Guest Editorial: The root cause of the London riots
by Paul Brewster
MADISON, Ind. (BP)—It seems that the societal ills that plague inner cities everywhere are no respecter of nations. Britain is presently being rocked with social unrest that is quite out of step with what was once viewed proudly as the stodgy national character.
In any culture, revered traditions can only hold back disorder so long when young people are uneducated, impoverished and without opportunity. Prime Minister David Cameron has pointed out that Britain has created an atmosphere that is characterized by “children without fathers, schools without discipline, reward without effort, crime without punishment, rights without responsibilities (and) communities without control.” He failed to add that Britain has also created a culture in which men have no souls.
The rioters and looters in England have souls, of course, but society has gone out of its way to convince them otherwise. Collectively, England once believed that God was both Creator and Judge to mankind. After Darwin, he no longer was revered as Creator. Thus, it is not surprising if he is no longer feared as Judge. As the echoes of these once foundational truths grow more and more faint, the restraints on behavior fade away as well. When the theological truth that men and women were created in the image of God was willingly abandoned, society lost more than it knew.
Increasingly, the language being used to describe this generation is adopting a soulless view. For example, British commentator Max Hastings recently described London’s youth thusly: “They are essentially wild beasts . . . bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong. They respond only to animal impulses—to eat and drink, to have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.” In the same Daily Mail article, he also recounts a colorful metaphor which he attributes to a former police chief of London: today’s youth have gone feral.
While this dehumanizing language is strong, it could hint of the dawn of hope, for recognizing we have a problem is often the first step toward resolving it. These youth are acting like animals. But stop and think for a moment: this is exactly the evolutionary metanarrative which contemporary western societies have decided to embrace and engender. From the cradle up, we have taught them they were animals, different from apes only in species and skills, not in essence. It is not that they have no conscience to differentiate between right and wrong, but that their consciences have not been trained with truth. The solution for animal-like behavior is for them to see that they are men instead, bearing God’s image, and created with the spiritual capacity to know God. In short, they are not wild beasts, but men with souls who stand accountable before a holy God.
Sadly, however, most who have begun to embrace dehumanizing language and refer to their fellow Britons as if they were packs of wild dogs are likely not on the cusp of a return to the truths of Christianity. In the article mentioned above, Hastings comes to his own conclusion about what must be done to solve the crisis: “Only education—together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives—can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.” He proposes that “Britain introduce incentives for decency and impose penalties” for beast-like behavior.
The problem with his answer is that he is dealing with men, not dogs. Pavlov-like tactics or incentives will not cure the ill. This generation is not in need of moral training so much as it is starved for a true spiritual awakening—which would bring in its wake the desired moral renovations that Hastings would like to see. Anything short of spiritual solutions applied to these problems will not affect a cure.
Here is how the Apostle Paul described his own culture: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, (and) malice.” (Rom. 1:28-29) There is only one solution for all the evil that lurks in human hearts, and it is not education. Rather, what we need is the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Like Paul, may Christians everywhere be unashamed to proclaim loudly the saving Gospel as the only tonic for a world gone feral.
Paul Brewster is pastor of Ryker’s Ridge Church in Madison, Ind.