Marriage – evidence that demands support

Public policy should be evidence based. The evidence backs marriage. As an institution it produces significantly better outcomes than other relationship forms. This is so across the board including lower rates of child abuse and neglect, less domestic violence, and increased family stability and financial progress. In spite of this our policymakers and political leaders continue to ignore it.

This week Family First released another report with further evidence of how the decline in marriage rates has been a major contributor to child poverty in New Zealand (Child Poverty and Family Structure). Not a single political leader has bothered to address it. Instead the Prime Minister today was supporting making the grounds of Parliament smoke-free along with the rest of Wellington. This is where leadership and direction for the nation comes from he said.

The media to their credit have noted the report, even if with ridiculously caricatured headlines such as – “Poor – its your fault for being unmarried”. It is little wonder their stories have engendered equally shallow responses in their opinion pages. There are the inevitable pieces from individuals in non-married households denying there is any problem. They report happy and prosperous family life. This is great news for them. However it is akin to someone living in a 1990s monolithic plaster home reporting that their house is fine so therefore the leaky homes problem doesn’t exist.

The point is that public policy needs to be evidence based. And it is not what happens in the lives of any particular individuals that counts as evidence – it is what happens across the whole population that matters. It is the outcomes achieved in the aggregate that should draw the attention of our policymakers.

Family First have once again put the evidence out there for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. It is not new. The evidence has been around a long time. I recall publishing an article nearly twenty years ago in the NZ Herald on exactly the same topic – Poverty – it’s not a lack of jobs, it’s a lack of fathers.

One day as a nation we will come to our senses and honestly face the evidence. For the sake of our children I hope and pray it is soon. Twenty years is another generation gone.

Ewen McQueen
May 2016

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Economic Transformation, Honouring Marriage, Protecting Children | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where was Moko’s dad?

The court has reached its verdict. The marchers have gone home. The politicians and media have done their usual hypocritical hand-wringing. But the question remains – where was Moko’s dad?

A father is supposed to be there to protect his children. A father is supposed to be there to help their mother look after the family. A father is supposed to provide for and love his family.

So where was Moko’s dad? We have no idea. We have no idea because the question was never asked. It never is. In all the national breast-beating that happens whenever such a tragedy occurs, the real issue is never addressed. Why are so many New Zealand children left without the care of a natural father? Why have we allowed a relationship culture to become embedded which accepts as normal the regular dropping in and out of relationships and frequent changing of partners? How is this supposed to build strong and loving families?

These are the questions which should be asked. But instead the focus is always on the failure of social agencies, the need for more education or awareness campaigns, tougher sentences or more money to be spent coordinating ever more welfare programmes. No-one ever wants to face the real issue.

The politicians don’t because they know it will be an uncomfortable conversation with the electorate. It may lose them votes. Many would also have to revisit their ideological commitment to socially liberal policies that have undermined marriage and family life. They would have to admit that their rejection of traditional Christian morality around family life has not led to a celebration of diversity. It has led to dead children.

The media don’t want to face the real issue because as soon as their current affairs journalists finish shedding tears about the latest tragedy, it is back to business as usual. And business as usual means more trash programming that normalises and promotes the very values that are rotting our family life. If it is not some reality show with contestants hopping in and out of bed with each other, it is a soap fueled by a focus on continual relationship churn or a “comedy” pushing the lie that the new liberal morality is all fun and laughter.

Sadly the reality for our children is very different. Until we are willing to face that, all the national soul searching will produce nothing but more hypocrisy.

Ewen McQueen
May 2016

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Honouring Marriage, Protecting Children, Respect for Life | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Land Wars Day risks locking in grievance focus

In a healthy relationship you celebrate your successes – you don’t memorialize your conflicts. That is why a national day to commemorate lives lost in the land wars in New Zealand is not a good idea. There is a real risk that it will not build unity (kotahitanga). Rather it may simply reserve a space in our national calendar around which grievance will coalesce and contention will fester. On both sides.

In a healthy relationship you do your best to face your failures and conflicts. Difficult conversations are had. Apologies are offered. Actions are taken to put things right. Forgiveness is offered. Reconciliation is achieved and whilst lessons are learned, both parties put things behind them and move forward to better things.

This is the dynamic of a healthy relationship. In New Zealand we are building a strong relationship between Maori and Pakeha based on this dynamic. It is called the Treaty settlements process. The process is not perfect and has still to be completed. However it is a journey that has been undertaken in good faith and engaged in honourably by both sides. A Land Wars Day threatens to divert that journey by freezing our focus on conflicts that need to be put behind us.

Yes we need to know our history and yes our children need to be taught about our past conflicts. However those lessons are for the history books and the classroom. They are not for a national day of commemoration. Besides, we already have such a day. It marks those times when we stood together against a common enemy. The times when we united to fight facism and injustice. That is something worth remembering together. Our battles against each other are not. They are something we need to deal with, put right, and put behind us.

It was Otorohanga College students whose petition seeking a Land Wars Day is now being considered by the Maori Affairs Select Committee (make a submission here). Their efforts should be applauded. Their interest in our history and engagement in our political process is absolutely commendable. However to build kotahitanga in New Zealand, a more fruitful focus might be how to make Waitangi Day more truly the celebration that it should be. That is when we started our journey together. It is worth remembering.

Ewen McQueen
April 2016

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Spiritual Renewal, Treaty of Waitangi | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Such a garment as that !

