I grew up in a community that was both microscopic and networked at the same time. It was a microscopic community
because my family lived on lighthouse stations.
At the same time it was a dynamically networked community across the whole country, with 24 manned stations and the accompanying support networks.
Looking back, it was a safe community.
There were no known incidents of child molestation, domestic violence or stealing.
Parents had no safety concerns with children visiting their neighbours or vanishing for hours on end when moving around by boat, train or plane.
There was a continuous stream of men visiting throughout the year – mechanics, relief keepers, painters and technicians.
What stands out is that they were men who were safe for women, children and young people to be around.
My image of men, then, was of robust, hardworking, honest and trustworthy people.
For a growing boy to belong to this group was a highly desired prize indeed.
Today, things are different.
While much of our community is still safe it seems that men, in general, have changed.
There is increased domestic violence; the incidence of rape and incest is on the rise; marriage relationships now commonly break down while men are often seen as heroes of the pub and the punt.
Recently I was in Thailand to visit child protection projects and was astounded at the number of sex tourists, many of them Australians, who carry out their activities with no apparent sense of shame.
They are men commonly aged between 45 and 70 years, who rent girls who could be anywhere from 15 to 20 years of
These men brazenly appear with their rented prizes in cafes, restaurants, hotel dining rooms and around touristy areas.
There is no apparent conscience for what are obviously grotesque relationships.
Belonging to this group of men would not, in my opinion, be a good thing at all.
What has caused these changes, making men seemingly so indifferent to any sense of decency?
My guess is the rise of pornographic culture, the ease of access to pornography online and the increase of sexualised content in mainstream movies and TV shows.
These factors have brought about a related decrease in how women and children are viewed by men to the point that many
men appear to see women and children as little more than commodities.
As I look back on the community of my youth and reflect on the issues in the community to which I now belong, I have to ask, what is it that makes men and the overall community safe?
Things like trust, integrity, honesty, clear boundaries and a putting others’ needs at an equal place or above those of self come to mind.
Jesus Christ, of course, models all of these good qualities and the Bible is described as “a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” .
The Bible lays out visible guidelines for what will, in effect, produce a safe, nurturing community through its laws, codes and examples.
It has very clear instructions on taking care of single parents and children, who represent the most vulnerable in any community.
While we cannot expect our whole society to take on the Bible’s way of doing things, there is a place for Christians to do two things.
Firstly, Christian congregations can be places in which a safe, nurturing community is modelled.
Secondly, it is appropriate for Christians to speak out on matters that damage our community; to voice concern; to offer an alternative point of view and to call for change where appropriate.
It would, of course, be wonderful to return our community to the status of a safe community whether our people are at home or abroad.
Dave Martin is the Church Partnerships Manager with World Vision Australia and founder of www.positiveaussieimage.com
Photo : An unknown tourist at Patong Beach, Thailand. Photo by Marion Macaulay