26 August, 2013
Dear Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott,
In less than two weeks time one of you will be elected Prime Minister.
You are educated men, determined men, thinking men. You have worked hard to reach your privileged positions and now, more than ever, your days are as long as your pressures are heavy.
To the considerations of a politician in election mode, I add this letter. I will be brief.
No jibes here on funding promises, policy unveilings and slur campaigns – just a memento of the strangled heartbeat at the core of community.
There are two things foundational to any society: marriage and family. When these two things are crumpled and broken, split and repaired, Band-Aid slapped on top of bloodied Band-Aid, redefined, renamed and ripped open; brokenness becomes us.
This is our reality. We exist in a culture that accepts brokenness as the norm. We are the broken culture. And brokenness begets brokenness.
You both (appear to be) happily married. You both have (what appear to be) happy families. You are therefore (undoubtedly) privileged.
What happens when a girl becomes a woman becomes a wife – yet only has the broken marriage of her parents as role model? What happens when a boy becomes a man becomes a father – yet doesn’t have a paternal role model to draw from?
Sound trivial? Don’t be fooled. Everything is connected to those two things I have mentioned: marriage and family. Teen pregnancy, crime, suicide, anorexia, obesity, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking and so on can often, if not always, be linked back to family and marriage. We hear it often enough in the courts – a convicted criminal appealing for clemency because he had a bad childhood.
My concern is that all we ever do is address the outcome.
Mr Rudd, Mr Abbott, you know as well as the next person that prevention is better than cure.
All teachers and childcare workers must satisfy a police check before commencing employment – a process that is repeated every three years. A teacher studies a minimum of four years before they are entrusted with the sponge-minds of a classroom full of children.
Yet, there is nothing – no university degree, no distance education course or even a questionnaire before a newly titled mum and dad take on responsibility for the physical, financial, social, educational, spiritual, emotional, behavioural and developmental wellbeing of their child. There’s help when it all goes wrong – sure – but there’s not much beyond antenatal classes in terms of preparation.
Same for marriage.
Any man and woman can tie the knot without thought to the complexities of joining two independent lives in an ‘until-death-do-us-part’ covenant. How many couples consider family dynamics, personal and united goals, how many kids they want, patterns of family issues passed on through generations, attitudes and beliefs around relationship, expectations, roles, resolving previous relationships, trust and so on before walking down the aisle?
I appreciate that your inboxes are likely crammed with suggested reforms should you be dubbed PM post September 7, but can I drop you just one more, flagged urgent? I reckon if you get these two things right, there will be a domino-esque toppling of many, many other social issues.
Teach how marriage works.
Teach how family works.
And you know what? While Australia has and will continue to shun her Christian heritage, it is the Church that continues to provide courses and resources on these arterial cultural matters. I know for a fact that countless churches across my hometown run courses on parenting, preparing for marriage and integrity in our sexualised culture.
All this has been confirmed and recommended in the For Kids’ Sake report, subtitled Repairing the Social Environment for Australian Children and Young People (Professor Patrick Parkinson, 2011). Dig it out – it’s worth another read.
Mr Rudd, Mr Abbott, my suggestion is this: link arms with the Church to help couples and families set down strong foundations that won’t crumble when the going gets tough.
A concerned citizen.
As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday August 26, 2013.