September / October 2011 Message from the Minister

A Warning Ignored!

FEAR.  That’s the mood of the country according to Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in a recent article for the New Statesman.  But it wasn’t just the fear of  Government spending cuts about which the Archbishop was speaking, as daily life within our society.  And with a vengeance, vindication of his warning came last month in England with scenes of such terror, vandalism and theft that gave rise to horror throughout our country and amazement round the world.

The main victims of which are ordinary people and shopkeepers for they are the ones who have had their homes burnt and their livelihoods destroyed. Not the rich and the influential but the struggling, the law-abiding, those who keep society going by paying their taxes and behaving decently. People entitled to have their homes and property protected from the violence and arson dished out to them by highly motivated and amoral gangs of robbers and the grievous failure of those ‘in authority’.  TV footage showed many traders astonished at seeing police simply standing by watching their shops being trashed just yards away. Such violent scenes cannot be quickly forgotten and such responses by those entrusted with law-enforcement must adequately be addressed for any society needs good governance and safe conditions for ordinary life to be possible, or else we descend to the level of a failed state. Political correctness is helpless in the face of such a ferocious onslaught of anarchy. However, the claim that the mass of criminal activity was entirely the whirlwind reaped from social deprivation or insensitive policing is unpersuasive. Truth is rarely so clear-cut.

A Spiritual and Moral Crisis

Some political pundits have been quick to point to the financial cutbacks being made by  the Coalition Government as the match giving light to this blaze of rioting.  But the  deeper thinking, such as Diane Abbot, who happens to be a local MP, points to the moral issue, saying: “cuts don’t make you a thief”. She is getting close to the heart of our national disease as a society for, sadly, these disturbances cannot be easily excused as being just  the isolated incidents of a minority. Rather, they are the scary symptoms of a widespread and deep sickness within our society.  It is a moral and spiritual one.  In the main, whether in London, Manchester, Edinburgh or Glasgow, the wealthy and rich within our society are indifferent to the plight of the struggling inner-city dweller. It has been possible for ‘comfortable society’, wherever that is to be found, to simply ignore the broken homes, weak parenting, paralysed school discipline and the triumph of consumerism that blights the life of so many.  Our society, which has devalued marriage and endorsed the vogue for single-parenting, leaves its young men in particular, without role-model dads and any firm control: vulnerable to the drug, knife and gun crime culture which offers what passes for ‘respect’.

Three thousand years ago, anarchy broke out among the people of Judah. It was at a time when the country was being threatened by its more powerful neighbour.  Isaiah, one of the greatest of the ancient prophets, warned that the greatest danger however, came from within, from the people themselves. In vivid words and actions he called his people to take stock and reject a way of living that was sunk in selfishness and greed, uncaring for others and full of self-justification in favour of a life in which each individual was valued and free to live in harmony – a life characterised by ‘righteousness and justice’. All these years have passed since then. Much that is ‘good’ has been invented and discovered. But until Isaiah’s prophecy comes true for all our people, regardless of circumstance and situation, what real ‘progress’ has been made ?

Jim Gibson
Minister of Bothwell

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