Four days of mindless violence and anarchy swept across England in early August, taking five lives and engulfing 121 locations. Why? These were not, as some insinuated, “race riots”—even though the initial spark came from the police shooting of a well-known London gang member. Nor were they due to social deprivation, police brutality, political discontent, or government cuts to balance the budget. Neither were they directly related to joblessness or economic despair or poverty. After all, many places did not riot! So, what is the explanation?
British Prime Minister David Cameron had no doubts about the cause: “There are pockets of our society that are not only broken, but frankly sick… the problem… is a complete lack of responsibility, a lack of proper parenting, a lack of proper upbringing, a lack of proper ethics, a lack of proper morals… ” (Daily Telegraph, August 10, 2011).
Commenting on what he saw as “the erosion of morality” that lay behind the riots, Anglican bishop Nigel McCulloch of Manchester wrote, “Perhaps it is not surprising that a moral vacuum in some parts of our society seems to have prompted a me-first, ultra-consumerist culture, in which the quest for possession of things overrides a caring concern for others. Over the past few decades, we have nurtured confusion among people of all ages and backgrounds about what is right and what is wrong. This week we had an unpleasant glimpse of the default position to which society inevitably returns when its moral imperatives have been sidelined” (Sunday Telegraph, August 14, 2011, p. 17).
The words of the Apostle Paul, describing the immorality rampant in “the last days” of this present age, appear tailor-made to describe Britain today: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1–4).
Prime Minister Cameron has expressed great seriousness about moral reform. What actions, then, might he consider? He could form an alliance with those who can bring clear teaching about what is right and what is wrong. Give them airtime. Give them space in our media. Raise their profile to publicise their message. Insist on it! Build up the family. Put parents back in charge of their children. Empower them to properly discipline them in love. End once and for all the gang culture that dominates many cities. In short, by word and deed, start a new “moral crusade” to bring God and His way of living back to the centre of British society.
The message is plain: Britain must change its ways or it will not survive. To steal and lie and deal falsely is wrong. To defraud your neighbour and rob him is wrong. To hate your brother in your heart is wrong. Not to revere your father and mother is wrong. We should all love our neighbours as ourselves. We should highly respect and honour our elders in society and respect law and order (see Leviticus 19:3, 11, 13, 17, 18, 32). So says the one true God who builds up and tears down nations, who blesses and curses nations on the basis of respect for His universal laws.
The way forward is very clear, if we will take it: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words [The Ten Commandments and related statutes and judgments] which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:5–7).
It is not as if this advice is out of date, some relic of an irrelevant bygone age. These are our collective responsibilities—responsibilities the British once knew but have forgotten. Clear biblical values once built up the nation, and Britain now desperately needs to rediscover those values. Yet, no matter what direction Britain may go, we as individuals can restore those values in our own lives. Read our booklets, The Ten Commandments and The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? for a vision of the kind of society we can and should have.