A fascinating article in The Age newspaper recently reported that National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds has called for smacking to be made illegal.

The article quoted new research that shows:

  • Children who are smacked are likelier to use violence against their families.

Adults have modelled this, so adolescents think it’s okay to use violence to sort out disagreements.

  • Smacked children face an increased risk of mental health conditions or self-harm.

Current Law

Australian law still allows for “reasonable punishment,” but only NSW has a definition of what that is: children can only be hit below the neck.

In Victorian law, it is not illegal to smack children, but it is unlawful to, with extreme force, hit, punch, slap, kick, shake, bite, strangle, throw or burn a child, or hit the head or neck of a child in a harmful way.

Now, some self-disclosure. I used to believe that smacking was a good part of my disciplinary arsenal as a parent. My parents smacked my siblings and me, and we turned out fine, I reasoned. And so, it must be okay for me to smack my kids, and I did that occasionally with our first two daughters when they were younger. But I became increasingly uncomfortable with it until I decided not to smack them again. I have since apologised to them.

You may think, “but the Bible recommends smacking as a reasonable punishment.” No, it doesn’t.

The Usual Verses

You’ve probably heard the following Scriptures used to justify smacking children:

Proverbs 13:24, Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Proverbs 22:15, Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.

Proverbs 23:13-14, Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.

Proverbs 29:15, A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

Beat Kids with Rods

There is no mention of smacking in these verses. The Bible never mentions smacking. Instead, Proverbs encourages beating children with a rod. Sadly, religious figures have used these verses over the centuries to justify physical abuse.

It reminds me of a scene in the movie 12 Years a Slave in which Plantation owner Edwin Epps quotes the Bible (Luke 12:46-48) as a rationalisation for his ownership and harsh treatment of his slaves.

Interpreting Proverbs

It’s important to remember that Proverbs are not commandments; they are sayings. In the case of Proverbs in the Bible, they are sayings that are amongst the oldest verses in Scripture, some 3000 to 4000 years old. Because of its age, there are verses in the Bible we do not take literally in the modern world. For example, Exodus 21:17, “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” That’s right. Kill your naughty kids It’s a wonder there was anyone left alive!

But there is plenty of truth in those ancient proverbs that resonate in the contemporary world.


The one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

A reprimand imparts wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother [parents].

Have you ever invited people to your home who have undisciplined children? We have, and they haven’t been invited back!

Creative Discipline

Discipline is essential, but I now believe there are much healthier ways to discipline children than smacking them.

For example, positive reinforcement and rewards for good behaviour are indispensable in practical parenting. Christie and I used a points system when our children were younger. Our kids could earn points for good and helpful conduct. The points were converted into cash so the children could save up for what they wanted. Negatively, discipline can be the loss of privileges and liberties. “The Naughty Step,” made famous by Super Nanny, is very effective.

It’s also essential to learn what works for each child. For example, if I told our eldest daughter to go to her room for a timeout, she’d be thrilled. Our second daughter would hate it because she dislikes being isolated from people.

More than any form of discipline, the most crucial thing in raising well-behaved children is what the parents exemplify by how they live, behave, and respond to others. Parents are to be good role models to their children, and smacking them hardly fits that job description.

Adults who love and respect others will raise children who do the same. And it takes a lot of self-discipline as a parent to be creative and respectful in disciplining your children.


WARNING: Please be advised that this blog contains quotes with explicit language.  

Dear Ariana,

I know that I’m not in your target audience but, because I’m the dad of three daughters I kinda am.  My eldest girls, Paris and Gigi, loved you as Cat Valentine on Victorious and so, being a great dad, I would sit and watch it with them.  They were 11 and eight at the time, and they adored you.  Our youngest was just a baby in 2009, but she’s now ten, and you’re a hero to her.  She loves your music, and herein lies the problem.

