Comments: Bishops comment on London civil disturbances

The bishops are even slower than the politicians to comment. They do not condemn the murder of Mark Duggan by the police and the police brutality which is the cause of these incidents. They do not support Mark Duggan's family. It is too easy to blame the rioters without dealing with the root causes. this is the death knell of the big society and shows how unsuitable a host for the Olympics London will prove to be.

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 3:19pm BST

Prayers for the UK in this time of crisis and tragedy.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 7:12pm BST

Dear Mother Church,

Until you disestablish and get your bishops out of the House of Lords, you will always be seen as agents of the powerful over the powerless. Condescending lectures to the dispossessed will not help matters. I would suggest a new viewing or listening to Les Miserables. Pay particular attention to the question: "Can you hear the People sing, singing the songs of angry men?"

Posted by The Rev. Randall J. Keeney at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 8:06pm BST

Food for thought:

Posted by The Rev. Randall J. Keeney at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 10:30pm BST

It is so easy to take it out against our Bishops, and those in authority. Much harder to face the true consequence of a nation of disfunctional families.The place where discipline, respect should be taught, instead we find the children being given free reign, and treated as tin Gods. Yesterday we remembered Mary Sumner the founder of the Mothers Union, who helped mothers and families to be brought up in a Christian household. Today we need again households where faith, of whatever variety, is the bedrock of family life.
What we have seen is greed, indiscipline, and selfishness.
Some of us would say to our government , 'Bring back National Service for all young people, male and female'.

Posted by Fr John at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 11:44am BST

Fr John,

Bring back National Service and you will train a generation of bank robbers, effective rioters and lone gunmen.

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 1:42pm BST

I saw Les Miserables for the second time last week and used the chorus Randall quotes as my text at Evensong (1st reading - the Israelites' rejection of King Rehoboam) on Sunday. At that stage the riots were limited to Tottenham. I believe that we have become - and have been for some time - 'two nations' again, so the anger is not surprising, but the looting looks more like the opportunism of the Thernadiers: 'Never know your luck when there's a free-for-all'.

Posted by Tina Beardsley at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 1:57pm BST

Being raised in a navy family where discipline was harsh and common, I find myself attracted to Fr. John's entry, but that's not the ultimate problem. We of course have the punks/chavs/hoodlums on the streets, but what about the looters/thieves/scoundrels that fill the high-rises of our cities, taking from both the shareowner and laborer alike, paying off our legislators to export our jobs somewhere else at the stroke of a pen.

At least the punks are honest about it.

Discipline begins with leadership that does not lack integrity. Let's see it dwelt in the ranks of RBS, HSBC and Bank of America. Then worry about the punks on the street.

Posted by evensongjunkie at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 7:06pm BST

History shows time and again that a decadent society which abandons traditional morality leads to violence on the streets. We need to do much soul searching.

Posted by William at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 8:11pm BST

Les Miserables is profound telling of a story for a time such as this. The songs are good, but the novel (more than the musical) tells the story of how one person (a bishop) sees the possibility of redemption in a person [aka rioter] who society has labelled the same as every other criminal.

To Kill a Mockingbird has a scene where the narrator Scout creeps out at night when her father Atticus is guarding the jail house against a mob. She manages to call the people to their humanity, and the mob ceases to be and the people disperses. That is what Jesus came to do. The Gospel is about calking people to their full humanity, and as Scout teaches us, that is about our having a relationship with them in the first place, through which that call could come. Jesus shows the same. To demonise the mob, by contrast, is to deny any relationship or possibility of redemption. What are we to make of this text "Father, forgive them, they have no idea what they are doing" ... ?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 8:24pm BST

'Never know your luck when there's a free-for-all'

I think that it very interesting and important that the objectives of the looters seem to be flat screen televisions and dubious fashion from JB Sports and H&M. No one is looting food (drink yes to fuel the adrenelin) so presumably the rioters aren't actually hungry. Doesn't this indicate that what is happening is some sort of protest at the exclusion from and the unatainability of the current society where identity is built upon consumption.

The rioters are mostly young people who have grown up under 13 years of a Labour Government. Whatever its faults, that government did throw a lot of money at education and other services designed to help lift people out of abject poverty. Most teachers are conscientious and will have tried hard to challenge and to instill in their pupils both aspiration and confidence in themselves. Moreover, what has happened over the past year won't yet have had much pratical effect though undoubtedly cut backs to youth services and schemes such as Surestart will begin to take effect soon.

