Turning Points

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The very fabric and cohesion of British society is failing, its former values and standards have been eroded, its belief in God and the way of life He espouses (however imperfectly that was applied) progressively abandoned. The rot has set in, and evidence of moral decay is all around. In a wider sense, British society itself is broken!


"David Cameron and his coalition partners, elected back in May, have set for themselves a monumental task, upon taking the reins of power after 13 years of Labour government. What is that task? Here is how Cameron described it in a July 2008 by-election speech in Glasgow, Scotland:

"Our mission is to repair our broken society—to heal the wounds of poverty, crime, social disorder and deprivation that are steadily making this country a grim and joyless place to live for far too many people… The thread that links it all together passes, yes, through family breakdown, welfare dependency, debt, drugs, poverty, poor policing, inadequate housing, and failing schools but it is a thread that goes deeper, as we see a society that is in danger of losing its sense of personal responsibility, social responsibility, common decency and, yes, even public morality."

It is tough enough just to address a nation's economic issues. Cameron's emergency budget presented on June 22 laid out bold yet painful plans to rebalance the economy and deal with massive debt. Early signs were that the British people would hunker down and willingly lend their support to a mixture of draconian spending cuts and rises in taxation. These strong measures also seemed to reassure the international bond markets and stave off the risk of Britain's credit rating being downgraded.

But the current crisis goes far deeper than just economics. The very fabric and cohesion of British society is failing, its former values and standards have been eroded, its belief in God and the way of life He espouses (however imperfectly that was applied) progressively abandoned. The rot has set in, and evidence of moral decay is all around. In a wider sense, British society itself is broken!

Will the Prime Minister succeed in what amounts to a call-to-arms for a national moral crusade aimed at individual character change? Will the nation respond in appropriate ways and buy into his exemplary vision? If so, where might they look for inspiration? Well, the scale of Britain's economic woes has been compared to the dark days of World War II and its aftermath. So, in this 70th year since Britain's "darkest hour," let us consider those historic events, and the parallels and lessons they may reveal for us today.

On the Brink

Back in May-June 1940, Britain trembled on the very brink of oblivion. On May 10—the same day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of an all-party coalition government—the Nazi armies of Germany unleashed their mighty blitzkrieg against Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Over the next month, Belgium, Holland and France fell in rapid succession. In Northern France, the British Expeditionary Force was pushed back to Calais and then to Dunkirk. Were it not for Hitler's astonishing pause in hostilities and the "miracle of Dunkirk," World War II would likely have come to its end in June 1940, with Germany the victor!

The true desperation of Britain's plight back in 1939 and 1940 took time to be fully and widely appreciated. But, in retrospect, we can see that those perilous, uncertain days of May-June 1940 provided the fulcrum—the turning point—that would set the course of the war. Historian John Lukacs points to May 28 as the signal moment of decision, when Winston Churchill declared that England would go on fighting no matter what happened. There would be no surrender, no negotiating with Hitler. Churchill said, on that day, "We shall go on and we shall fight it out, here or elsewhere, and if this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground."

Lukacs writes that turning points can be seen as "a sudden shifting of events and movements in a battle or during a revolution… A turning point may occur in a person's mind; it may mean a change of direction; it has consequences that are multiple and predictable, consequences that are more often than not recognizable in retrospect. A turning point may sometimes be foreseeable, but not with certainty" (Five Days in London: May 1940, p. 2).

Seventy Years Later

Seventy years later, to the very day, David Cameron gave his first policy speech as Prime Minister on May 28, 2010. Like Churchill before him, he declared his commitment to a war that some do not think can be won. But Cameron is warring against a very different enemy. He declared as his first priority the transformation of a broken economy and the battle to rein in Britain's out-of-control indebtedness. He said, "Britain is at a turning point. The decisions we make now will live with us for decades to come. For many years we have been heading in the wrong direction."

Cameron laid out an ambitious vision of restoring Britain's economy, but his vision goes a lot further than economics. He intends to reform welfare, press for social renewal and "actively agitate" for much more community action in national and local affairs. The change Cameron seeks encompasses a moral dimension.

Yet Cameron's "war" may prove far harder to win than Churchill's. Debt and overspending may appear to be the obvious enemy, but they are far less finite and immediate than airplanes, armies, bombs and guns. They are also symptoms of something deeper: the enemy within, the state of human nature and the moral compass that guides each one of us. Britain undoubtedly stands at a turning point, but then so do each of us individually. Whether the country survives and rebuilds its fortunes depends not only on leadership from the top, but also on the concerted and effective response of a cooperative populace, just as in 1940.

And that cooperation begins with each of us, as we cooperate with our Creator. Without Him, no lasting moral change will take hold and allow Britain to revive dying values and ideals. Remember, the fear of God is the beginning... of wisdom (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 15:33), and of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). The "fear of God" is something we should actively choose (Proverbs 1:29); it is to "hate evil, pride and arrogance" (Proverbs 8:13); it leads to a long life (Proverbs 10:27; 19:23); it leads to great strength of confidence and is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:26-27); by it men depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6); it leads to riches, honour and life (Proverbs 22:4). In his article on page 4 of this issue, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith asks the question, "Do You 'Fear' God?" Your future depends on how you answer this question!

For Britain to reclaim past greatness, its people must remember that "righteousness exalts a nation" (Proverbs 14:34) and that it is God who provides power to gain wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18; Proverbs 10:22). God Himself issues to each one of us a challenge—an invitation—to become one of His people and to represent His way of life to the world. He issued this challenge to the Old Testament nation of Israel (Exodus 19:5–6), and the same challenge lies before His New Testament Church (1 Peter 2:9–10).

Britain as a nation may or may not accept that challenge. How will you respond as an individual?

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