Ariana, you’ve achieved your fame (and accompanying fortune) on the back of adoring young female fans.  So, what’s the deal with the new album, Sweetener?  There’s very little that’s sweet about it.  Trinity, our youngest, was hanging out for your new album but, when it was released, we found that all but one track was marked “explicit” – as if there isn’t enough of that sort of stuff on the pop charts already.  Twenty-eight of the current Top 50 songs in Australia are explicit, and many of the others contain themes that are unsuitable for a 10-year-old to be exposed to.  Children’s innocence lasts for such a short period of time, why do we want to rob them of this amazing time in their lives?

Your current hit, Breathin’, is one of those 28 explicit songs in the charts.  The content of the song seems like an honest cry for help from someone who’s feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of life. So why include the line, “How do I know if this shit’s fabricated?”  Why not “stuff?” It starts with ‘s’ and has one syllable and wouldn’t detract from your song or its message.  But Breathin’ is tame compared to some of the other songs:

  • Blazed is about being high on drugs and is just one of the songs including drug references.
  • God is a woman is about a woman who’s going to “make love” to a guy “the way I like it, how I want it.” The boy will confess he’s been so blessed by the amazing sex that he will come to believe that God is a woman.
  • Sweetener is a graphic description of oral sex.
  • Everytime is about a girl who’s in an unhealthy, addictive relationship. She keeps leaving but always goes back to him, “Why, oh why does God keep bringing me back to you?” The song also includes references to drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Better off: “Let’s put them topics to bed and go fuck on the roof, just to say that we did it.”
  • Goodnight n go: “Lately, all I want is you on top of me. You know where your hands should be.”
  • The light is coming: “Ah, gonna break that shit down … can’t let an f-boy eff up my nice vibes.”

Ariana, you seem like a lovely person. The compassion you showed following the Manchester bombing was stunning.  I’ve admired you and your talent for many years, and I’ve been happy with my girls being “Arianators.”  But not anymore.  While my two eldest daughters are no longer in your target audience, my ten-year-old is.  She and I talked about your new album, and she was really disappointed when I told her it was all explicit.  She failed to understand why you needed to do that – and so do I.  It’s like Miley Cyrus 2.0.  You’ve let your young fans down.

I realise it’s too late to change your current album, but can I respectfully ask you to contemplate this plea from a dad who loves his daughters and wants to protect them (and other children) from the darker side of life for as long as possible?  Please consider your young fans who have made you famous, wealthy and influential and care enough to use these things to make the world a better place.

Kind regards,



In last week’s blog I highlighted something that the church needs to beware of, that is, outraged Christians.  They write blogs and social media posts that others share with little or no fact checking.  All they do is distort the truth, create fear and lead to further outrage which creates an attitude of culture wars.  Outraged Christians see themselves as a minority that has to lobby and campaign for their rights.  How different this is to the way the first century Church conducted themselves in even more adversarial circumstances than we face today (read the Book of Acts).

In recent times, I’ve noticed another falsehood being shared and re-shared by the outraged.  This time it’s about the Doctors in Secondary Schools program introduced by the State Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews.  The outrage goes as follows:

Daniel Andrews’ government has launched a program that will allow students to bypass permission from their parents and receive medical treatment, including the pill, without their parents’ or guardians’ knowledge.  The quoted example is of a girl as young as 11 being able to get a prescription for contraceptives from school without the parents knowing about it.

As the father of three daughters, I’d certainly be concerned if this were true. So instead of sharing the outrage on social media, I did some homework and here’s what I discovered:

The people who are outraged are missing the primary purpose of this program that is all about improving the mental health of youth in Australia.  The Doctors in Secondary Schools program is not about providing an oral contraception service to adolescent girls.  As suicide is the leading cause of death for the 15-19-year-old age group in Australia (which accounts for 31% of deaths in this age group), this program aims at removing a barrier and improving the mental health of this vulnerable population.