How much of this can be attributed to the previous generation, those who grew up in the 80s under Thatcher? The age of 'greed is good' and 'loadsamoney'? The age of materialism in which we all live, where consumption is screamed from the billboards and tv advertisements and 'because I'm worth it' justifies everything. The era which began the rise of the celbrity culture and ended with the scandal of the bankers, the MPs expenses scandal and the immorality of the popular press?

It's no wonder that the parents of today's young people often have no guidelines or boundaries themselves, how can they pass them on to their offspring? Most young people rise above their limitations, most young people aren't rioting, even when they have no money and no prosepcts. Yet some are and we do have to look at our society to understand why.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 8:52pm BST

He ignored the warning signs of his advancing cancer in 1980. He would be dead a year later. Bob Marley had spent his life writing and singing uplifting, inspirational songs in the midst of the political turmoil and police thuggery that characterised 1970's Jamaica.

However, it was a song from his last album, Uprising (that also contains the eloquent, raw vocals of 'Redemption Song' ) of which he said, 'My whole career I put out songs about fighting against the oppression and now on the eve of my death I see 'It seems like total destruction The only solution''

One verse from that song of despair, disillusionment and rage of those at the bottom of society. A rage that believes that, as with de Menendes and many others, we live in a society where state assassins appear more interested in protecting the 'haves' than the dignity of any black man's life:

'Give them an inch they take a yard,
Give them a yard they take a mile,
Once a man and twice a child,
And everything is just for a while,
It seems like total destruction
The only solution.
And there ain't no use,
No one can stop them now'

Stevie Wonder put it this way:
'Her brother's smart he's got more sense than many,
His patience's long but soon he won't have any,
To find a job is like a haystack needle,
Cause where he lives they don't use 'coloured' people,
Living just enough, just enough for the city
Living just enough...For the city.

'His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty,
He spends his life walking the streets of New York City,
He's almost dead from breathing in air pollution,
He tried to vote but to him there's no solution,
Living just enough, just enough for the city.'

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 9:49pm BST

"a decadent society which abandons traditional morality leads to..." - William

Oh brother: is this "It's all because The Gays are getting married" again? *smh*

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 4:47am BST

It's just the beginning, and it won't be limited to Britain. The main driving forces are rebellion against a lie of "traditional morality" bolstered by money and undue political influence. In short, try to enforce your conservative, narrow views and ensure your own profits at the detriment of others, you will find a mob howling for you.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 4:52am BST

Believe it or not JCF traditional morality involves a lot more than whether gays can marry. I was thinking more of concern for others, denial of self, mutual respect - all of which seems to have been sacrificed for instant gratification and consumerism. As one commentator rightly pointed out these people are not starving - they are greedy for material things and want it all now.

Posted by William at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 9:33am BST

What evensongjunkie said on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 7:06pm BST.

many thanks

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 10:25am BST

It is interesting reading the blame placed for these riots in many of these comments. But if there is blame it lies with the soixante-huitard generation (now in their sixries) that brought the permissive society into being. As this generation assumed administrative power so bogus liberal policies were applied which gradually dismantled society and brought 'political correctness' into being. This introduced an entirely unreal world in which lies and prevarication masked truth and reality. It adversely affected every level of British life, but especially our institutions. In particular education was severely compromised.

The 'baby boomers' who brought this situation into being are teetering on the brink of the old folks' home. There they will experience the result of their policies in the bad and neglectful treatment they are likely to receive. However, inevitable legislation permitting euthenasia may well solve their problems. At the present time they constitute the bulk of the population.

Posted by John Bowles at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 10:33am BST

It's not permissiveness bringing disaster, but repression.

There is no sense whatsoever in trying to pin it on liberalism. What's more conservative and orthodox than burning witches and heretics in mob lynchings?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 11:18am BST

The idea that 'traditional morality' is characterised by concern for others is as laughable as it is facile. Especially when it's really about narrow-spectrum low-dosage public-spiritedness.

The mass media and entertainment world (governed by the situation ethics of the profit imperative) have fed and encouraged young minds to take heart in the ephemeral fame of the crass maverick heroes that they discover and promote on TV. This only serves to distract us from the unmitigated expansion of Establishment power and the fiscal regimes that favour the rich while the rest of us live on credit or benefits. The distraction only lasts until we get a rude awakening when one of our number is put down like a rabid dog.