Full moonIt was the week before Easter. William Fairburn was returning home at night to the Paihia mission station accompanied by a young Maori man. As their boat glided over the darkened waters of the Bay of Islands the young man pointed in wonder at the beautiful full moon rising. He acknowledged the Great God who had made it and declared “You cannot give such a garment as that!” Fairburn assured him that all who trusted in Jesus Christ would be clad in shining garments like that for eternity.

So it is written in the diary of Marianne Williams on Good Friday 1824. She wrote too of how the local chief Te Koki “after talking of the good Son of the great God, and of the ‘utu’ or payment he had made for our sins by his death, said, it would be very good for their children to understand all these things…”

History records that in the decades after that evening on the waters near Paihia, tens of thousands of Maori and their children did indeed hear and understand the good news of Jesus Christ – Te Rongopai. It changed the course of our history, laying the way for a Treaty and a union of two peoples. It continues to offer the greatest hope for our unity together now and into the future.

When you look up and see the full moon this week, remember that night 192 years ago in New Zealand. And remember that Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem this week so that peoples and nations to the uttermost ends of the earth might be clothed in the shining garments of the glory of God.

Ewen McQueen
March 2016

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No impact on domestic violence – it’s not OK

Hon Bill English“We have really had no impact, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programmes, on the incidence of domestic violence in New Zealand…. Really no impact at all.” So declared Finance Minister the Hon Bill English last week (Stuff). It was an honest assessment. But it’s certainly not OK.

It is not just the scandalous waste of taxpayers money that is not OK. More important is the tragic waste of human life and ongoing suffering of thousands of New Zealanders, especially women and children.

This is not a problem that is insoluble. Something can be done. But only if our leaders face the truth about what has driven the increase in family violence in our nation over the last 30 years. It is not poverty. It is not a need for more education. It is not a need for awareness programmes such as the ridiculous “it’s not OK” campaign – as if anyone ever really thought it was.

The prime driver of family violence has been the normalisation and even promotion of a culture of relationship churn. Casual relationships, multiple partners, mum’s latest boyfriend – this is the relationship culture that drives violence, abuse and neglect. The jury is not out on this. It came back a long time ago with a clear verdict based on plenty of social science evidence (refer Green Paper on Vulnerable Children submission).

Human beings were not created for relationship churn. It produces insecurity, jealousy. mistrust, hurt, anger, and often violence. Human beings were created for loving, faithful commitment. The gold standard is marriage. The government could save hundreds of millions by actively affirming it rather than continually undermining it. More importantly it could start building a brighter future for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders by investing in a “programme” that actually works.

Ewen McQueen
March 2016

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Pope’s flawed critique of Trump

Pope FrancisPope Francis is right – the Gospel is about building bridges not walls. However in criticising Donald Trump last week over his proposed immigration policy (the big Wall) he was simply wrong.

Governments are not called, and indeed cannot be expected to govern by the Gospel. In an imperfect world full of disorder, chaos and evil, they are called to use the authority they have to maintain order. In so doing they create space for the transforming power of the message of Jesus Christ to renew the hearts and minds of people. This is basic New Testament theology

So when Pope Francis says of Trump “A person who thinks only about building walls… and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,” he is overlooking context that is critical to the debate. Trump and other candidates with similar views are not running for church office. They are seeking political office as part of a governing authority that is mandated not to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, but to rather maintain some semblance of order. To achieve this, walls (and other less “kindly” policies and actions) may sometimes be necessary, if not ideal.

The great reformation theologian Martin Luther in his famous work “On Secular Authority” put it like this,

If someone wanted to have the world ruled according to the gospel, and to abolish all secular law and the sword.. what do you imagine the effect would be ? ….Before you rule the world in the Christian and Gospel manner, be sure to fill it with true Christians.

Perhaps it is taking things a little far to wave the view of the founder of the Protestant church in the face of the Pope! However he is a humble and genuine man who would no doubt consider such views, regardless of their origin. To his credit, one could argue that he is so consumed with the amazing values of the coming Kingdom, that perhaps he has forgotten we still need our governments to deal with the one that is passing away.

Ewen McQueen
February 2016

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Trump breaks the monotone

donald-trump-make-america-greatDonald Trump is a breath of fresh air. His ideas may be simplistic. His statements sometimes outrageous. But he clearly believes in what he is doing. And his heartbeat resonates with the deepest streams of the American national psyche. This man is the message. When he says he wants to make America great again – he absolutely means it.

Of course the liberal New Zealand media can’t stand him. As usual they are doing their best to reduce him to caricatured package they can deliver to us whilst they smirk at how ridiculous he and the millions of Americans who support him are. Their reporting is more a reflection of their own small-mindedness and immaturity than it is an accurate portrayal of politics in the United States.

Perhaps the most telling point Trump makes is the criticism he has received from all sides about his “tone”. As he points out, ISIS are committing atrocities and perpetuating barbaric cruelty in a manner not seen for centuries. And yet he is the one being criticised for his “tone” in denouncing them.

Trump has the courage to say what needs to be said. In so doing he is breaking the media stranglehold on what is permitted to be said in our national debates. The fear of being of being media roasted for giving voice to ideas that offend the established paradigm, intimidates most politicians into bland platitudes. The result is the stifling monotone that prevails in political debate in most western countries.

Trump is one of those leaders who breaks the monotone. He says things that are not “allowed” to be said. Doing so breaks open the room and lets fresh air in.

Bono of U2 sings in one of his US concerts of how he loves America. “You got soul!” he cries.

Donald Trump has soul. I like him.

Ewen McQueen
February 2016

Posted in Cultural Renewal | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments