Christianity foundational to the Treaty

On this Waitangi Day in the 200th year since Te Harinui was first proclaimed in these islands, let us remember that the Treaty would never have been signed without the influence of Christianity. Read the Otago Daily Times, Foundations of Treaty rooted in Christianity : Ewen McQueen

Ewen McQueen
6th February 2014

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Rev Samuel Marsden – Till time shall be no more

Marsden Cross at Rangihoua

Marsden Cross at Rangihoua

200 years is a momentous milestone in a nation as young as New Zealand. But that is the milestone we celebrate this year of 2014.

It is two centuries since the Rev Samuel Marsden came ashore at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands and held the first Christian service in this land. It was an auspicious day – indeed it was Christmas Day, 1814.

Nga Puhi chief Ruatara had gathered his people on the grass above the beach and it being Christmas Marsden preached from the gospel of Luke 2:10 – “Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy – te harinui”.

Marsden later wrote in his journal:

“In this manner the Gospel has been introduced to New Zealand, and I fervently pray that the glory of it may never depart from its inhabitants, till time shall be no more.”

Christianity went on to have a huge impact in early New Zealand. An impact that reverberates to this day. The Treaty we celebrate next week would never have happened without the influence of Te Rongopai – the Good News. However that is a story for another day. Indeed there will be many such stories to remember and reflect on this year. And we need to remember, for the seeds of our future lie in our past.

For now let us start the year by joining with Marsden and praying for the glory of the Gospel to shine ever brighter across our nation. For there is unfinished business in the land…

Ewen McQueen
January 2014

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30 Years On

30 years ago today my status changed – utterly. On the 7th of November 1983 I knelt beside my bed, prayed, and surrendered my life to the love of Jesus Christ.  That day everything changed. Today it remains changed. Existential rest and peace rose up in my soul, and it has never left.

Within 48 hours of that decision, He had shown me how real He was. It was a night when I spoke to my fellow school students at Takapuna Grammar. I spoke of our land and the song we sing together – God of nations at thy feet, in the bonds of love we meet.  I encouraged them to unwrap the true Gift of the coming Christmas. The sound system failed in the school hall that night. Yet we all heard His Spirit calling us loud and clear. It was a special night, and I am not the only one who hasn’t forgotten it. But that was just the beginning….

Since then there have been many special nights. And many difficult ones too. Some long and fearful. But He has never failed me. His faithfulness is treasure. I love Him still. He has blessed me beyond measure – the most loving and faithful wife, four boys of whom I could not be prouder, family and friends whom I am privileged to know and have in my life.

As the years go on I see more clearly the bright mountain of His coming kingdom looming over all our present shadowy realities. And as Christmas draws near again, I hear even louder the songs we shall sing together,

  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;                                                                          and the government will be on his shoulder,and his name will be called             “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”                        Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,                             upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom,                                                                    to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness                                 from this time forth and for evermore.

Ewen McQueen                                                                                                                                7th November 2013

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Ngai Tahu youth better savers

WhaiRawaNgai Tahu young people are more likely to be savers with better financial literacy than other young New Zealanders. This according to a study undertaken by the Financial Education and Research Centre reported in the Herald today.

The study attributed the its findings largely to the Whai Rawa savings scheme – one of the initiatives set up by Ngai Tahu with the proceeds of their Treaty settlement. Under the scheme young people are encouraged to save with the tribe matching their contributions. The funds can be used for education, home ownership or retirement. As the Whai Rawa website says:

Whai Rawa is all about creating a better future for Ngāi Tahu whānau through greater wealth and wellbeing.  Improving participation in tertiary education and levels of home ownership, along with having sufficient funds for retirement, are keys to growing wealth and wellbeing. (www.whairawa.com)

Whai Rawa (Pathway to Prosperity) is another answer to those prone to skepticism about the Treaty settlement process. Its a visionary scheme with a long term horizon. And the research shows it is already bearing fruit.

Ewen McQueen                                                                                                                         October 2013

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More than gold

Gold SovereignIn 1837 at Paihia in the Bay of Islands the first Maori New Testament was printed – Te Kawenata Hou. Shortly thereafter a messenger arrived at Paihia from Te Rarawa chief Nopera Panakareao. He had journeyed several days across country with a letter requesting a single copy of the New Testament – and a one pound gold sovereign to pay for it. The printer William Colenso noted it was the first gold coin he had ever seen in the land. Such was the hunger among the New Zealanders for the Christian scriptures.

As Keith Newman notes in his excellent book “Bible & Treaty”, within months of its first print run of 5,000 copies the Maori New Testament had quickly become a treasured taonga across New Zealand. Emissaries were sent from all across the land to Paihia requesting copies and wherever missionaries visited they were pressed for Te Kawenata Hou.

One those missionaries Rev William Williams tells the account of a Captain Symonds (RN) travelling in the central North Island. He and his party sought permission from the local chief to climb Mt Tongariro – it was denied. The chief remarked “They offered us gold, …had they brought us some Testaments we would have consented to their going up the mountain.” However the chief told them that if they returned in the summer with New Testaments the tapu would be lifted and they could climb the mountain (“Christianity Among the New Zealanders” 1867, page 286).