'Sleb' culture is characterised by its relentless effort to demonstrate wealth and an almost sociopathic indifference towards the worth of any life beyond their clique. It's another gang culture that emphasises the connection between the material trappings of success gained by dubious means and the need for 'respect', i.e. the ability to enforce deference through intimidation.

Our kids' thoughts are saturated with the importance of the latest diamanté-studded game-play mobile phone, Katie Price's next OTT cosmetic enhancement, and the over-priced streetwear worn by the new X-factor pop sensation. In fact, any superficial advancement that can stay the terrible thought that their lives are going nowhere and that no-one, not even God (as He is represented), seems to gives a ....

This is the legacy of our great generation: the Triumph of Mediocrity over Substance.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 1:23pm BST

There are no easy answers. However the root cause is more than just the shooting of a man in London - the malaise in society was already there, but extends from top to bottom.

Ultimately it is a sign of the godlessness of society. God is being shut out of schools and the churches are emptying. The gods of greed, consummerism and the big I, have no morals, so why should we be surprised when the children and young people behave in this way. We have told them that they are apes rather than made in the image of God.

Mark - the lie of "traditional morality"? Our society has long given up on Christian morality - that is actually the problem - not that we ever as a nation ever adhere to "traditional morality". Broken Britain. Dont blame it on God but on the old-fashioned godlessness. The false idols have no love for man and man has no love for his fellow man.

Posted by david WIlson at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 1:24pm BST

The political aims and objectives of the far Right around the globe are all similar. The far Right in religion is no different. Controlling the masses will NOT be easy and in fact it will be impossible. The peasants all over the world are restless and for good reason. The phony morality of the Right, blaming the worlds social ills on the liberal forces in societies, no longer meets the TRUTH test. Extreme conservatism is about to fall. I would say those who have tried to control the message from the far Right are the very ones the masses will go after. Riots happen when there is economic and social injustice on a massive scale. This is happening all over the world. Many, but not all bishops are seen as part of the problem because they fight so hard to preserve the status quo. Obviously, disestablishment of The Church of England will have to happen sooner rather than later. It is a glaring example of a group (Bishops) yielding way too much power and control over other human beings. It is NOT a permissive society that is the problem, it goes so much deeper. The far Right is going to fry over this and related issues in the next few years. Economic disparity is but one of the pressing issues that far Righters and their ilk have brought to the front burner of the stove. It is about to boil over.

Posted by Chris Smith at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 3:54pm BST

We do not know at this stage if the killing of Mark Duggan was unlawful or not because it is still being investigated. We know an illegal gun was found (loaded) but little more at this stage.

In any case this is an entirely separate matter to the riots and lootings which are more antisocial in nature than anything else.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 5:59pm BST

What Chris Smith said.

Years ago, when I was a freshman in college, I had a millwright's son as dormitory roommate. Back then I was small-town Republican (Conservative) defender of capitalism. My roommate wasn't, and warned me way back in 1976, that you back the underclass into a corner they can't perceive to get out, ugly things will happen.

I don't think this bunch consider themselves an underclass, but seeing that there's more idle youth looking for mischief to get into than meets the eye, my roommate might be more right than wrong.

Posted by evensongjunkie at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 6:44pm BST

Essentially, I agree with David Shepherd - people have been taught to value dross over worth, and they have no concept of the joy and challenge of trying to live and love and face outwards towards God and others. And this is not just the rioters, but their betters who have aimed for and HAVE all the trappings.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 7:17pm BST

John Bowles, please tell that that's an (outrageously) clever parody...

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 7:42pm BST

Why is the idea of traditional morality involving concern for others laughable and facile? You don't give any reasons for this strange statement. Most people would rejoice that someone is proposing concern and respect for other people.

Posted by William at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 9:00pm BST

"I was thinking more of concern for others, denial of self, mutual respect - all of which seems to have been sacrificed for instant gratification and consumerism. As one commentator rightly pointed out these people are not starving - they are greedy for material things and want it all now."

Yes... but isn't it the lack of mutual respect some of the better off have shown to the "underclass" that has helped to make them focus on material things and wanting it all now?

