Ross Gittins is one of Australia's more astute business, economics and society commentators. In this article: Rudd rides high but you wouldn't want to be a union boss
I had a revelation about something that has puzzled me for a long time.
The issue is this. Many people have noted that people in our community are open to Jesus but they don't like the church. I haven't been able to work that out really, and nobody else has either. Yes I know you get all those reports about pedohile priests and greedy pastors and other forms of abuse, but that doesn't really explain it either.
But Gittins makes an essential point in this article. He says this:
It's clear a lot of working people are anxious about the threat to their jobs, pay or working conditions – if not for themselves then for their kids – and this is by no means due solely to the effectiveness of the unions' advertising campaign.
But that assessment sits most oddly with the latest statistics showing that, over the year to August 2006, union membership fell by 126,000, down 6.6 per cent. This caused the proportion of employees who were union members to fall from 22 to 20 per cent (in the private sector, just 15 per cent).
How could this possibly be? At a time when workers with little personal bargaining power have every reason to feel exposed – and we know many are feeling anxious – union membership is falling rather than rising.
That's how deep the unions' difficulties run. The workers know they've got a problem but it just doesn't occur to many that the union might be the answer.
The unions have exactly the same problem as churches.
So the problem is not the church. The problem is that the church has to restructure itself to become smaller, more engaged with its community.
Commentators speak of the "tribalisation" of society. In other words we are tending to identify more closely with sub-cultures within the community.
The challenge for the church is how to idnetify the "tribes" and to target the Good News to the thousands of tribal groups "out there" in our towns and cities.
Quite a challenge!