Regarding the issue of whether a doctor can prescribe the oral contraceptive to a young person without the parents’ consent, the concept of “mature minor” comes into play. [1]

This idea of “mature minor” was first adopted in England after a famous court case in the 1980’s when a mother of five daughters (Mrs. Gillick) took the family doctor to court.  The court rejected her claim, and it was at that time the law was changed in England to reflect this.  Australia followed suit shortly after.  So it has been legal to prescribe the oral contraceptive to “mature minors” for more than 30 years.  This practice goes on in Australian general practices every day.  It is not a new thing.

What this looks like in practical terms is that very few adolescents under 16 would satisfy the definition of mature minors.  They often do not have a thorough understanding of the risks of entering a new sexual relationship (unwanted pregnancy, STIs, etc.) or the consequences of their actions.  What most GPs do is spend a lot of time trying to persuade the young person to talk to their parents and include them in the decision making process.  They also screen to make sure that someone is not coercing the young person into a sexual relationship.  Older teens would still need to satisfy the GP that they have a complete understanding of the risk and consequences of entering into a sexual relationship.  It would only be if the GP felt that the young person was definitely going to engage in sex that they would prescribe it on the grounds that the risks of pregnancy were greater than the harms of being on the pill.

The concept of mature minor also comes into play in schools.  It is the Department of Education policy that principals can declare a child to be a mature minor and to make decisions about their education.[2]  In the same way that principals would always have the young person’s best interests at heart, so too do GPs.  It would be a very rare circumstance that it was not in the best interests of the adolescent to have their parents involved in decisions about their education or medical care.  GPs want parental involvement too.

Have people been getting up in arms about the Department of Education policy?  NO!  Has it been the policy for years now?  YES!

So this outrage that’s been doing the rounds online is just another example of people getting upset about a new initiative that is not so new but has been occurring for years in a different form.  And maybe this new initiative might save a few lives as doctors, parents and the education department work together to help prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual abuse, self-harm, and suicide as well as to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.

So how should we deal with outrage when we see it?

First of all, rather than respond to or repeat the information, check it out.  Get the facts and see if the outrage has any foundation.  Secondly, how about we (Christians) get outraged about the genuine injustices we see around us?  Where’s the outrage from the church about the mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers?  Where’s the outrage that leads us to help those who, for whatever reason, find themselves homeless on our city streets?  Let me hear some Christian outrage about domestic violence, human trafficking and the injustices faced by Australia’s Indigenous people.  Let’s start being incensed by the things that anger God.  Maybe then Australians will sit up and start to give some value to the Church again (instead of leaving it in droves) because they will see us not just looking after our interests but also the interests of others. [3]




[3] Philippians 2:4

This week on my Facebook page I asked parents to give me feedback on this question: “If your children don’t want to come to church should you still bring them along?”  I went on to say, “I realise that there are many views on this and each parent(s) make their own decisions. How have you handled this one with your children? What has been the outcome?”  What followed was a very honest and respectful discussion that will form the basis of what I hope will be an informative and helpful blog.

As I expected, the comments were many and varied and reflected some strong opinions along with some gentler approaches.  Some parents answered the question with a definite “YES” – “My house. My rules. Kids don’t want to eat vegetables. Do you make them? They want to stay home from school and watch YouTube. Should you let them? No. When they turn 18 … different story.”  I tried the “under my roof” approach with Gigi (our eldest daughter) a few years ago.  Her response was to suggest that she’d get a caravan and park it in the driveway so that she wouldn’t technically be “under our roof”.  She’s an awful lot like me J.

Another parent commented, “I think the most influencing factor on my opinion is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a forceful nature; he doesn’t “make” us do things. Being a Christian and attending church is a heart level decision and if parents are forcing their kids to come purely based on the “my house, my rules” way, then I can see it having a negative impact in the long run. ”

Some parents reported that this has never been a necessary question, “I’m so glad I’ve never had to face this because [my son] loves coming to church”, while others described stories of rebellion and resentment: “My brother and I were made to go to church twice on a Sunday, Tuesday prayer meeting and Friday Bible study – every week while we were under their roof. Going to church was the most important thing – came before family. I wasn’t allowed to join the guides as it was on Friday. My brother has moved away from Christianity and his main reason is the way we were raised.”