My moment of complete intellectual dislocation came when I watched Hazel Blears condemn the Salford rioters for their lack of morals.
And no-one seemed to take her up on it.

Where there is failure, it is all OUR failure. We ARE our brothers' keepers and, collectively, we have failed.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 10:41pm BST

"Broken Britain. Dont blame it on God but on the old-fashioned godlessness. The false idols have no love for man and man has no love for his fellow man."

So... and this is not addressed at the one who wrote it, I've only quoted it because it distills very well what I have seen on a number of blogs from a number of commentators recently.... so... what is every single one of us doing about it?

Liberals blame "society" or "Thatcher" (still!), or Blair, or "not enough money", "economic disadvantages", "class issues".

Conservatives blame "the breakdown of morals", "the breakdown of law and order", "liberalism", something or other to do with sex.

Both blame "selfishness, greed, consumerism".

So - home spun analysis and home spun solutions of what "they" should be doing aside - is each of us here doing our bit? Not just on the blogs, but actually doing anything?

Just askin'

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 10:56pm BST

John Bowles - It would be interesting to know what sort of “genuine” liberal policies you would oppose to the “bogus” ones.

But surely the fundamental impulse behind what, in its extreme, becomes absurd political correctness is much the same as the urge to courtesy: that is, the recognition of the other person as of equal value to one’s self before God – an extreme less harmful, perhaps, than the opposite, which ends in racism, homophobia and the concentration camp.

I would posit that there is no simple answer to the riots, and simplistic ones do at least as much harm as they do good. Where people are hopeless, without jobs and with no hope of finding one, living in ugly, poorly designed and managed housing, seeing the rich grow far richer, and the church more concerned with preserving its privileges, with hypocritical dithering over homosexuality and women bishops than in rolling up its sleeves to do something about poverty, joblessness – then one is perhaps justified in wondering what those “soixante-huitard generation” bishops have been doing about it all?

Smug remarks which seemingly relish the thought of the future sufferings of agin “baby boomers” are surely out of place in a Christian discussion?

Posted by Nat at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 11:25pm BST

Many years ago there was a book, and a film, called "The Shoes of the Fisherman." In it, the Pope decided to sell off the treasures of the church to feed the poor.

In our diocese, the Diocese of Olympia, our bishop quietly joins us at our church making lunches for those in need, and has for many years tithed.

I wonder if more bishops did such things, and made fewer pronouncements, what effect that might have on both the atmosphere that has lead to these riots, and to church attendance?

Posted by Nat at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 11:31pm BST

I think (and I rarely think or say this) that Christianity and biblical framework offer a useful way of understanding the shocking behaviour we have seen and also some helpful ways forward for our society irrespective of whether one is a believer or not and I would very much lie to see Christians of all stripes (liberal and evangelical, Catholic and protestant and everyone in between) developing Christian and biblical thinking here. Take home message - forget hobby horses about homosexuality and victimhood (at least for the moment) this is when our country and society really need a Christian voice 'in the public square'. We shouldn't let the moment pass.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 11:56pm BST

Absolutely the "lie of traditional morality!"

Look, you can believe all the stuff you want about your view=good guys, any other view=godless heathens, but it simply doesn't hold true.

I'm not blaming God, I'm blaming people like you for claiming the authority to speak for Him! Look at you - you even assume that to attack your hypocritical "morality" is to blame God!

Idolatry - like worship of "the good old days" or "Holy Writ" or "Tradition?" Is that what you mean? The fact is, the riots follow on the implementation of conservative agendas of self-preservation and self-gain, and consists of all the good, old-fashioned values that has always - ALWAYS - condoned good, old-fashioned throughout most of "the church's" seedy history.

What you're doing is simply trying to use fear - fear of the violence of rioters - to promote a view just as historically steeped in blood, from the riots that demanded Hypatia's blood in Alexandria, to forcible "conversion," to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, to the Thirty Years' War, to "Take Up the White Man's Burden," to the murders of children as witches in the past year!

I'm willing to grant you may actually *believe* that simplistic view of "tradition" vs. chaos, but the truth is, your tradition has been as chaotic and evil as the present, and the Presence of God is in this world *despite* not *because* of it.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 4:52am BST

David Shepherd,

Thank you!

