Now that the dust is settling and peace has returned to British streets, politicians are admitting that something has gone wrong with British society. Street protests against a police shooting, which seemed to be the initial spark for the London riots, soon gave way to a desire to create mayhem and grab as many luxury goods as people could carry. Appearing in court a 13 year old teenager from Manchester, who promised never to accept a social network invitation to a riot again, told the judge: “To be honest, it’s the worst, stupidest thing I have ever done.” A variety of underlying causes are being put forward to explain the rioters’ criminal behaviour. Suggestions that it was because of poverty proved false as rioters with jobs and prospects were also arrested and taken to court. Indeed those trying to pin the blame on poverty should be asked why they expect the poor to have lower moral standards than the rich.
But why should this orgy of violence and greed be so surprising? For many years “morals” has become a dirty word in British society. It’s no longer cool to talk about right and wrong; everyone should be allowed to do what they want … shouldn’t they? Some years ago I spoke to a man who thought that British youth would behave better if they knew the Ten Commandments, which, among other things, teach us not to steal or kill. This man then admitted to me that he had failed to teach them to his own sons. We have seen the consequences this week of young people, growing up without a sense of right and wrong, doing what they wanted. We who are supposedly older, wiser, more mature, have to admit that not only have we not cultivated a sense of right and wrong in British society, but neither have we been a good example. In 1994, after a lot of pressure from major retailers, the British Parliament passed the Sunday Trading Act allowing shops to trade on Sundays. All of a sudden TV’s and trainers were given a higher status than getting to know our Creator, who promises a full life with thought for others, where material possessions lose their significance, and the true value of ourselves and others is revealed through the passionate love God has for each one of us.
We have been sold a lie. We may not all be rioters, but we all have to learn that fast cars, designer clothes and widescreen TV’s are not the most important things in life. Our family, our neighbours, our character, our relationship with God are the things that give life value. What will we tell our children?
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-7)