Parenting children is a minefield of challenges at the best of times so hopefully what follows will be some helpful things to consider when it comes to raising your children to develop a genuine faith in Jesus:

  1. Exercise a lifestyle of worship at home

A children’s pastor at a large Melbourne church wrote, “I believe the church experience, when presented in all its various expressions within the home, will make ‘big’ church more attractive for the entire family. From my years in children’s ministry, the children who engage in the Sunday program the quickest are the ones who have already started to exercise a lifestyle of worship at home.”  This man, who I highly respect, raises what I consider to be the most important issue connected with this question, that is the responsibility that Christian parents have to “instruct [their children] and teach them the ways of the Lord as you raise them” (Ephesians 6:4).

A pastor friend of mine who has been in Christian ministry for over two decades observes, “for the most part parents delegate out the responsibility for their child’s spiritual growth to the church.”  The church should be partnering with parents to assist them with their responsibility.  This means that Christian parents must model what it means to be Christian in every part of life by having a genuine relationship with Jesus.

  1. Make it a conversation rather than a command

We’ve had a number of discussions over the years with our kids about church and we’ve always tried to make it a conversation rather than a command.  We explain to them why we want them to be part of church with us – it’s what we do as a family.

We have healthy, age-appropriate discussions on questions of faith, morality and ethics.  We’ve listened when they’ve had problems such as finding church (youth / kids’ min etc.) boring or irrelevant.  We’ve helped them make friends by befriending the parents of the kids they like.  One of the best things we’ve ever done is a Bayside family missions trip to Thailand four years ago.  Our kids made great friends with the other young people on the trip and those friendships have endured.  And we spend time in prayer for our children asking God to help them and us.

A young man at Bayside Church wrote, “I was given the option from the age of 14 and I still go to church, and very strong in my faith. If my parents would have forced me I would have felt like it wasn’t my decision to believe.” 

A mum wrote, “Usually a one on one chat sorts it and he’s happy to attend.”

  1. Choose a good, local church

I emphasise “local” here.  I appreciate that some parents love travelling a long way to go to an exciting mega-church but this can tend to be an event rather than a community.  The likelihood is that other people are travelling an hour to get there (from the opposite direction) and your kids will make friends with theirs – and you’ll live two hours away from each other.  There’s nothing like being part of a church in your local community and getting to know people who live nearby.

Once you’ve found a good church stick with it.  Resist the temptation to church hop and becoming a Christian consumer.  Get involved as a family and make it the best church it can be because you’re there.

  1. Make church a non-negotiable for the whole family

Joshua uttered the immortal words, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  We have a habit of gathering with our church community as a family on Saturday evenings.  Because Christie and I are the senior leaders at Bayside Church we are usually at two or three meetings each weekend.  We don’t expect our kids to be at every service – one is enough. We do our best to work around social events by dropping them off at a party after church on Saturday evenings.  Sometimes they’ll miss church if the party starts earlier.  It all works on a case-by-case basis and also depends on their attitude and helpfulness around the home during the week.  But most weekends church is a non-negotiable for our family.  I wish it were for all Christians.

We need to see many families make a complete shift in the current individualistic mindset towards church.  Most Western Christians see church as something to attend – or not.  People “go to church” – or not – rather than seeing church as a community of believers you “belong” to and are an active part of.

A mate of mine who’s an agnostic wrote, “I think kids can learn some good life lessons in going to their families’ chosen church, and I’ve witnessed the amazing community feeling that Bayside offers.”

Another said, “Going to church is a family event, just as much as having dinner together. Both are important to ‘us’ as a family and not negotiable.” 

