Anti-social behaviour (ASB) (often criminal behaviour), such as the recent killing of an unborn baby by a drug affected driver in Wollongong and the alcohol fueled varieties often witnessed outside night clubs, is increasingly common in our society. I have particularly noticed that some examples of ASB today just did not occur a generation or so ago e.g. parental violence at children’s sports events and violence against, robbing of elderly and infirm people.
Many solutions are proposed, but mostly they boil down to the word MORE- i.e. more and tougher laws, more punishment, more police etc. Britain has even resorted to ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) to restrict people’s freedom and behaviour. While all these things may have a place in a society where unfortunately people increasingly have a tendency to behave destructively towards other citizens (the Bible calls it sin), they really only deal with symptoms of the sickness, not the cause.
I would suggest that the real reason for what seems to be a growing epidemic of ASB is the social fragmentation and moral decay of our community. This being brought about by the “wisdom” of a society which has decided to abandon the “moral track” that Australian society largely used to run on – namely the Judeo-Christian ethic, which used to fashion our culture. Much anti-social behaviour, which now increasingly requires law to control it, was previously controlled by a (moral) sense of what was or was not appropriate. Such a morally conditioned environment, reinforced by a culture which by open disapproval, public rebuke and sometimes by actions, (including to young people) taught and emphasised values such as “responsibility for the well-being of others” and “respect for other people’s property”. This played a strong role in conditioning behaviour, without the resort to law. While the moral fabric of society is destroyed, sometimes even by decisions made by those in community leadership positions who themselves have been raised with little moral conditioning, we will continue to reap the whirlwind of our own sowing.
As the moral fabric, which once exerted (although imperfectly) an internal control on behaviour, continues to decay, society will in desperation increasingly be forced to turn to law as a means of controlling the fruits of our moral vacuum.
One radio caller a while ago suggested that the solution lay with parents, who he said need to bring up their children to behave in a better way. Parenting is hard, (I know!) but to a large extent he was right. It is the role of parents to teach their children appropriate behavioural values and police them. The problem is however we now have several generations of parents who themselves are the products of the moral vacuum (and themselves perpetrators of kid’s sport’s violence for example). Who will teach them?
While we continue to see parents putting their children into somebody’s (non-Christian) ethics classes, and driving past Christian churches on Sundays to take their kids to sport, dancing, nippers, soccer etc. we see the signs of the cause of our deepening moral abyss. The basic problem is not primarily a social but a spiritual one. As a person who believes the track of Jesus Christ is the only one to run on for complete meaning in life, it is not my desire or intention to separate the Christian moral track from the God who invented it. However, at least if this ethic was imbued in children then we might see some, non-legal but moral, control being again applied to the epidemic of ASB in our society.
Many of course do not believe in a spiritual dimension to debates such as this, and it is their right to do so. However, if the problem of ASB is primarily a moral/spiritual one, as the Bible says it is, then we ignore that at our peril, and we will continue to reap the whirlwind of our own sowing. A better way is for us, and our young people, to reconnect with the God who has already given us a track to run our society on.