The sad thing is, until (relative) poverty forced me into giving up the constantly-changing barrage of mass media, I was so easily part of that! I'm not sure there is, at this late date, an answer - but if there is, it involves, not simply a manufactured "good-old-days" society, nor a similarly-fantastic "traditional morality," but a simplification *overall*.

I have no problems with austerity measures, if they truly apply to all and bring proper chastening to the haves as well as have-nots, but we have "austerity measure" in England, Europe, and the U. S. in which *certain* people aren't required to participate, and which has brought, not public spiritedness and self-giving, but more of the same: wealth is worth, grab all you can before you die, wealth is God's favor, life is worth less than materials and politics, and the all-pervasive, ancient-as-mankind, every man for himself.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 5:05am BST


First, political correctness. Did you read (or hear) that the BBC first described the looters as 'protesters'? For this they were upraided by the Prime Minister, they admitted their mistake and the culprits are now recognised for what they are. It was poltical correctness that dictated the first description.

I hope you have been watching and listening to the news since the looting and rioting began last week-end. It is consistently emerging that the majority of looters do not, on their own admission, come from deprived backgrounds but can afford to buy what they are stealing. They admit to wearing £100 pairs of jeans, designer trainers, and bling jewellery which, presumably, they bought previously. The occupations, circumstances and qualifications of many of them blare from the newspapers. Heart-rending surmises about unemployment and bad housing (brought into being by socialist governments and local authorities) no longer hold water. On their own admission this criminal behaviour was described by many as fun.

I still believe that recent events are the inevitable result of the permissive society and the ideologically driven generation that has been responsible for creating contemporary society. The ILEA is entirely responsible for the terrible educational policies that have prevailed in the capital for the last forty years.

While being wise after the event may I suggest two ways of controlling this cancer? Watercanon containing indellible dye should be fired at the protaginists to make sure that they are subsequently identified and arrested. Secondly, their punishment should be to send them on cargoe ships, wearing their expensive clothing and bling, to Brazil where they will be made to live on favellas for three months. There, not only will they experience true poverty for the first time in their lives but also have their expsneive attire stolen. Poverty in this country has been eliminated by welfare. What passes for poverty in Britain is insulated. The real poverty of South America and other places outside Europe no longer exists in the United Kingdom. Recent events demonstrate a classic form of decadence that exists in corrupt societies.

Posted by John Bowles at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 10:58am BST


"Good old days"? And when were they exactly? Well according to the bible not since Adam and Eve. Last time I looked - the bible said that both we and creation are fallen and will not be re-generated until resurrection day. I see nothing in society that contradicts that view. I wouldnt use the words traditional morality but rather Christian morality, because it is His morality that matters. "Traditional morality" may well condemn the sinner with no hope of repentance and reconciliation; no need to actually love your brother who sits in the gutter with all hope lost. The nation has followed other gods. God has been mocked and people no-longer see the relevance of God. We prefer to be a nation of mockers and jesters. It is not just the looters who are lost but also the "haves" (materially rich but in reality wretchedly poor.)The mass media pumps out the values of other gods. The nation only pays lip-service to following God. But Jesus calls all to follow His ways and be reconcilled and restored.

I praise You Jesus for Your love that You would seek the lost.

Posted by David Wilson at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 1:04pm BST

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

And in 21st Century London: the "Good Samaritans" helped the Malaysian student, who had been beaten by the mob and whose face was bloodied, get to his feet, but at the same-time were actually stealing the contents of his rucksack.

We need to listen to Jesus.

Posted by David Wilson at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 1:16pm BST


The idea of 'traditional morality' reminds me, and it appears others, of wholly inappropriate calls to return to an idyllic British past in which fair play and decency reigned with good-neighbourliness (and colonialism) only to be supplanted by reckless individualism in modern times. It's this over-simplified nostalgia (cue the Hovis ad) that I consider facile.

Concern for others is not laughable in itself. However, some of us reminisce quite fondly of a previous similar 'back to basics' campaign in which the Tories under John Major attempted to promote a return to traditional morality and family values. That is, until their own hypocrisy was exposed as a debacle of double-standards.

Given the facts of British imperial and post-colonial history, there is very little evidence to support the view that concern for others (beyond the inward-looking parochial variety) has been part of our 'hand-me-down' ethical framework. As you believe otherwise, when was it lost? Under Thatcher, or before?

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 1:17pm BST

MarkBrunson "I'm not sure there is, at this late date, an answer - but if there is, it involves, not simply a manufactured "good-old-days" society, nor a similarly-fantastic "traditional morality," but a simplification *overall*."