A single mum in our church community said, “My kids as toddlers didn’t want to go to church and especially hated kids groups. I kept bringing them despite it being extremely difficult. I stood by the word, especially Proverbs 22:6. It took a while but now I can’t get them out of church. Lol.  As teenagers and preteens, they feel that Bayside is home and know it’s a huge part of our lives. I’m so happy God gave me the strength and support to push through and keep attending during the tough times. Now we are reaping the blessings.”

  1. Don’t beat yourself up if your kids have walked away

Even a casual reading of the Bible shows that many of God’s kids rebelled against Him too – and He’s the perfect parent!  If your children have rebelled – or just walked away from their faith and the church, rest in the fact that you did your best and you did what you believed to be right at the time.  Entrust your kids into the hands of a loving heavenly parent who still has their best interest at heart.

So much more could be said, feel free to comment, share and interact on this topic and let’s help each other be even better parents.

Over the past week the Safe Schools program (SCAA) has featured in the news with some in the Federal Coalition calling for a review. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered the independent review last Tuesday and it will be completed by mid-March.  Safe Schools is a school education program aimed at promoting acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & Intersex (LGBTI) students. The teaching manual was set up by Labor but launched by the Coalition in 2014.

The main concern appears to be the age-appropriateness of what is being taught to 11 year-olds. Other concerns include some of the links from the program to websites that promote concerning material. For example, The Minus 18 website (Australia’s largest youth-led network for gay, bi, lesbian and trans teens) has an article instructing kids on how to “Cover their tracks” on the Internet.

Another link leads to an article on how to make your own sex toys, finding women to teach cross-dressing skills, healthier and safer ways to bind your chest, an online sex shop and so on.

Seeing that $8 million of federal money is being used to support this program the government has every right to call a review – and any tax payer has a right to express their opinion on this. While some are calling for all funding to be withdrawn and the program to be axed, the review could lead to some healthy modifications to SCAA so that it is fairer and more age-appropriate.

In the meantime there seems to be plenty of unhelpful mudslinging from both “sides” of the debate. For example, Katherine Hudson on the New Matilda site writes, The prejudiced views of Senator Cory Bernardi and his rightist droogs are shared by many dictators, despots and despicable leaders, including Putin, Kim Jong-un, Mugabe, and ISIS terrorists. Those who’ve come out against the Safe Schools Program aren’t reasonable conservatives, they’re homophobic reactionaries, who want a return to ‘the days of the old school yard’ where LGBTIQ students lived in fear and silence.” This sort of rant is singularly unhelpful. Just because someone asks questions doesn’t make them a homophobic reactionary. I’m asking questions but I’m neither reactionary nor homophobic – in fact I’m just the opposite and have received my fair share of criticism over the years for speaking graciously towards LGBTI people and suggesting the Christian Gospel includes ALL people!

The hateful emails that some politicians have received about the Safe Schools program are also unhelpful – even more so when they are sent by people professing the Christian faith. Surely genuine Christian behaviour should include things like love, kindness, gentleness and self-control. It saddens me greatly when Christians fail to present their Christianity Christianly!

So, where to from here? Of course we’ll have to wait for the review. Personally I hope the SCAA program isn’t shut down but I do hope it’s modified. Having a school program that is aimed at increasing our understanding of one another and decreasing bullying is a worthy goal, but I believe the current Safe Schools program is too narrow. While it’s more than appropriate to educate teenagers about the diversity of human sexuality, it’s also vital that we educate them about diversity in other areas too – such as culture, race, and religion. For example, classmates often pick on our youngest daughter because of her Christian faith (and she attends a Christian based school).

Bullying takes place for any number of reasons and it would be helpful for all teenagers to have age-appropriate teaching that seeks to help them deal with it in healthy ways. Over the past few days I’ve had a number of conversations with teenagers and all of them have told me the number one cause of bullying in schools has to do with body image (being too fat, too thin, having red hair etc.). It was the same when I was in high school in the 70s. We had a gay guy in our class and he was really cool. No one ever picked on Graham. But lots of people picked on the overweight Italian guy. In making this statement I do not want to underestimate what LGBTI teens face at school. I’m sure many of them experience bullying and that certainly needs to be addressed through education.

