Tribal Rules & Regulations

I spoke with an Australian Aboriginal leader last week who told me about a Tribal justice process used in some Aboriginal communities. When an offender has done wrong and is worthy of the censure of the community that person can choose to face a beating by the community. The person must stand in the centre of a group and be beaten, possibly to death, by others in the tribe.

Many times this form of ‘justice’ results in the death of the individual. Other times the person is permanently disabled, crippled or seriously affected by the severity of the beating. This is tribal justice. It is part of the tribal rules and regulations which developed over time to regulate behaviour in the group.

One line of thought about such rules is that they are somehow ideal, because they developed out of the journey of that group of people. Sentiment seems stirred in some quarters today, to elevate the local traditons of tribal groups around the world, to a place of worthy preservation. The imposition of western law or other rules and regulaions is contemptible to these people. On the other hand, just as there are good and bad ways to cook, grow crops, run a business, manage finances, drive a car, or whatever, there are good and bad rules and regulations. Just because something is ‘tribal’ does not make it good or bad.

In the early 1980’s, as pastor of a church in New Zealand, I was approached by a mother with grave concern about her daughter. She detected evidence of her daughter being sexually abused. She told me that in the tribal background of her husband there was a history of incest, as somehow an endorsed tribal behaviour. Obviously such a thing was not publicly acknowledged, but it was understood by the insiders. In the absence of evidence and in the face of the father’s denials the matter never went to prosecution.

Is such behaviour to be preserved as a tribal cultural icon? Is sexual abuse OK because it fits within Tribal Rules and Regulations? Absolutely not!

While tribal rules and regulations are the easiest for members of the tribe to subscribe to, since the people have been enculturated with those rules, the rules do not and should not be maintained when they perpetrate abuse or evil. Ah… but there’s the rub! How do you know what is ‘abuse’ or ‘evil’? Despite the popularity for obfuscation of such things, the answer is remarkably simple. We simply apply the ‘fear of God’. Since God is the ultimate authority we simply refer back to His holy rules and regulations and modify our own rules and regulations to be consistent with His.

Husbands help your Wife

In an earlier post I recommended the book Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo, and I also warned that I would post a word to husbands. I’m picking that up here. To get this in context you may wish to check the post this month on Baby Wise.

My daughter-in-law, Ruth, pointed out to me that many young mums get trapped in the application of practical guidelines. An insecure mum, for example, could follow a set of guidelines rigidly, even excessively, without thinking of them as ‘guidelines’ at all. This can be inappropriate and even absurd at times. I have seen older women at times try to suggest a change in routine to a younger mum, only to be met with the protest, “But the Dr said…” or “the health nurse told me to…” or “the book  I read it has to be done this way”. While there are some procedures which must be followed in detail, there are also many things which exist in principle, and the guidelines are simply that – ‘guidelines’.

A new mum’s best ally (at least in theory) is her husband. Then, of course, her mum, mother-in-law, friends and so on can all make wise contribution. Since dad is usually on hand, even in the wee small hours as mum struggles with some issue or other, the husband can be his wife’s greatest asset. You will note that I said “can be”, since many husbands are known for sleeping through their wife’s toughest hours, or being dismissive when their wife calls for their assistance. My dad called such people “knuckle-head” – I guess because the only way to get anything into the head is with some knuckles.

Anyway, in a perfect world, where husbands are actually useful, not the other kind, the husband can and should be his wife’s greatest ally. This is especially valuable when the husband cares enough about his wife to help her think through the issues. If a wife is getting caught up in the practice of a principle she may need to review the situation, with the help of ‘hubby’, to sort out the practice from the principle. If a mum is burdened by maintaining a particular routine, as if everything depends on her sacrificial diligence, this is a good place to review. She can be helped to understand the principle at stake, and to be reassured that the exact detail of the practice can be more flexible than she might expect, especially if the principle is still intact.

