Thursday, August 11, 2011

Greed runs riot: my part in it

There have been a multitude of causes proposed for the England riots  There has been an inevitable left-wing counter-offensive against the simple assessment of the rioting and looting as feral criminality. It is a symptom of severe moral bankruptcy as a nation. It is easy and false to depersonalise the causes by blaming social and economic factors but it is also misleading and facile to isolate all of the responsibility with the individuals involved.

One of the proposed factors is the "culture of entitlement". David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University and a former prison governor observes that:
"It's not just about a particular class, it permeates all levels of society. When we see politicians claiming for flat-screen TVs and getting jailed for fiddling their expenses, it's clear that young people of all classes aren't being given appropriate leadership."

We are speaking of a culture of greed where sin is unrestrained and breaches of the 10th commandment go happily hand in hand with the 8th - if you can get away with it.  (The Larger Catechism rightly includes covetousness as a breach of the 8th commandment). Few will in fact face the consequences of this, just as few are brought to justice for their breaches of the 8th commandment. It's about getting what you want and feel entitled to for nothing whether it be significant sums of money or trainers from JD Sports. It is simply greed without fear of restraint from impotent and discredited authority. Government and society promote greed and the breach of the 8th commandment whether through the National Lottery or a dependence upon excessive and irresponsible consumer spending.

I'm not in the habit of quoting women priests but this writer has at least discerned some of this when she says:
"And what will we do? Continue to promulgate the values that have created this deadly cocktail of haves and have-nots, faithless, hopeless people who have been taught that consumerism is a recreational right and all moral and religious education completely nonsensical? Surely that would be nonsensical."

The question is: why is this happening now? Because it is evident to all that greed can run riot without being effectively checked. Politicians and bankers have proved this. "We're showing the police and the rich that we can what we want". I wonder where they learned that?

It comes closer to home in this analysis:
"Politicians have been part of this process, and some on the left may have even encouraged our young people to riot. The liberal intelligentsia encouraged posh kids to protest and riot over student fees – and now poorer kids have joined in and we are all appalled. How can you complain when you supported such activism only a few months ago?
In a way, we are all responsible for the riots, whether directly or indirectly. We watched the previous government talk up rights for young people but with no mention of responsibilities. We have allowed our welfare system to prop up immoral lifestyles. We have not taught all our young people that an entitlement culture is morally wrong. And we have paid the price for this liberalism. Now we need to collectively grow up and take responsibility for responsibility."

It's a start but if the soul-searching is at all real we need to discover "every man the plague of his own heart". That the seeds and a degree of the symptoms are with us too. "Are there not sins with you, even with you?" Though you were restrained by God's common and/or saving grace from joining with the looters, have we not had our own covetous part in the culture of greed? "When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him" (Ps. 50:18). Are we not seeing the full unrestrained working of what is in our hearts and even in our lives in the obsession with material things? Let us examine ourselves in relation to and pray over the biblical exposition of the 8th commandment that we have in the Larger Catechism

Question 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Question 142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man_stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing land marks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depopulations; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor: What belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given us.