Riots and God

The roots of breakdown in society go deeper than politics and economics

Published 11 August 2011  |  
Many people had long felt that there was something very nasty lurking beneath the placid waters of British society. The sudden, brutal and mindless violence that erupted in large parts of London and other cities over the last few days was an unpleasant demonstration that this potential for nastiness was not only real, but closer to the surface than anybody feared. Just as troubling was the realisation that the police – those traditional guardians of the once secure British way of life – might be powerless to deal with it.

Even before the smoke has cleared away people are proposing reasons for the violence. It's clear that while the disturbances may have started with a particular grievance within one community, they ended up as a collective violent lashing out against any and every target, by a range of largely young people from many different communities. It's hard to argue against the significance of some of the reasons proposed: there is an enormous and apparently growing inequality in British society, there are many young people who are alienated and hopeless, and there is too much cheap alcohol.

Yet to me these are all too superficial. Exactly how superficial they are was demonstrated by the way – shocking to many commentators – that many ordinary ‘decent’ young people with jobs and responsibilities, became involved in the looting and arson. While I sorrow over this I am less surprised. As a Christian who takes the Bible seriously I am under no illusions about the human nature: we are inclined to precisely commit the sort of deeds that we have seen so graphically on the media. The reality is that breakdown in society has roots that go deeper than politics and economics.

My own diagnosis is that the nation has lost the Christian faith that, in a quiet and unnoticed way, acted as the glue that has held the British social fabric together. For two generations it has been fashionable to sneer at Christianity and to consider it unnecessary for a modern civilised society. The result has been a moral vacuum and amongst the noise of sirens and breaking glass many people heard the sound of chickens coming home to roost.

These terrible events have simply strengthened my own belief that Britain desperately needs to go back to the Maker's instructions, the Ten Commandments. It is God who encourages the poor to work hard and, whatever the injustices, to obey the law. It is God who challenges those in power to govern honestly and to give all they can to those in poverty. It is God who encourages love and care between individuals and in doing so, creates bonds between potential social divides. It is God who gives people the power to resist the temptation to go on a rampage ‘for kicks’.

God have mercy on us.




J John is a Christian speaker and writer and founder of the Philo Trust www.philotrust.com

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