The answer is the gospel. The same answer for the richest and the poorest. Love your neighbour as yourself. David Cameron descibes the UK as the "me first" society. The bible would describe it as a society of self-love. Yet the Lord calls you to be servant to all. The Christians have a calling to get involved in their church community, to build their church community (you shall know them by their love for each other) and through the church community impact the wider community. A community that seeks to have a loving servant heart.

Posted by david Wilson at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 5:51pm BST

John Bowles
The Inner London Education Authority was abolished in 1990. That is 21 years ago. So your claim that it has been responsible for the past 40 years of [anything] is surely wrong.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 9:15pm BST

The point of Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan is not that Jesus's listeners thought that most Samaritans would treat most Jews like that, nor yet that they thought most Jews would treat most Samaritans like that - the point is that the listeners knew fine well that that such unexpected unimaginable giving would qualify a person they most detested to the ranks of friend-and-neighbour, and they hated the fact that it would do just that. They WANTED to hate the Samaritans.

@David Shepherd - go you!

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 10:42pm BST

Thank you, Simon, for giving the good, if late, news that the ILEA was abolished in 1990. After its appalling record that was, in principle, to the good. But the local authorities that have taken on the responsibility for education during the last twenty years have followed similar policies, leading to the present low educational standards and politically correct syllabuses. Take the preposterous policies on sex education, for instance. This has contributed to the sexualisation of contemporary British society and the result is found in the fourteen-year-old mothers of many of the looters. One of the main contributors to the decay of society is the one-parent family living on the dole.

Posted by John Bowles at Friday, 12 August 2011 at 10:57pm BST

John Bowles, why are you attributing all these problems to the local authorities, present and past, rather than to the central UK government Department for Education and its predecessors. Are you aware that in 1988, two years before the ILEA was abolished, the Education Reform Act introduced a National Curriculum which was mandatory for state schools in England and Wales?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 12:02am BST

"One of the main contributors to the decay of society is the one-parent family living on the dole."

Gee whiz, you think those that are married and have to work longer hours for less pay are having their marriages stressed out to the point where they fall apart? Think long-term unemployment brings marriage failure? Rage? Serious health problems? Serious mental health problems?

So let's blame the one person left trying valiantly to raise what's left of the family with a sweeping generalization, that'll do it!

Or do you think it's the leaders of our society that are the root cause of our culture decay?

Just say'in.

Posted by evensongjunkie at Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 3:21am BST

David Wilson,

And yet you presume to call us to some sort of good ol' days of "traditional morality" - if it's never happened, who do we look to but Jesus? That's what we've told you we've done, and have different answers than *you* have. If it has happened, you negate your entire answer, because how can you hold up human-written scriptures and human-contrived doctrine as beyond question, when all humans are so corrupted? If, on the other hand, *those* humans can - however imperfectly - understand and transmit God's vision, what gives you the supreme vision and judgment to decide that *we* cannot?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 4:55am BST

"The answer is the gospel. The same answer for the richest and the poorest. Love your neighbour as yourself(. . .) Yet the Lord calls you to be servant to all. The Christians have a calling to get involved in their church community, to build their church community (you shall know them by their love for each other) and through the church community impact the wider community. A community that seeks to have a loving servant heart."

I don't think any of that means what you think it means.

I mean, it sounds great, but . . . the churches have been around for 1400 years or so, and don't have a terribly good track record for social reform, as much as for social conservatism and self preservation. The "gospel" - or at least the version of it set in stone and promulgated by men with a great deal of self-love and violence masquerading as shepherds, including some considerd patriarchs and doctors of "The Church" - has been thrown out there for more than a millenium, and yet it doesn't seem to have accomplished much.

However, *individuals*, formed by an *individual* understanding of Christ and Holiness, have often made a very profound and reformative impact on the entire human community. While operating in the strictures of ecclesial oppression, they have managed to survive and do good despite "The Church" rather than because of it.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 5:07am BST

The steady fall in teenage pregnancy rates is a little inconvenient for John Bowles's theories isn't it?

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 8:11am BST

The Guardian reports yesterday that, of those appearing before the courts, 80% are male, unemployed and under 25. Perhaps we could think about these people, and they are people, human beings.

