BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Some of those caught looting stores last week in Britain were asked why they did it. Four teenagers explained to Sky News that they viewed it as “a shopping spree.” One teen blamed the government: “They say (they) are going to help us but I don’t see any of it. There has to be more opportunities and jobs. Help us at least and then maybe everyone will settle down.”
This is the triumph of the entitlement mentality and the welfare state. Conservative MP Eric Pickles wasn’t buying it: “I think that is them trying to justify being thieves, robbers and burglars.”
While a few of the teen looters sounded repentant, judges were shocked to find just one parent showing up in court to accompany their accused child. One couple said they were “too busy.” Anyone else see a connection between their lack of concern and their child’s rebellious behavior?
As politicians bemoan the lack of “values” in Britain and vow to get to the bottom of it, some in the media have taken up the responsibilities of preaching and teaching moral values to the public that used to belong to the clergy before it began to acquiesce to the whims and failings of culture by justifying abortion, sanctioning same-sex “marriage” and signing on to other earthly agendas, like environmentalism.
A Daily Mail column by A.N. Wilson was headlined, “Legacy of a Society That Believes in Nothing.”
A London Daily Telegraph editorial cited a series of Charles Murray articles written more than 20 years ago in which the American sociologist wrote about the British underclass. Murray identified the pattern so familiar in Britain and America: fatherless homes, welfare benefits as the primary source of income, and no hope for a better future.
As in America with its flash mobs and curfews imposed in Philadelphia and considered in Kansas City and other cities, British rioters were not spontaneous creations. They developed from moral and relational decisions made decades ago.
Notes the Telegraph: “It is the result of a major cultural shift that took place in the 1960s and 1970s and the long-term decline in conservative values and institutions that had underpinned British society since the late 19th century. This process was marked by a collapse in the belief in marriage, a retreat of the police from the streets, a move away from tough penalties for property crime, the rise of moral relativism and rampant consumerism, the diminution of stigma as a restraint on bad behavior and the entrenchment of welfare dependency.”
The BBC proved the point about diminution of stigma when it first referred to the rioters as “protestors.” Anchors and producers had to be told by higher ups to use the more stigmatic word.
A Daily Telegraph account proved the rest of it. It told of the mother of a 12-year-old boy photographed running from a shop carrying a stolen bottle of wine. Her profile? She lives on “benefits,” including a home subsidized by taxpayers, which she may now lose. The woman’s boyfriend, who’s in prison, fathered her son and 14-year-old daughter. Any questions?
During previous periods of cultural decline when most other political, legal and economic prescriptions were tried and failed, it was left to the churches to remind the public of the consequences for individuals and nations that depart from the source of virtue. Today’s British churches too often lack the power to do this. That’s because they are competing to see who can bless culture the quickest.
If the churches crave power and approval from below, they will forfeit the power that could be theirs from above.
What’s left of a solid clergy in Britain ought to emulate the “concert of prayer” in America, which produced the 1857 revival that jumped the Atlantic Ocean and transformed Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Prayer, not politics, seems to be Britain’s only option and last resort.
Email nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.