Secondly, on highly personal and potentially divisive topics such as human sexuality it’s vital that parents be involved. With the current model, there’s some material in the Safe Schools program that encourages students to go behind their parents’ backs. It also deals with topics that may go against parents’ beliefs and values. Parents currently have no choice whether their children attend the Safe Schools program if their school is a member school of SSCA. There’s no way to “opt out.” I believe this needs to change as well, much like it has for Christian Religious Instruction.

Thirdly, if you’re a concerned parent then I encourage you to speak to your children’s school and ask good questions. Also speak with your children, ask them what they’re learning at school and allow good discussion to occur. Christie and I have wonderful conversations with our girls on a whole range of subjects. We’ve talked about how important it is to be kind and respectful to all people including LGBTI people. Obviously these discussions are age-appropriate – we speak in much more detail with our 17 year old than we do with our 14 year old. Our seven year old is too young for in-depth discussion on human sexuality. We’re trying to allow her to maintain the innocence that a seven year old should be able to enjoy. Parents should be allowed to choose when, where and how they talk to their children about LGBTI issues.

Teenagers (and all people) need to understand the difference between acceptance and agreement.  Just because we accept someone, and choose to be kind and gracious towards him or her, doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they do, say or believe.

On the issue of sexuality there are people who, because of religious or cultural reasons or just personal opinion, consider any sexual behaviour other than that between a man and woman in the covenant of marriage to be wrong.  Others disagree.  We all need to learn respect for other people’s opinions even if they are different to our own and, while we’re at it, let’s stop the name calling towards those with which we disagree!

Along with many Christians, as well as those of other faiths, I was disappointed to hear recently that the Victorian State Government had broken one of its election promises.  Premier Daniel Andrews promised to remove asbestos from schools, but said he would not scrap SRI during school hours.  I’m not sure how the asbestos removal is going, but SRI is being dumped during school hours from 2016.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised, after all both sides of politics seem to entice voters with various promises only to default on them once they’ve gained power: “There will be no SRI under the government I lead!”

The weekly 30-minute SRI program will move to lunchtime or before and after school – of course we parents need another extra-curricular activity to fit into an already busy week!

This move discriminates against all faiths, not just Christianity (including the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches).  At present SRI is provided by Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i, Islam and Hindu faiths.  The vast majority of Victorians identify themselves as belonging to a religious group.  Why is the majority being wronged?  This decision also negates the value that religions bring to our society.  Dr. Sue Smith from the Buddhist Council of Victoria says, “All religions have rich repositories of stories that provide resources for ethical exploration with students and can support existing values programs.”

Christian SRI taps into much of what our community already knows about the Bible and Christian faith.  For example, we often hear people refer to someone as a “Good Samaritan” or a person facing a “David and Goliath” challenge.  Teaching children the stories from the Bible gives them an understanding of these concepts and values that enrich their lives and the lives of others.

I had many enjoyable years teaching SRI (known as CRE at the time) in the late 80s and early 90s.  I taught four grade six classes every Tuesday morning.  The kids loved it and so did the teachers.  Very few parents opted their children out.  I never proselytised.  I stuck to the curriculum and we engaged in some great discussions and lots of fun.  I’ve received a number of emails over the years from the kids I taught (now adults with children of their own) saying how grateful they are for those lessons.

But for many years there’s been a concerted attack from secular and humanist groups and individuals to see SRI removed from school hours.  In 2011 the opt-out system was changed to opt-in and enrolments dropped 42% over the next two years as a result.  One of the arguments used against SRI is that non-participating students were sent to the library or sat in corridors.  If that’s true then that’s an issue that needs to be addressed by individual schools and parents.  I believe most teachers use this time for non-participating students to engage in self-directed learning like reading, finishing projects, homework or revision. Children are not being discriminated against. Some parents are exercising their rights to voluntarily withdraw their children from SRI. If schools were to provide new work to non-SRI students, this would result in SRI students missing out.

