Everyone who has commented on the looting in London has registered surprise and disbelief at what is happening yet some social commentators, including some religious groups have been predicting this kind of anarchic behaviour for many years.
In the UK we have seen the development of a society with largely material values and no proper accountability. Add to that the depraved nature of humankind and you have a recipe for the sort of behaviour we have seen over the last couple of days.
- Social status is determined by what you own and who you control.
- Morality is subjective and determined by personal choice and not by any fixed parameters.
- Right and wrong are not absolute but are always open to interpretation and preference.
- If you misbehave the likelihood is that there will be no inconvenient or painful consequence.
- If you are strong enough or rich enough you can do exactly what you want.
- The human rights of the individual must be protected however much that individual disregards the human rights of others.
- Being older or in a position of authority, doesn’t automatically demand respect.
- Sex is about self-gratification and pleasure and has little to do with relationships or love.
- There is probably no God.
Civilised society is dependent on the safe and fair interaction of disparate individuals within a homogenous group. Such a complex collaboration has to be based upon a set of mutually upheld principles and standards. When those standards and principles are ignored there have to be suitable penalties for those who chose not to cooperate. The difficulty we face in the UK at present is that both of the aforementioned principles have been significantly undermined.
Post modernism has delivered a paradigm shift in morality; an ethical earthquake has reshaped the moral landscape almost beyond recognition. Common decency has become altogether uncommon and traditional values and virtues are often portrayed as being bigoted and exclusive.
The relationship between society and its young people is akin to the relationship between a dangerous dog and his handler. In truth the dog has the upper hand but the confidence of the handler convinces the dog otherwise – you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. However, if the dog suddenly realises he is only two barks and a bite away from the contents of the entire fridge you have a problem.
What we desperately need is a mutually acceptable standard of behaviour backed up by an effective disciplinary process which kicks into gear when people act outside those commonly held standards. The possibility of being caught in such cases must be high and the penalty both inconvenient and costly. In addition the possibility of capture and the threat of punishment must always significantly outweigh the perceived benefits of the crime.
Humanity is innately depraved and without proper guidance and control it will always revert to a ‘dog eats dog’ mentality.
There is role here for the church if we have the courage to accept it, but it is not to wade in – the daily Mail in one hand and a collection of selected bible verses in the other, or to stand on the moral high ground and wag a disapproving finger. We must do much more than simply adopt a supercilious attitude which delivers a sarcastic ‘I told you so’ in the direction of liberal social engineers.
One of the significant things that hit me last night as I watched the riots unfold on TV was the familiarity of the place names – I grew up in Croydon, I walked down the London Road to go to school when I was a child and the area we lived in then was in the epicentre of yesterday’s troubles. However that’s not the familiarity I was referring to – Chalk Farm, Enfield, Tottenham, Lewisham, Ealing, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Croydon… All of these locations are close to Salvation Army Corps. Croydon Citadel was actually visible in some of the TV footage last night. God has positioned us in the very heart of these troubled areas and it is now up to us to begin our dangerous yet fulfilling commission to save the people. This morning there are cries for the Army to be called out onto the streets – well actually the Army is already there – the Salvation Army.
The only guaranteed way to save society is to change the individual and the only thing that has a proven track record in that area is Christianity. There is no philosophy, religion or political system that offers selfish and cruel people new hearts and forgiveness other than Christianity. There is no other name given to men by which they can be saved than the name of Jesus.
We are already in these places, now we need to get alongside the people. In the short term arrest and punishment must be the order of the day but in the long term the sinners of this world need to develop such a curious interest in our faith that they invite us to tea. We need to be reclining at their tables, going to their parties, infiltrating their culture and ultimately introducing them to Christ – only then will we see long term stability return to the streets of London and other UK cities.