Why are they so alienated from ordinary society that they riot and loot, why don't they seem to have any stake in our society that they define looting as 'fun'? I suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with our society , a society in which we have all had a hand, active or acquiescing, in creating.

I don't in any way condone what has happened and I do belive that society has to protect itself from random acts of violence and mayhem. I also accept that the justice being meeted out this weekend may be seen to be rather rough compared to other more normal times. But simplistic notions of causes and solutions say more about the person proposing them than anything else. Fancy political posturing and nonsense about the sex education policies of local authorities is completely irrelevant.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 9:46am BST

Blaming the bottom of society is blaming the least educated, the least advantaged. To damage property, to steal shoes when one has not had a wonderful start in life is bad. To rob tax-payers, to exploit the weak by deliberately promoting the policy of over-lending, to support naked greed, when one has had as many advantages as society offers is far, far worse.

I want to see us, all of us, to wake up to an understanding that we all need to thing first about what we can give.

I don't think this is a new problem - throughout history people have been inclined to get power and wealth by any means they can and then to keep it. I think we need both a public and a private morality which looks outwards, that asks about what can be given, not what can be taken and kept.

Oh, and forget the idea that teenage single mothers are some kind of modern invention - the Victorian slums were full of them. And full of areas where police either went in pairs or not at all.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 11:42am BST

"If you want peace, work for justice" Pope Paul VI

If you want peace on the streets of the UK . . . [as a start] prosecute the Murdochs! And all their Parliamentary sycophants!

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 14 August 2011 at 5:22am BST

Your question: 'Why are they so alienated from ordinary society that they riot and loot, why don't they seem to have any stake in our society that they define looting as 'fun'?'

The answers are, of course, complex, but we could ask the same of the banking community who ran riot before the credit crunch. I wonder whether their privileges of financial (being 'too big to fail') and criminal (too rich to prosecute) immunity have left them equally alienated from ordinary society.

It must have been 'fun' to earn a fat commission on no-documentation mortgage lending to sub-prime borrowers on the assumptions that house prices would rise indefinitely to cover any default. It must have been 'fun' for banks to declare a handsome annual bonus last December and get high on their playboy lifestyles after the securitised sub-prime debt turned toxic and left a deathly pallor in the economy that could only be cured with a publicly funded bail-out. The word 'impunity' was made for them.

What we are seeing is an outbreak of tribal conflict during which brand consumption idolatry and material envy have driven one group to dispossess another and endanger their fellow citizens. Is it wrong? Hell yeah! But the disintegration of society into tribal uprisings and conflict began with the government extending the privilege of immunity to certain classes, while damning our posterity.

What can I do? Perhaps, I could end my personal involvement in the commodity fetishism of the major brands. Perhaps, I'll look at their lack of intrinsic worth and part with them on e-Bay, donating the proceeds to charity. Perhaps, there's a simpler, more austere lifestyle that is void of status-affirming consumption habits. One that will end my brand addiction and quench the fear that without them, I am powerless to avoid the stigma of poverty, and the contempt of my peers, acquaintances and neighbours.

Alternatively, as Erika has alluded, I'll just do nothing but talk about it. But where does blatant disregard for the personal implications leave me when 'to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.' (James 4:17)?

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 15 August 2011 at 3:35pm BST

I certainly agree with David Shepherd!

Across the board, from the ideologies to praxis of the dominant society - indeed most extant societies - dehumanizes, reduces human beings to commodities to be traded, whether for goods or power or mere influence. Schools (in the US, at least) have all but abandoned liberal arts in education, in favor of more classes to "prepare you for the work world" - i. e. become a good little worker drone. Even English Lit is no longer about developing ideas and defending them, the exercise of mind, reason and personal development of ethical frameworks, but about production - so many words, this means this, that means that, spelling doesn't really count, just fill in the right oval.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 17 August 2011 at 5:39am BST

Hear, hear, David.
It is true, unless we all visibly live according to our principles, society on the whole will not change.
It always seems to terribly inadequate to focus on one's own small life and surroundings, but it is all most of us can do and at least it is something all of us can do.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 17 August 2011 at 8:07am BST

Mark, Erlka, JCF, et al:
Interesting insights all round. I am serious about the eBay divestment, though. Does Jesus always walk this fast, or is the retail overload slowing me down?!

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 17 August 2011 at 8:08pm BST
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