SRI is being replaced with new content on world histories, cultures, faiths and ethics.  Classes that address domestic violence and respectful relationships will also become compulsory for all prep to year 10 students from 2016.  While I think this course will be of great value to children why does it have to be either / or?  Surely both SRI and the new ‘Respectful Relationships Education’ program are equally worthy.

If you feel strongly about advocating for SRI to continue to be offered during school hours in Victoria here are some things you may want to do:

  • Visit/call/write/email you local MP to voice your opinion.
  • Write to your local paper or to The Age or Herald Sun.
  • Take the petition found on the Access Ministries website to your church, your school and your friends and ask them to stand up for children’s rights to receive SRI .
  • If you want your child(ren) to learn about the Christian faith then make sure your faith is strong and well-informed.  Find a good local church where the whole family can grow in faith together.  This also stands true if you belong to another faith tradition.

And finally, be careful, prayerful, graceful and respectful in all you do and say.

Last weekend at Bayside Church I spoke about “Passing the Baton.” It was a message that resonated strongly with a lot of people. You can listen to or watch the message at this link:

Passing the Baton – Ps Rob Buckingham

In the message I read an article from Rachel Marie Martin’s blogspot that lists 51 things you can do that will bless your kids. This list inspires me as I seek to be a good dad to my kids. I hope it inspires you too:
(51 Things You Can Do That Will Bless Your Kids)

The Hunger Games was written by Suzanne Collins, who has written many children's books over the past two decades.  This series, however, is a departure from her regular children's writings and explores some themes that are not just thought provoking for teenagers but also for an adult audience as well.

I was first introduced to The Hunger Games when I was given the book for my birthday.  Once starting the book I became completely absorbed by the story and then quickly read the other two books.

The story is set in future America which is now called Panem.  The world had been all but destroyed by nuclear war and Panem was now a dictatorship, divided into 12 districts ruled by The Capitol.  The dictator is President Snow.  In Panem's recent history a rebellion had taken place as the districts rose up against the Capitol. The districts lost and, as a constant reminder of the price of rebellion, The Hunger Games were introduced.  Every year two tributes aged 12 to 18 were chosen to represent each district in a fight to the death.  The one who survived was crowned “The Victor” and the district the Victor was from was awarded certain privileges.

Suzanne Collins' Catholic faith comes through clearly in the story lines.

Firstly, it's refreshing to read The Hunger Games because there is no crude language or sexual overtones.  More than that though, there are some strong themes that reflect Suzanne's Christian faith. 

Early in the first book, the main character's younger sister, Primrose Everdeen, is chosen to be the female tribute for District 12.  When Primrose is chosen, her sister Katniss volunteers to be the tribute in her place in order to save her life.  This is exactly what Jesus has done for us.  We were destined for death but Jesus volunteered to die in our place so that we can live forever.  That is the very heart of Christianity.

The second theme that stands out strongly in this trilogy is The Capitol's domination and use of slavery of the districts.  Each district has one purpose and that is to provide a certain product for The Capital. One district provides coal, another seafood, another electrical products and so on.  How similar this is of the treatment the first world gives the third and developing worlds.  It's like they exist for one purpose – to provide the West with all it needs, wants and desires.

Closely associated with this theme is the decadence of The Capitol.  People have too much time and money on their hands and so they are preoccupied with their looks and their stomachs.  Plastic surgery, hair styles and colors, gossip and shallow conversation are the order of the day.  They've also developed a drink that causes them to vomit so they can continue to eat the bountiful food.  Sound familiar?  The Capitol residents have more than enough while the districts are poor, hungry and struggling.

