In the wake of the violence and riots on the streets of England this past week, many different commentators are starting to ask the hard questions about just why the youth of our country should be behaving without respect for property, the law and even life. Many, such as Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail, have pointed directly to the absence of spiritual values in our amoral society as being at the root of our national problems. She writes as a Jew but with a total respect for Christian values also. Others in the media have been looking hard at the failure of the fathering to instil discipline and moral values into the next generation. In response to some of the questions being asked I wrote my own contribution to the discussion for a more general readership, such as the readers of one of our national newspaper. It is printed below:
“The role of a father is not restricted to that of being a biological parent of a new human life. There are also spiritual fathers, city fathers and fathers of the nation. In parliament we refer to our most senior MP as the Father of the House.
Fathers should exercise responsibility for those who are under their covering and protection. If the covering is securely in place, then all those under that covering will grow up and live securely in the protection provided for them. But if the covering is missing, or damaged, then those who are supposed to be protected will also be damaged as a result.
It is common sense that the child conceived through a casual one-night-stand between a drunken man and a woman who needed some money to pay for her drugs, will not have the same opportunities in life as a child conceived and brought up in a secure home by a loving and caring mother and father. The covering is missing.
The phrase sins of the fathers comes from the Old Testament – the reference goes on to say that the sins of the fathers will be visited on the children. They are the ones who will suffer. Not because God has punished them, but because one generation after another has left them with the consequences of a disordered, godless inheritance.
A visitation can be either welcome or unwelcome. What we are currently experiencing in England is an unwelcome visitation. The sins of the fathers have caught up with this generation big time. Yes, this generation of offenders are accountable for what they have done, but the inheritance they received left them without boundaries and with no understanding of godly order. They are adrift on an amoral sea with no boundaries and no hand on the tiller of their lives
It’s easy to point the finger at the absentee fathers who have deserted the nuclear family. Or the mothers who have consciously chosen to be single mums. It’s less welcome, however, but just as important to point the finger at the absentee spiritual fathers who have failed in their leadership of the church, the town and city fathers who have failed to care for their communities, and the governmental fathers who, through their systemic amorality have removed moral boundaries from government legislation and deserted the spiritual principles which gave society its backbone.
The prophet Hosea expressed the consequences of such abdication. When the nation rejects what is good, makes idols for themselves and rejects what is pure, he says, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7). And the Apostle Paul expressed the same thought another way when he said, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:8).
The evidence of such destruction lies smouldering in our cities, in the businesses that have been destroyed through mindless criminality and the looted goods which were the subject of illegitimate greed. There are families grieving the loss of loved ones and thousands of traumatised citizens for whom the pleasure of personal freedom has been replaced by the spectre of fear. Some will never fully recover from what they have suffered.
I weep at the lack of courage and moral conviction of those who are in a position to speak out on behalf of the church, but who have nothing to say. They seem incapable of articulation of the spiritual issues which lie at the root of society’s problems. The spiritual fathers have left a moral vacuum and a moral vacuum will always be filled — now it is clear, for all to see, what it has been filled with. Sadly, the weakness of many Christian leaders has only provided excellent ammunition for TV and the media to use, in their constant search for easy targets of their misplaced humour.
We have never lived in a totally moral society. Sin has always had its attractions. But the past two generations have deserted any pretence of adhering to a belief in the benefits of godly morality. They quickly traversed a season of history when immorality lost its shame and now, a generation later, we don’t even live in an immoral society — a society which still knows what is right even though it often chooses to do wrong. We now live in an amoral society where neither right nor wrong count for anything and the moral compass lies crushed beneath the feet of a generation for whom the very idea of morality is a concept that is either long-forgotten or, more often, never learned.
The nation has had a visitation through the sins of the fathers. And the unwelcome truth is that the ordered society that took hundreds of years to establish has taken a few short years to destroy. Is there an answer?
Not without forgiveness and repentance — forgiveness of the fathers in all categories of fathering, from personal to governmental, for their betrayal of those they were meant to be covering. And repentance by all generations for their wilful participation in desertion from the godly order that both underpinned society and was formerly the foundation of our rule of law.
Magna Carta, perhaps the greatest ever legal document underpinning the affairs of any nation, begins with these words, “KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom . . .” For close on a thousand years these words have been the bedrock of sound government . They have blessed and benefited all the generations which since then have made up the citizenship of our land. Sadly, in today’s secular society which makes no pretence of acknowledgement of a superior being, the foundational principles of Magna Carta, have now become a historic irrelevancy.
But let us not forget our history too quickly – the penultimate clause of Magna Carta says that, “We have remitted and pardoned fully to all men any ill-will, hurt, or grudges that have arisen between us and our subjects . . .” An act of forgiveness is built into this remarkable document – and that is what is needed today.
Today we are desperately in need of the ‘better ordering of our Kingdom’ of which Magna Carta speaks. We need to repent. We need to forgive. And then we need to move on.
Now that everyone can see, in horrifying detail, what the consequences have been of the desertion from our duty as fathers of the nation, is it too much to believe that out of the ashes of England’s riots could arise a determination to establish a new Magna Carta, through which future generations of this nation will experience the benefits and blessings of which Magna Carta speaks, and not have to continue suffering because of the ‘sins of the fathers’?”