What a strange summer it’s been. More than a bit disconcerting at times. We’ve had riots, a mass murderer in Norway of all places, civil war in Libya and terrible drought in East Africa.
It has made me ask “What on earth’s going on?”
In this country the government tell us that we live in a ‘broken society’ that needs to be mended. The police have been firm and the courts have been tough but maybe deep down we all feel just a little bit uneasy. What we thought we knew has been turned upside down.
Perhaps we have been a bit deluded about our society in the past but have now seen clearly what is always bubbling under the surface. It would appear that 75% of those coming before the courts this summer have been in trouble with the police before. So this is not new, it just happened all at once.
Now we’ve seen the results of anarchy and it’s very uncomfortable.
It’s time to do something about it.
This was mainly, but not exclusively a problem with the young. So, how do we address the situation? Research shows that by the time people reach the age of 16 it’s too late, the damage is done and we need to work with vulnerable families and young people as soon as problems are identified.
I’m glad the ‘powers that be’ are going to ask serious questions. My hope is that the whole situation will be looked at honestly and in depth. It is simplistic to say that some people are just bad and not ask the question “Why?”
Where has our society gone wrong? These are certainly not easy questions to answer.
Our perspective depends on where we stand and our experience of the situation. I wouldn’t like to say that I even begin to understand gang culture, or what it’s like to be an unemployed young person with little hope, or help and no decent role models.
Maybe the events of the summer have given us a skewed perspective. It would be easy to forget that the vast majority of folks in this country are just people trying to make the most of their lives and are decent folks doing what they can with what we have.
Most people were shocked by the events at the beginning of August but we know that there will always be a criminal element, that seek to live outside the system and cause chaos for the rest of us but, and it’s a big but, the vast majority believe in the importance of law and order. The vast majority care. However, none of us are perfect, not even those at the top of the ladder it would appear; look at MPs’ expenses and the phone hacking scandal.
The courts are there to protect us, but is imprisonment without rehabilitation the answer? How can we give people the opportunity to discover a different type of future filled with hope? We can’t make people care for each other. But perhaps there are people who do not feel that anyone cares for them.
The only way forward is surely to attempt to understand, and having understood to make changes that give people a chance to change, I’m not condoning illegal actions in any way but also I don’t want to demonise the people who carry them out either.
What is the church’s place in all this I wonder?
The Bible talks a lot about sin and turning away from those things which separate us from God. But it also tells us we must love our neighbours.
Not always easy is it?
But we have a solid base on which to stand and perhaps the most helpful thing we can do is to maintain that base; to be welcoming and show gently that there is an alternative way of life.