Structural Solutions Don’t Solve Community Problems

“Placing the blame for community issues in past traumas disempowers the current generation. You can’t change the past. So, if the past is the cause of your current problems then you can’t change the present either.”

According to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, The Voice to Parliament is the way to fix the “structural nature” of the problems Aboriginal communities face. The Uluru Statement cites high incarceration rates, ‘unprecedented’ domestic issues and ‘obscene’ youth detention as being the core issues in Aboriginal communities.

These concerns are real.

Aboriginals make up over 30% of Australia’s prisoners (while Aboriginal people make up less than 4% of the population). This is a terrifying statistic. These Aboriginal prisoners are incarcerated mainly for ‘acts intended to cause injury’ (that is, violence), ‘unlawful entry with intent to commit a crime’ (or theft) and ‘sexual assault and related offences’.

The other areas quoted in The Uluru Statement from the Heart are at least equally concerning. Aboriginal communities clearly are in trouble.

One of the lies of our age is that problems in groups of people are caused by two things: past traumas and systemic disadvantages that are built into the power structures of society. According to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, this is where the blame lies for the deep issues found in Indigenous communities.

The two causes clearly articulated in the Uluru Statement are the past injustices of colonialisation and the social structures that have led to “torment of … powerlessness”.

Placing the blame for community issues in past traumas disempowers the current generation. You can’t change the past. So, if the past is the cause of your current problems then you can’t change the present either.

When you see social structures behind community problems then the only solution is to change the social structures. This also disempowers the individual as it removes the idea of having the ability to change your own situation. You are a product of the system and the system is against you.

The Voice to Parliament is the proposed solution to both of these root issues. We are told that Constitutional recognition will help to right past wrongs. The Voice to Parliament will give power to the Indigenous population so they can try to change the structures in society that are causing community issues.

Here is the problem: the Bible has other reasons for community problems. God teaches us that violence and wars come from within us.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4:1-2, ESV)

The Bible says that sexual sins come from false worship.

“Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:24-25, ESV)

Community problems are personal problems. Individuals decide to do wrong against God and against their neighbours. When individuals are absolved of responsibility for their own actions, lawlessness will reign. Laying the blame on past trauma and societal structures only removes personal responsibility which does the opposite of what the writers of the Uluru Statement from the Heart say they want to do.

It might sound harsh to our modern ears, but buying the lie of structural solutions and past trauma only further hurts those who are suffering. As Mark Powell puts it, it “diminishes the moral agency of Aboriginal people.”

Only the Gospel Brings Community Peace

So, what can we do to help with the problems that are clearly affecting Aboriginal communities?

In this discussion we neglect the spiritual side of things to our peril. We can easily forget that Western society was built on Christianity. Honesty, protection of the weak, honouring all people, sexual control, self-denial, generosity, diligent work. All of these things are (or have been) valued in Western societies because of Christianity.

It is the gospel that produces peaceful, generous, caring, ordered societies. And it does this through changing individuals through grassroots local movements that we call churches. Cultures are changed as churches worship God together, preach the gospel to their neighbours, see people saved by God and shaped more and more into His glorious image.

Pagan cultures do not have the same values because they worship different gods.

The writers of the Uluru Statement from the Heart promote pagan spirituality. They explicitly say that their “sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors.”

This is ancestor worship and nature worship and will never produce the righteousness of God.

It is not outrageous to suggest that some (or many) of the problems in Indigenous communities have their roots in Indigenous culture. It is our Christian roots that make violence, assault and theft so heinous. Without the Christian worldview, we would have no reason to see any problem at all in the statistics quoted by the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Fallen people, whatever their race, need the gospel. It is the gospel that brings community peace and stability. It is the gospel that correctly diagnoses our problems and gives a solution that lasts and produces real change.

Aboriginal communities need the gospel. What are we doing to bring it to them?

Lord God, have mercy on our nation. We war and fight among each other but we cannot achieve peace without Your grace. Our attempts to bring peace by ourselves will just prove that the wisdom of man is foolishness and will result in more damage. Give us great confidence in the gospel. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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