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Sticks and Stones and Wowsers


There are a lot of pithy sayings that have been around for many years but not all of them are truisms despite their constant repetition across the generations. Here's one that is treated as a statement of truth but is far from being accurate.


"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!"


The truth is that names - negative titles and labels - can be very damaging and destructive. When we label people as being "stupid", "dunce", "loser" etc., we may be doing incredible damage in their inner lives.


One word about which we Christians are very sensitive is the word "wowser". (I rather think that most atheists, agnostics and non-religious people wouldn't welcome that label either!). It's a word that conjures up images of narrow-minded, negative, critical people whose mission in life is to find fault with any and all others and to carp and whine about everything. One dictionary defines a wowser as "one who is opposed to Sunday amusements, sports etc.; a hypocritical censor of the lesser vices; a meddlesome puritan or sanctimonious reformer"


Yet, speaking on behalf of the Christian community, part of our role as Christians in this world is not only to bring the Good News of the Gospel to its inhabitants but also to prophetically confront those beliefs, values and activities that are destructive to those same inhabitants and opposed to the values of God's Kingdom Rule. If this confrontation is done unwisely or immaturely, we may well be labeled as "wowsers". In fact, even if that confrontation is done well, we may still have to wear that label.


I can't recall where I first heard the acronym "wowser" -


 W O nly  W ant  S ocial  E vils  R emoved -


but it stuck in my mind and has largely remained dormant until yesterday.


One of our state politicians made a comment yesterday to the effect that she didn't want our state to become known as the "Wowser State". Her statement was in the context of an appeal by Police and Emergency Workers for a reduction in trading hours of hotels as a means of limiting alcohol-fuelled violence.


W e O nly W ant S ocial E vils R emoved.If that's what it means to be a wowser, then where do I sign up?! For way too long we have turned the proverbial 'blind eye' to those beliefs and behaviour that constitute social evils, hoping that they would just go away.


It seems to me that two issues surface about now.


1. What constitutes or qualifies as a "social evil"?


2. How do we go about 'removing' them?


There will never be complete agreement as to what constitutes social evil. But that is not a reason for avoiding the issue. Are there areas where we would agree that a particular activity was a social evil?


For example, surely every reasonable person, regardless of religion, race or creed, would agree that the exploitation and abuse of children is a social evil. Yes? No? This is an issue that transcends religious or non-religious views.


What about domestic violence? The physical, emotional and sexual abuse of one person by another is surely considered a social evil (with the possible exception of those who perpetrate such violence).


Then there are those images of drunken riots on the streets of our cities where people are attacked, property is smashed and blood flows freely from the wounds of people, many of whom were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Isn't this a social evil? Wouldn't society be a far better place without such behaviour?


We could continue to add to our list but, just taking the issues above, can we agree that, personal beliefs (religious or otherwise), these are social evils we would all like to see removed? Obviously the more we added to our list the greater the possibility of disagreement as to what constitutes social evil.


So let's focus on what unites us as we mobilize to do what we can to remove the social evils that are unanimously recognized as such. As a Christian, can I stand alongside an atheist who is passionately opposed to, say, child abuse and exploitation? My answer is "Yes!"The only problem that might arise are the methods we employ to remove this evil.


This brings us to the "how" question: "How do we address these social evils to remove them (or, at least, minimize them)from our society?" It seems to me that the "humanistic" answer to this question is,,,




I know that this aspect has a place in any strategy that we may deploy to deal with social evil. But it bothers me greatly that education is often presented as the great panacea for all our social ills.


Drugs? Just educate young people about drugs and they will leave them alone. Wrong! We have never had so much information available and distributed as is the case today yet drug use and its accompanying destruction continues to spread through our society.


Driving?   Driver education is more thorough now than was the case in my day. Yet, despite the graphic and horrific images on television, despite the extra hours of training and educating required, the road toll continues to climb with many of the deaths attributed to driver behaviour that is the very opposite to what the education regime presented.


Let me be clear: I am not opposed to education and the distribution of information. It has a place and I'm sure that there are some, be they only few in number, who take note and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Let's educate as much as we can but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that this alone will remove social evils.




This approach is based on the conviction that if we had the right laws in place with appropriate sentences that reflected the seriousness of the 'crime', people would behave in ways that resulted a diminishing of social evils. In other words, we need to legislate people's behaviour by rules and regulations.


This approach works well for those people who want to do the 'right thing' if they are told what the 'right thing' is! For example, the law says that they can drive up to 60 kms per hour on this stretch of road. Knowing that, they will conform their driving to that law - most ofthe time! But especially if there is a Highway Patrol car in the near vicinity!


Again, let me be clear: We need rules and regulations - i.e. legislation - for an ordered society. But social evils of the kind we have mentioned do not conform to such laws. People whose behaviour constitutes a social evil couldn't care less about laws and regulations.


For me, there is one more component that is vital as we seek to be wowsers within the terms of our definition - W e O nly W ant S ocial E vils R emoved




If education informs my mind and legislation conforms my behaviour, transformation changes my inner disposition. You see, the real heart of the problem of social evils is selfishness. This is a kind of bias that determines what I think is best for me.


Only as there is an inner transformation will the outward conduct or behaviour be genuinely changed. Failing that radical change, neither education or legislation has the capacity to bring about lasting change.


I will support any education programme that is geared to inform people of data they need to know in order to make better choices.


I will support any legislation that provides laws for the benefit of those who obey them leading to a more stable society.


Most of all, I will give all I can to see the lives of people transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ and empowered by His Holy Spirit. I believe that behind those activities that we call "social evils" is one who is the master manipulator - the devil himself. He has established the values of his kingdom in our world and he is committed to destroy and obliterate every vestige of the image of God.


The abuse of children, made in the image of God, is his doing.


Domestic violence? His doing.


The drunken rioter? His doing.


These social evils are the outworking of the values of the devil's dark kingdom. All of this evil (and so much more) cannot be contained or controlled by education or legislation in any lasting sense.


Our strategy must recognize that what we are talking about here is not so much "social evil" but "spiritual evil" that can only be defeated at a spiritual level. Other attempts may achieve a short-term 'truce' but it won't last. Only as the dark kingdom is defeated and people defect to the Kingdom of God can social evils be removed.


Like I said, if that's what it means to be a wowser, sign me up!!

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