The dust has settled and London has returned to a semblance of normal. The political discussion is peppered with political point scoring. The right say it’s because of broken and ‘sick’ people having no respect and the left say it’s because the government are no longer giving handouts.
There are a myriad of theories, from bad parenting to poverty and just plain criminality. The lack of consensus just shows me that the answer is so obscure as to be hiding in plain sight.
As a Christian Londoner, my instinct was to pray, which is exactly what I did, first at home with my 18-year-old son and then later at my church, All Souls, Langham placeat the summer Tuesday prayer service. My prayer vigil led to a degree of insight which I think is lacking from the analyses.
Of course, some people have questioned the morality of the wanton destruction, violence, criminality and blatant disregard for human life, security and well-being, but as always in a free society, those of no faith attack those with faith in God who dare to suggest that a lack of respect for God leads to a lack of respect for His creation this obscures the simplicity of the truth.
It maybe strange to say that during the riots I was proud to be British; to live in a country where despite intense provocation, the police refused to use force or use water cannon on looters, some of whom were as young as 11; a country where even though we are counting the cost of the criminal actions of some, there were no heads bashed in or young people lying dead in the street for attempting to steal a few trainers.
Maybe this pride would be more understandable when I explain that this Britain is the country of the king James Bible; where sayings of morality and right and wrong are steeped in the truth of the scriptures: Love thy neighbour, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, good faith, good will…I could go on. In Panorama tonight the reporter even contrasted the story of the good Samaritan from the bible with the actions of those who stole from a Malaysian student they were supposedly helping.
This Britain, is the basis for my conclusion that the reason for breakdown in morality, is the distancing from the moral prerogative, which has been systematic for at least four decades. It can even be said to be of biblical proportions!
Since we live from headline to headline, it might be that we’ve forgotten all of the tales of immorality which have been dominating our consciousness for decades now.
From people being famous for nothing, to leaders ignoring their responsibilities moral and fiduciary, it’s really no wonder that the manifestation in young people reached destructive and violent proportions. Even the London Metropolitan police had recently lost a supposedly experienced and capable leader who had to resign due to the appearance of impropriety! You have to wonder what impact this had on police operations and moral during a very trying time in their service.
Archbishop Chew, in his sermon at All Souls on 17 July 2011, exhorted us as Christians to always do good because we have to model goodness for the younger generation as they have no idea what it is. He went on to remind us that goodness is in short supply in our society and it was up to us as Christians to model it. He said, ‘Young people when they look at what is going on in society today, have no clue what is called hope, goodness, conscience, responsibility beyond themselves.’
Using the analogy of Paul and Titus as an example of the older generation teaching the younger, he quoted Titus 3:4 and urged us to be reminded that it is our duty to teach the younger ones to be responsible and productive and we are able to do this by the grace of God (Titus 3:4-9).
Listening to his message in hindsight, it seemed to me like a prediction. The list quoted above is an accurate depiction of what was going on in the young people’s minds as they looted. An attitude of them and us; we are not part of them so we can do what we like.
If we as a society are to avoid such violent outbursts in the future, we have to avoid the temptation of wanting to provide solutions unilaterally. The hostility to God and the goodness He represents is evident for all to see in the iconic images of the riots and the fact that we were all appalled by what we saw shows that we all have goodness in us, we just have to find it by finding our way back to the source of all goodness.