'The sad fact is that the greed and criminality we have witnessed on our streets is really no different from the greed and criminality we have witnessed in the boardrooms of our banks or in the expenses claims of some of our politicians.'
Sister Catherine Wybourne, Benedictine Nun.
According to David Cameron there is something rotten in the state of Britain. He takes 'them', to task for a 'collapse of moral culture' and does a heavy-handed punitive exercise to show who's really in charge.
So what are the causes? Who's to blame?
One thing he won't say is that Recession is at the bottom of it. And he shouldn't. It's just a symptom. He can cite marital breakdown, electively single-parent families, lack of parental authority, total reliance on the 'nanny State' and the 'I'm owed' culture, but he won't see any connection with the renunciation of Britain's history - the foundation of our nationhood - to the extent that Christianity no longer has any place in our state education and has become all but illegal. We can't refer to the Bible in public life without being branded Fascist loonies.
We know we should live by something called 'morality' but what it boils down to is a mélange of relativism that bewilders young and old alike.
Archbishop Cranmer, in his blog last week, suggested that leadership in Britain shuffles down to the 'divine right of experts'. There have been hours and hours of irate, ever-decreasing circular argument that gets us nowhere. Well, the Divine Right of Kings had some deeply deplorable abuses, but at least it was coming from a single place and people knew where they were. And with prayerful intervention, the outcome might be all to the good. That template, many centuries older than democracy, has been destroyed.
Eventually, however nobly intentioned, democracy eats itself. It is not self-sustaining, as is manifest by the cries last week for 'them' to put things right. 'They' are responsible. 'They' should have been here. The Mob has the capacity to be an even greater tyrant than an absolute monarch or Egyptian or African dictator. The democracy that demands rights with little idea of responsibilities, feeds into it. Liberty is not synonymous with licence. Society craves to be policed and protected, but the responsibility for that seems always to be elsewhere.
Presidents and Prime Ministers are powerless. 'They' are 'us'. The buck passes from one party, despot, group, organisation, to another, all of whom are vested in their own agendas. There's actually no one in charge.
In the UK, the Big Society David Cameron touts will never become a reality until we reclaim our past. All of it. This can't be imposed. The right climate must be established. The hearts of the people must consent to change and reflect that we're made in God's image. We're not in control of the planet. We're the appointed curators of it. We can't, of ourselves, make things grow, much less create a seed. Such a perspective requires humility when we see natural disasters that conflict with the notion of a loving deity prepared to let them happen. Not for a moment do I think them God's Original Will. But, as happens in personal tragedies, he can turn them around to prevent the worst reaches of suffering when we pray. He can use them for our good and the good of others. He needs our input and longs to strike up a personal relationship with us. Some of the greatest blessings in my life - luminous days of unexpected provision - have come back to back with the blackest and most hopeless.
The proper meaning of the word 'humility' confers identity, power and grace upon all. It is not false modesty but inner equilibrium. In society, it works from the bottom up. Not the top down. This just may be true democracy!
Where does that leave us? Pure religion, I guess. As pure and apolitical as we can make it. It's a fine paradox that the debate about separating Church and State could become an irrelevance. Religion points the way to the need for salvation from the worst in ourselves. It points to Faith. It fosters real humanity and a moral code that has every chance of promoting better legislation and a viable medium.
Unfortunately, those who perpetrate wars and terrorism - and this applies to all nations and creeds - generally do so in the Name of God for self-justification, thereby perverting its intrinsic power.
In 18th Century Britain - a time of riots, revolution, wars, dire poverty, economic, social and religious upheaval, when there was capital punishment and transportation for the pettiest of crimes, King George III recognised that much was owed to one man, an Anglican to his death-bed, though he founded, by default, the movement that is the Methodist Church. But his denomination is immaterial. The oratory and eloquence of John Wesley, which proved itself in changed lives and demonstrable social progress, was not empty rhetoric. It was a major stabilising influence in the prevention of bloody revolution on these islands.
It was an example of Man, With All Faults, working in co-operation with his Maker.
On a lighter note, one refreshing and positive thing emerging from democratic ideals during the violence of recent days, is that some have acknowledged 'there, but for the Grace of God, go I'. Mr Wesley's own words when witnessing a criminal in the dock!
It is unsettling to dwell on what might obtain when our regime evolves beyond recall into post-Democratic. Maybe, if it also becomes post-Secular, we are all in with a chance. The alternatives do not bear thinking about.
One thing is certain, Truth, as ever, will prevail.
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...