The amazing thirst for the Bible among Maori is something generally overlooked by modern historians. Instead they prefer to trivialise the work of the missionaries and marginalise the huge influence for good that Christianity had in early New Zealand. In one generation a nation had been transformed from a land of violence, vengeance and cannibalism, to a land where chiefs were willing to pay gold for Te Rongopai – the good news that brought peace.

The events of the 1830s in New Zealand show that radical societal change for the better is possible in our land. It has happened before and it can happen again. But it will take leaders like Nopera Panakareao, the Tongariro chief, and those who carried the true Taonga across the oceans to these islands at the uttermost ends of the earth.

Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold…   Psalm 119:27

Ewen McQueen                                                                                                                                     October 2013

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An Action Plan to Affirm Marriage

WeddingFor those who read my last blog and said – yes but what can the Government do ? Here is a 10-point Action Plan to Affirm Marriage. By implementing a Plan such as this, our political leaders could begin the process of rebuilding a culture that honours our most important social institution.

1) Pass an Affirming Marriage Act. Such legislation would provide the legal basis for public policy initiatives to affirm marriage. It would also provide a clear and explicit commitment from government to recognising the value of marriage as a foundational social institution

2) Implement a national campaign to raise awareness of and promote the benefits of marriage for family life and society as a whole. The campaign would take the wealth of information already available and present it to the community in a non-judgmental and positive way.

3) Establish tax advantages such as income-splitting for married couples, to recognise importance of marriage and the contribution it makes to the economic and social good.

4) Abolish the marriage licence fee.

5) Implement a specific public sector policy target to increase the rate of marriage among young New Zealand couples aged 20 to 30 by 5%pa for the next ten years. The current Government already has targets in areas such as health, education and justice. These  have proved successful in encouraging focussed and effective action.

6) Ensure sexuality education that provides information on the importance and benefits of marriage. Our young people need all the facts so they can make informed choices. Current material used by the Family Planning Association does not deal with marriage in any substantive way.

7 ) Include the importance of marriage as a social institution as a dedicated study area in secondary schools social studies curricula.

8) Set criteria for NZ on Air funding to ensure programmes being resourced are not normalising the values and attitudes which undermine marriage. At the same time amend the Broadcasting Act to give a clear direction that respect for the institution of marriage should be a factor in setting broadcasting standards.

9) Reinstate the terms husband and wife on official forms and documents, to make marriage visible again and emphasize its social significance.

10) Provide additional legal privileges to married couples to re-establish the unique legal status of marriage. Our legal system should not treat marriage with the indifference of being just another form of relationship.

The aim of a Plan such as that outlined here is to achieve cultural change over a period of time. No single initiative will do this. It will take a range of policy actions in multiple areas all aimed at sending the same marriage-affirming message. Over time we can rebuild a marriage-honouring and family-friendly culture. A culture that the evidence shows will lead to far more New Zealand children being raised in loving and secure environments, rather than being at-risk and vulnerable.

No doubt there are many other policy initiatives that could be also implemented. All it  will take is some focused and creative thinking, and the political will. There is plenty that can be done – if we really want to.

Ewen McQueen                                                                                                                           September 2013

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Vulnerable Children Bill – Legislating Failure

The Vulnerable Children Bill was introduced into Parliament last week. It will fail.               It will fail because it does not address the key question raised in its opening paragraph. That paragraph states,

“The Bill forms part of a series of measures to protect and improve the well-being of vulnerable children – children who are at significant risk of harm to their well-being now and into the future as a consequence of the environment in which they are being raised.” (Vulnerable Children Bill – Explanatory Statement)

Why are so many New Zealand children now being raised in at-risk environments ? The Vulnerable Children Bill, like the Green and White Papers which preceded it, simply ignores this question.

At the National Party conference in Nelson last month, the Prime Minister introduced his keynote address to the delegates with a short video interview. In it he stated that above all else, family life was the foundation to the success of a nation. Who would disagree? He then repeated the now common refrain that families come in many forms and it doesn’t really matter, as long as there is love in the home. Many delegates nodded sagely at his warm words. However that is all they are – warm words with little basis in reality.

The social science evidence is very clear that family form is highly influential in determining outcomes for our children. Even our own Ministry of Social Development (hardly a bastion of social conservatism) has acknowledged that research shows children in single parent and cohabiting households “do not fare as well as children in married-parent households.” (Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, Ministry of Social Development, 2003, page 43).

On the issue of child abuse the evidence is particularly stark. Children in “revolving-door” families where mum’s latest boyfriends come and go, are 50 to 77 times more likely die from abuse (refer Strong Families Thriving Children, Submission on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, 2012, page 5 ).

Of course there will always be exceptions – single parent families which flourish (like the one John Key grew up in) or married households that are abusive and dysfunctional. However public policy is not built on exceptions. It should be evidence based and built on what is generally true in the aggregate. That evidence is clear for all with the intellectual honesty and political courage to see it – family structure does matter. More specifically, married two parent families offer by far the safest environment for raising children.

The policy response to this should not be a Bill mandating state sector agencies to formulate more policies, procedures and frameworks. It should be an Action Plan to affirm marriage.

What might such a Plan look like ? Read my next post.

Ewen McQueen
September 2013

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