I have observed a tendency in women at times to be very faithful to the rules and regulations. Men tend to be more willing to test the rules. While this leads men to break the law more often, it also causes men to look for the principle, rather than the practical guidelines. A woman is more reliable in following instructions and is more faithful overall in getting things done (generally speaking). But a woman is also more prone to being caught in routine and inefficient patterns, without successfully thinking through the bigger picture issues or principles involved (generally speaking). The husband’s alternative way of looking at the wife’s challenges empowers him to bless her with re-tuning her thoughts and practice, so the principle is served but the pressure of the practical application is minimised.

OK, I know what some husbands are going to say. “What if she doesn’t want to listen?” Many a wife misses the blessing that is hers through her husband, because she feels put down by his advice. This can come both from her own pride and insecurity, or the husband’s arrogance and uncaring attitude. If both husband and wife are attentive to their own weaknesses, and work together as a God-given team there is much to be gained. If they pull against each other they will both suffer, and their whole family will suffer too.

Husbands – take up the challenge to be a blessing to your wife. Once you have navigated the aligator infested waters of your attitudes and her vulnerabilities, you can move toward a mutually rewarding cooperation that blesses you both.

Rules & Regulations

We live with Rules and Regulations. We suffer under them; we impose them on others; we respond and react based on our ideas of how things should be regulated. As parents we get to impose a range of rules on our children. We are often busy regulating their behaviour, responses, speech and so on. As employees we have to fit in with the requirements of our employer, who has to regulate the business based on government standards. When we drive the roads, play sport, join a group and engage in any organised social activity we come under rules and regulations.

So I want to graze the topic with you and see if there aren’t some insights that will help you make and apply better rules and regulations in your family, workplace or social context. Let’s see too if we can’t improve your attitude about the rules and regulations other impose on us. Ultimately, you see, we are all under the rules and regulations of God, Himself. As we respond to people’s regulations and instructions we reflect our response to God. As we impose regualtions on others we also expose our respponse to God’s authority.

Good rules and regulations are those that reflect and are consistent with God’s authority, since God is the source of all authority. Parents and governments can have profound impact through their regulations, when those rules and directions resonate with God’s authority.

This is an introductory post, however, so I don’t intend to dive deep into the subject as yet. Let me do some more grazing with you to scan something of the scope of the subject. The Code of Hammurabi is one of the earliest documented rules and regulations, for the Summerians of the Middle East, dating around 1800BC. The nearly 300 laws prescribed by Hammurabi suggested that goods were ultimately more valuable than human life and that people of privilege should be judged differently to others. Is that how rules and regulations should be based?

Today we can refer to International Law, the Law of Moses, Sharia Law, Federal Laws, Maritime Law, and so on. These laws conflict and compete at times, leaving us with confusion about what is right and wrong.

What about “innocent until proven guilty”? Is that the basis for law and order, or is it appropriate to accuse people and make them prove their innocence? In our terrorism conscious world we all want suspected terrorists restrained – but can we do that on suspicion? But then, what about the idea of “guilty until proven innocent”? Does that lead to the attrocities of the Inquisition? Do you want your life dictated by opponents who keep trumping up false accusations and making you spend your life defending youself against base-less charges?

And what about judgement affected by bribes, appointments based on nepotism, promotion by merit, promotion by privilege, passing the buck, manipulating the system, false evidence, and so much more? Parents are familiar with the “I didn’t do it” claim. So how do they apply rules and regulations justly when the facts are not clear? Oh, and what about accidental breaking of the law? Consider the person whose innocent actions have criminal results.

Obviously the most important way for each person to regulate their life is in the “fear of God”. That means we choose actions which we know God has prescribed and which are in line with His holy standards. Navigating through the application of that is where it all gets very interesting. So let’s pick this topic up some time soon and have another graze through the issues.

Australia’s First Female Governor General

For the first time in Australia’s existence as a nation it is to have a female Governor General. It has been announced that Queensland’s Governor, Quentin Bryce, has been appointed to replace Major General Michael Jeffery when he retires at the end of his five year term, in July this year. This gives Mrs Bryce the privilege of becoming Australia’s first female Governor General.

