Thursday, 11 August 2011

Riots and Chaos and Catastrophe

If there ever was a week for news big and bad, this was it. David Cameron, initially staying away and thinking this would all go away, had to cut his holidays short. Parliament has been recalled to an emergency debate. Where have we gone wrong, who is doing what wrong, and what can we do about it? These questions are on everyone's lips not least the members of parliament. The questions being asked may not be very different from the famous debate in the Times, over the question, "What is wrong with the world?"  G.K. Chesterton, author and essayist, sent a letter in. "Sir, I am. Yours etc. G.K. Chesterton"
G.K. Chesterton was a devout, sincere and intelligent Christian. His response comes from the orthodox Christian theology of the Cross of Christ. Orthodox understanding sees the Cross as part of God's response to Sin. Orthodox Christians see Sin as something which contaminates everyone, and which when spelled out is simply our turning away from God to anything else which is lower and hurtful to ourselves and our race. Looting and rioting and violence are the kinds of actions which help us to distinguish ourselves from the real nasties. Or so we think. And whilst most of us would not descend to such abject depths, the Bible doggedly asserts that we have it in us to do so. That is why we need a saviour.
Jesus however does not stop the world from rushing headlong to destruction. Certainly he came because that is what it does. He saves us from rushing straight off the edge of eternity into the total absence of God, but he does not stop us from rioting or slaughtering one another, as our own Scottish clans did to one another just a few hundred years ago, and which others are still doing in some parts of the world today. So when the riots break out, as they always have and always will, sure, let's do all in our collective wisdom and power to stop it and stem whatever evil tides are momentarily buoying the chaos up. But, the elegant and beautiful dove of peace and the spirit of universal harmony are elusive and transient at the best of times, because our world is broken. However it is through that brokenness that the light gets in, as Leonard Cohen has so perceptively remarked. And even in the height of the madness that flooded our cities, we saw shafts of light: people doing brave things in the face of mob unrule and terror. Evil does not reign. It just erupts every now and again. Goodness and love do not rule yet either. But the Cross and Resurrection signpost which way the story ends.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really lovely - thanks for writing it.