Time to Reform?

Raj Gupta

In recent decades, for many reasons, it has become unfashionable for churches to enter into discussion about matters of social reform.

There has been a great desire to keep ‘church’ and state’ separate, for good historical reasons. Furthermore, there is indeed the risk that such matters divert us from our focus, which is making known the name of Jesus so that all can be saved from their sins.

On the other hand, the lack of interest in political matters from Christians has made it harder to enter the more recent debates.

Aware of this tension, I recently attended a briefing about the proposed poker machine reforms.

Contrary to some newspaper reports, it was not a secret conspiracy meeting.

It was simply an opportunity to find out more about the reform process, and what exactly was being and was not being proposed. 

Such reform has been placed on our national agenda in the aftermath of our hung Federal election in August 2010.

The motivation is to protect problem gamblers by forcing poker machine operators to introduce ‘mandatory pre-commitment’ technology. Even clubs admit to problem gamblers losing at least $800m annually.

Breaking the cycle

While the exact details are currently being worked out in consultation with the industry (several different options exist), essentially it would mean that poker machine users must choose a maximum they are willing to lose before they are locked out of any further use of any machine.

It forces a break in the addiction cycle, allowing an opportunity for common sense to be restored.

The clubs have managed to find $20m to fund an advertising campaign against these measures.

As the mood of our parliaments becomes more ‘progressive’, more and more legislation is coming before Parliaments that flies in the face of ‘Christian values’.

In the past 12 months these issues include euthanasia, gay marriage, the introduction of secular philosophical humanism classes under the title of ethics, adoption policies, and the list goes on.

While the gradual secular shift in our society makes it easier for some to see the distinctives of the Jesus’ forgiveness, the reality is that for many it becomes more difficult.

First step

We must be clear, social action itself is not the Gospel of Jesus – many groups have lost their focus over the years. And at the same time, Jesus came to serve and defend those who could not stand up for themselves.

Ultimately and most importantly this means forgiveness and salvation.

But showing care for those who suffer can be an important first step.

But coming back to where we started, has the pendulum swung too far? Is it time for Christians to re-engage in political matters?