The role of Governor General in Australia is often seen as purely ceremonial. Quentin Bryce’s term as Australian Governor General will be filled with official functions. Any Australian Governor General, male or female, carries a high-profile surrounded by pomp and circumstance. But the role is much more than ceremonial. An Australian Governor General is much more than a rubber stamp to the decisions of the Australian Parliament.

In simple terms there are three entities who wield political power in Australia. The first level of political power in Australia is the people of Australia. The Australian Constitution enshrines the right of each Australian citizen to nominate who they will allow to exercise government over them. That is why, at each election, Australian politicians must come, hat in hand, to woo the support of the most powerful political entity in the nation. If the people do not assign authority to a politician then that politician is just another citizen. The second level of authority, then, is the elected representatives, politicians. They can exercise political privilege, delegated to them by the Australian people, on various terms, such as a limited duration of their tenure. The laws they can pass are limited by the Australian Constitution.

Since power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, those who created the Australian Constitution sought to find an effective balance of power. With the British and American experiences to draw from the drafters of the Australian Constitution sought to find an effective balance between the people, who own the land, and the politicians those people elect to govern the land. Since two competing parties could always come to a stalemate a third party was created to protect the most important element of Australian society – the people.

In the British system the Monarchy, which once ruled with absolute power, had been forced to share power with both politicians and the people. Huge social landmarks were crossed in the process, such as establishing all people equal under the law, including the King. The new (in relative terms) role for the monarch was no longer to govern, nor to yield absolute power, but to be the protector of the people who they once ruled, defending them against the potential abuses of politicians. The Monarch (King or Queen as the case may be from time to time) had long had to acknowledge that his or her place was a privilege they held under God’s authority. They could not take office until they had sworn to honour God and to uphold the Bible as the book from which society was to be governed. In so doing, the King or Queen became God’s agent for the protection of the people.

Little more than a century ago, when the Australian Constitution was drafted, the relatively new role for the Monarchy was appreciated and built into the Australian governmental model. A representative of the British Monarch was to be appointed as the Australian Head of State, extending the British Monarch’s divine mandate to uphold the Bible as the rule of law and the basis for society. This person who functioned as the Head of State, designated the Australian Governor General, stood to protect the Australian people from their elected politicians.

Once an ordinary citizen has become a politician and been elevated to a place of political power over others that person ceases to be ‘ordinary’ and may be tempted to exploit their privilege by abusing the very people who placed them in power. They might decide, for instance, that they should have privileges others do not have. So, every law that Australian politicians can legally make has to go through a final vetting process. The only ones empowered to make such rules are the politicians. To protect the Australian people from abuses of that political power, the Australian Governor General must give authority to those rules by signing them into law.

It is convention that the Governor General of Australia do just that, sign the laws that have been crafted by Parliament. But this is not to suggest that they are a mere rubber stamp. Any true Governor General recognises their place as a protector of the Australian people and upholder of the Bible as the rule of law. If they see any law being promulgated by an elected parliament that opposes the Biblical mandate for social law and order, they have the authority, right and responsibility to oppose that law and refuse to sign it into existence.

Further than this, an Australian Governor General can even take the drastic measure of removing a government which they deem to have exceeded its privileges and to be acting in a manner that is damaging to the people of Australia. Such actions are rare to the point of near extinction, except for the amazing example of Sir John Kerr, Australian Governor General between 1974 and 1977, who dismissed the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

So Mrs Quentin Bryce, in becoming Australia’s Head of State, as the first Australian female Governor General, becomes a hero of the Australian people. She is their protector. She is the one who has the power to protect them from their elected parliamentary politicians. She is the one who must weigh each law against the Bible and determine whether it upholds or contradicts what God has charged her to live by.

Let us all pray that she does what she is being given the privilege to do.