Because they have so little to do, the residents of The Capitol become engrossed in the Hunger Games. It's the ultimate reality TV show.  They fall in love with the characters but distance themselves from the reality that these characters are fighting to the death.  It's reminiscent of the gladiatorial contests in Rome where people's deaths became entertainment for the masses.  In our "civilised" society we may see this as horrendous and yet our own "reality" programs are often built on the ridicule and shame of those who participate.  It's just a cheap form of entertainment for those with too much time on their hands.

The final theme I'll mention here is the ultimate triumph of good over evil.  Without giving the end of the story away, ultimately evil is overcome by good.  This is the main theme in God's Word too.  Have a look at the last two chapters of the Bible. Good triumphs!  But in the meantime the battle between good and evil rages and there are many occasions in real life as well as in The Hunger Games where it's obvious that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn very little from history.

The Hunger Games is a total page-turner.  It's a ripper read.  Parents, if you allow your teenagers to read this Trilogy you would do well to read it yourself and discuss these and other themes with them.  Be aware that there is considerable violence in the book but that the themes are a great discussion point for sharing life-changing truths with your teens.  Enjoy!

There seems to be a regular attack on government funding of private schools.  Recently I read these letters to the editor in the Herald Sun:

“I resent paying for private schools through my taxes.  We need to better fund public schools first.”

“Get rid of the funding for private schools, build the new hospital (or two) and put the rest into public schools.  Simple.”

Simple?  Is it really?  The ongoing political and media debate about government funding of private schools is full of misconceptions and distortion of facts.   In 2007, comedienne and well-known atheist Catherine Deveny stated it bluntly when she wrote, “private schools should not receive funding.”
What is often not mentioned – or understood – is that the existence of private schools actually saves the taxpayer money.  For example, one local private school receives almost $3,000 of government funding annually per primary student and about $3,800 per secondary student.  The average cost of educating a student in a government school in Australia is over $7,000 (primary) and over $9,000 (secondary).

In other words, every primary student at this private school saves the taxpayer over $4,000 a year and every secondary student saves the taxpayer over $5,000. The combined 2008 savings to taxpayers from families attending this particular school were over $13 million.  Undoubtedly this saving has increased over the past three years.

What needs to be made clear is that scrapping – or reducing – government funding to private schools will increase fees, thus forcing some families to send their children to public schools instead.  This will inevitably put extra stress on the public school system, which in turn will cost the taxpayer more.  It would also reduce the education options for families and penalise people of many faiths who desire their children to have an education that is consistent with their religious beliefs.

I believe it is the right of every parent to send their children to a school of their choice – be it public or private, but please let’s not buy in to some of the tripe that is regularly served up by some politicians, media commentators and members of the general public.

What I have believed and taught for years has finally been backed up by research – children are born believers!

I don’t have time in this blog to go into the theology of children and their eternal salvation.  If this topic is of interest to you listen to this message in the Answers to Searching Questions series in which I address the question, “What happens to babies and young children who die? – Do they all go to heaven?”

Now, back to my original statement – children are born believers!  The Age recently reported that “Infants are hardwired to believe in God, and atheism has to be learned.”  According to Dr Olivera Petrovich, an expert in psychology of religion, belief in God is not taught but develops naturally.  Her findings were based on several studies particularly one of Japanese children aged four to six, and another of 400 British children aged five to seven from seven different faiths.  The conclusion: “Atheism is definitely an acquired position.”

This has certainly been born out in my own experience over many years of teaching Religious Education to children in Primary Schools.  There was always the one or two kids who would be atheists but it was always as a result of what they had heard their parents articulate about there being “no God.”  All the other kids – including those from homes where no particular faith was adhered to – believed in the existence of God and were fascinated by discussions on spirituality and life after death.

What a huge responsibility there is in parenting a child – to protect this inherent belief in God and to nurture it into a vibrant faith that remains a strong foundation throughout the child’s life.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”  (Mark 10:14-16)

What a huge responsibility there is in parenting a child – to protect this inherent belief in God and to nurture it into a vibrant faith that remains a strong foundation throughout the child’s life.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.”  (Mark 10:14-16)