A perspective from Perth, Western Australia

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Kingsway and ethics

I am an ex-student of Kingsway (year 11-12, 1994-1995), the school which last week decided to expel an 8 year old gifted and talented student because his mum was living in a defacto relationship. The story can be found on a number of links here.

I am thoroughly stunned at the way my former school has handled this issue, both initially and then in the media. They have failed to show any standard of true Christian leadership, instead willing to let a few extreme fundamentalists (probably those that shouted the loudest) control the school's policies. Their inability to admit they were wrong in the first instance also shows a lack of courage - they evidently hold some parents as more important as the rest in this parent-controlled school. However I am aware this is not the first time the school has contravened the rules of fairness and reality with regard to its students, and I also realise that far from being a simple excuse to shoot one school down, there are far greater issues which this raises for many religious schools and institutions, that need to be looked at.

In 1999/2000, one of Kingsway's teachers, there since 1995, was convicted of sexually abusing various girls in his care. The most disconcerting thing for me was not the obvious - it was the fact that the parents of some of the girls had raised complaints with the school board that had been ignored, and in at least one instance which made it to the media, the parents were harassed by the other parents until they and their children (the victims) left the school. The guy is still in jail to my knowledge. Also, while I was there, the dubious past history of another teacher, who was there for several years and acted quite suspiciously at times, was deliberately suppressed by the school, who quoted union pressure as being the reason for not sacking the teacher.

While I am more a Deist than a Christian nowadays, I still accept the teachings of Christ insofar as they can be reliably established.

"Do not judge, lest you be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will yourself be judged." Matt 7:1-2

Why then are Kingsway's parent board judging this woman as unfit to be a parent at the school? It seems that it's more time and place - another parent, as one of the news articles indicates, is quite willing to stand up and say that, as a defacto for 3 years (now married), she was tolerated at the school, simply because, although her status was known, no-one made a complaint.

My perception of Christian organisations at large has been that few are willing to assume true moral leadership. I guess the notion that one could or would may be abhorrent to some people, but I think that a group genuinely devoted to the things Jesus has gone on record as saying would be able to make a strong and positive difference to society. Many of the stands taken by the Christian church today on many issues run contrary to the basic message which he taught. Simply condemning people one doesn't like, and perhaps twisting Bible verses to back one's claims, is easy, and shows no leadership whatsoever.

"Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. [Deut 6:5] This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it - Love your neighbour as yourself. [Lev 19:18] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt 22:37-40)

The entire Gospel summarises a state whereby the Judaic religion had fallen into a state of excessive legalism, encouraged by the guardians of the law, the Pharisees and Levites. Jesus routinely condemned these people as hypocrites. We receive a picture of a man who talked with Samaritans, touched lepers, had a tax-collector for a follower, and showed compassion towards an adulterer and even towards those who killed him. And yet he could righteously have judged all of them, as he himself was without sin.

What does that say to Christians today? In the churches I have been in, they have made this clear distinction between "world" and "worldly" things, and "Godly" things. It's a what's in and what's out list, and it fails to take note of the fact that Christ never meant his followers to be a little insular group who hang around in little cliques at church.

Furthermore, leave the judging to God. There's instances where judging of one's behaviour within certain rules is acceptable. For instance, a student who repeatedly breaks school rules (eg bullying other students, damaging property, etc) who is given many opportunities to reform could quite rightly be expelled from the school as a last resort. A person at a church whose sole reason for being there appears to be to disagree with all present in a negative, confrontational sense on a continuing basis may quite fairly be asked to leave. The above two examples are not judging in the sense the above verse meant it, anyway. The above examples are merely ensuring the good governance and order of a group of people on standards which are human-derived. To judge in this sense means to say one is right or wrong before God, or to make a statement that someone is "living in sin" (which has been used a few times in this debate).

To do this is to presume that one knows what God actually thinks, and to say that you know and another who is Christian doesn't know is quite blatantly trying to fill shoes a human can't.

Being a Deist has its advantages - we say that we can't know what God thinks, because revelation through man is inherently impossible.

Posted at a previous blog.


Anonymous rodcub said...

Did you ever expect to see the day when I'd agree with you 101% -- on a religious matter no less?

Simple principles would apply -- judge not...

Or live and let live. :)

11:13 am


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