Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We are not moving forward but 2000 years backwards

I recently finished reading a novel in which the hero teacher was fired by the headmistress because he wouldn't stick to the curriculum guidelines set by the education department, but deviated from the plan for individual students based on their interests and ability levels. This was deemed unacceptable, even though his classes of former rebels always produced fantastic results. Bureaucracy gone mad.

Crazy bureaucratic policies aren't limited to work of fiction. They crop up in life every day. Centrelink hires a staff member especially to tell people in the queue that they only take queries by telephone nowadays. You have to wait on hold for 45 minutes to have your small question answered in a few seconds. Crazy. A little child dies of anaphylactic shock because the staff can't find his epipen, although the identical epipen of another student with a similar allergy is on hand. But they aren't authorised to use that one. Not just crazy but needlessly horrible and tragic. People every day are accused of racism, sexism and all sorts of motives far from their hearts when they make innocent comments or social gaffes. Come on, people, show a little grace. At the TAFE campus my husband attended, a couple of young guys were summarily expelled simply for wolf-whistling at a girl. Boys used to do far worse than that to me in the 80s, without even getting a reprimand. Where do you draw the line? Or isn't there a line to draw anymore, because it would be lost in the ridiculously stringent lines bureaucracy are drawing themselves?

I'd be scared to venture out in the corporate world or workplace because there are so many rules to keep track of, such a lot of politically correct nuances I'd be nervous to accidentally break. It's beginning to remind me very much of a system that was set up in Israel around 2000+ years ago. We give derogative laughs when we hear some of their extremes, but aren't we heading in a scarily similar direction in the 21st century? Theirs was called Phariseeism.

I guess you might say the biggest difference, is that their system was based on religion while ours isn't, but hold on, doesn't ours infiltrate the whole of society, including the sacred Christian sanctuaries you might think shouldn't be touched? Yep, sadly, crazy bureaucracy is seeping into Christian places too, necessarily they say.

Several years ago, I attended BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) down in the city with my mother and Primary School aged children. I'd been happy with my class at Stirling closer to home but ventured down from the Hills because I heard they had an excellent children's program at Norwood.

One evening, we navigated the traffic well and arrived about twenty minutes early. My 6-year-old saw some of her friends already in their little classroom, playing games of hang man on the blackboard and jigsaw puzzles on the floor. They were the children of the teachers and discussion group leaders, who had to be there early each week. Being as enthusiastic and friendly as she still is, Emma ran in to join them, and the other children were pleased to see her.

One of the regular teachers, who was supervising this free time, came and tapped my shoulder. "You'll have to take her out. Only the children of leaders are allowed in here before starting time." I'd put it to you that this example of protocol gone rampant is not an example of Christian love. Having to fetch Emma out of there because she wasn't allowed to play with her friends for another 10 minutes might not seem a big deal to some, but being a sensitive soul, it stung and hurt me enough to have to blink back my tears. Especially when she was confused and miserable about having to sit, twiddling her thumbs instead of joining her friends.

Interestingly, our time with that particular BSF group ended due to another bureaucratic reason. I got a phone call from the lady in charge, telling me that because my older child, Logan, has a peanut allergy, they no longer had a place for him. "We don't have a proper procedure set up for that sort of emergency."

I said, "But we have our own procedure set up. I carry an epipen everywhere. And you never give the kids snacks anyway, so I can't see that it would ever be a problem."

"Just the same, without a policy in place, we feel the easiest thing is to tell you that we'd rather Logan didn't attend from now on. But Emma is still welcome in the younger class."

Well, you mean, she's welcome as long as we don't arrive too early. "That's OK, your phone call has helped me to make a clear decision. None of us will be coming anymore."

Sometimes I've thought we might have even had grounds for taking this further, if we wanted to. It's got a bit of a Current Affair sort of a tang to it, don't you think? "Young boy is denied the chance to attend Bible Study because he has a peanut allergy." Surely that's some sort of 'ism' on their part. Then it occurred to me that we wouldn't want to get sucked in to the world of craziness, playing the same game and getting all bureaucratic on them. We didn't care to find out, and the truth was, Logan wasn't all that upset about having to leave.

It's such a shame when things done in the name of Jesus must bow to this type of bureaucracy. When I wonder how he might have taken it, I think I can make a reasonable guess. Do you remember what happened when he healed the man with the withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath? The Pharisees put on a big song and dance because he did the healing on the wrong day. He told them in effect, "The Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around. Stop your ridiculous carry on and just be glad that this man who God loves has been made whole."

As a helper in Sunday School, I was just given a Child Safe Environment Policy to read through. You can't give piggy back rides or have little ones sit on your lap. Nor can you give a child a small, impromptu gift. The only physical contact you can make is from knees down or on the arms and hands. Pats on head and High Fives are fine, but not play wrestling or tickling. Although I wouldn't dispute any of this, it's a bit sad to think of somebody having the need to sit there and write it all out, and equally sad to think of someone who innocently forgets and breaks one of these breaches having to be reprimanded. But the world of bureaucracy demands that this must be so. It's the world we live in, so we have to attend the meetings, sign the forms, say the right things, do our best to keep abreast of it all.

Yes, even though it's all about Jesus, I can't imagine him tapping anyone's shoulder to say, "Your little girl isn't allowed in with her friends until the big hand of the clock is firmly on the twelve."


  1. I'm so angry after reading this Paula, I'd best not make a comment other than to say it's just as well I wasn't at the BSF gathering when it happened. It would not have been a pretty sight.

    Blessings on you sweet friend.

  2. LOL, Lyn, thanks.
    It was one of those occasions when I was too busy trying to rein in my emotions to have much presence of mind to do much else, but when we got home, I kicked myself for missing an opportunity to at least speak up.

  3. It is amazing how rules infiltrate every aspect of our lives. Our religious education program is required to do a class on safe environments, even though the program runs once a week for 90 minutes. And we pay for it. I don't worry about it since my kids are homeschooled, but it amazes me that other parents don't point out that these safe environment classes are already required in regular school, so to have them in a religion class is redundant.

    We live in a crazy world!

    Peace and Laughter!

  4. Absolutely, Cristina. They take a whole day, too, so this redundancy makes a difference, when you're required to attend them every couple of years as it is :)


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