right because it was exactly what I had been taught at University and it was confirmed by many emotive television programs, documentaries, news reports, pieces of theatre, nature magazines and even popular songs. Who could forget the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, where huge graphs, carefully manipulated realistic computer animation, proved without question what the truth was.
In 2008, my father sent me a power point presentation that presented what it claimed were the facts to global warming. Everything was set out colourfully and graphically, with allegorical stories and easy to interpret bar graphs and satirical cartoons. I was shocked that it countered everything I had assumed to be truth so I started researching. It didn’t take long before I realised what a scam ‘global warming’ was. Of course climate changes in cycles over time, influence mostly by solar activity, but the reliable statistical evidence of future catastrophic warming caused by man certainly wasn’t there and around about that time, the warming trends ceased.
Reflecting on what convinced me to act like a totalitarian eco-fascist, and then what it was that changed my mind and actions, in both cases I would say it was the Arts. The Arts have a much stronger influence on our society’s culture than I dare say many would realise. When you stop and consider though, that the Arts includes everything from an infant class drama lesson to a theatre experience in the Opera House, from a wide screen 3D surround sound cinema experience to a 7 second YouTube clip on Facebook, from a WWF sponsored high school poster design competition to a political cartoon in the Australian. I dare say, that the predominant group to control these Arts experiences will be the group to most powerfully steer the direction of a society. Other examples of the Arts that can be used could include, but not be limited to, bumper stickers, billboards, photography, novels and short stories, paintings, dance, mime, illusion, stand-up comedy, sculpture, church banners, puppetry, clowning, chalk and talk (Lynton Allen style), story-telling, story-telling using Aboriginal iconographs, shadow theatre, light and sound shows, popular music, brochures, computer games, websites, phone apps, street theatre…
In summary, if we are to bring societal change, I would suggest the most powerful strategies available would not include government legislation. I would argue that laws that the parliament passes are a reflection of change that has already occurred within societal priorities, values, norms and mores. Potentially far more effective strategies would include, in order but also overlapping:
- Strong and moral families;
- Immersing a society in quality, integrity and truth based Arts experiences;
- Gathering large crowds of peaceful supporters;
And while this is being achieved:
4. Strategic lobbying and supporting of patient and determined, moral politicians;
The thing to bear in mind, is that it won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen without harsh resistance, but, where these four strategies can be concurrently and continually built into a nation, the nation will change and the Kingdom will advance.
The question is: Will you be involved in exercising the gifts you have been given in one of those four areas, to fight this culture war?
Ever changing: Thy Kingdom come.
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