Another week of a world on fire on our TV screens. It’s hard to know how to respond, isn’t it?
What can possibly be in the mind of someone who chants “England!” as they tear England apart? Why are those who feel hated, rejected and outcast acting in a way which will ensure that they are even more hated, rejected and outcast?
Is it right for ordinary citizens (like these guys in Enfield) to take matters into their own hands? Or does that run the risk of vigilantism – and who watches the watchers? Are we watching a victory for local community spirit, or mob rule? And what happens if groups with political/religious/ethnic agendas start pulling the strings?
(Are there other ways to respond? Check out the Wolverhampton Clean-Up Macarena on YouTube for an example of something a bit different!)
What is so wrong with our world that such an outbreak of violence is just simmering under the surface, ready to explode? Where has all this anger come from? – both the anger of the rioters themselves, and of bloggers, observers and commentators advocating their brutal and violent punishment? (How many “kill them all!”-type comments have you seen on Facebook over the last few days?)
And where does our faith connect with it all? On the Dock Walk this week we were chatting about the readings from the book of Romans featured on Wordlive last week (and continuing this week). Paul was writing to a violent, unsettled culture, in a time of persecution and mob rule – and to a church which was catastrophically divided over several contentious subjects. He wouldn’t have been surprised by the news this week. His instructions to the Christians of Rome are as relevant, as challenging, and as difficult to put into practice as ever:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
If you have time, the last 2 weeks of Wordlive teaching on Romans have been phenomenally good and really worth checking out – and you can catch up on those passages dealing with conflict by clicking the date at the top of the page and navigating to the 2nd/3rd/4th August). Or you can pray these words from the Psalms (I made this video last year, when the violence had kicked off in parts of Belfast, but it’s no less relevant today):
UPDATE – and it looks like there are some answers – not complete answers, nothing that says the problem is solved forever, but a story (like the Wolverhampton one above) that says there is hope: click here to read about the armies of broom-wielding cleaner-uppers who are taking to the streets of devastated cities to help sweep up the mess. Brooms – the symbol of a community fighting back? asks the article. If they are, that’s the kind of servant-leadership battle that I reckon Paul would approve of…