Monday, August 15, 2011

Peter Hitchens on the Riots in London and Their Underlying Causes

The Gospel is Good News. But before there can be good news there must be bad news. Unless we understand our true plight, we naturallly will not appreciate the solution God offers us. If we do not understand the spiritual roots of the recent events in London and their implications for Western culture, then we will never really understand the good news either.

Peter Hitchens' piece on the London riots does not flinch from telling the uncomfortable truth about the situation in which we find ourselves. It is entitled: "Police water canon and plastic bullets? After 50 years of the most lavish welfare state on earth? What an abject failure."

He begins:

Bitter laughter is my main response to the events of the past week. You are surprised by what has happened? Why? I have been saying for years that it was coming, and why it was coming, and what could be done to stop it.

I have said it in books, in articles, over lunch and dinner tables with politicians whose lips curled with lofty contempt.

So yes, I am deeply sorry for the innocent and gentle people who have lost lives, homes, businesses and security. Heaven knows I have argued for years for the measures that might have saved them.

But I am not really very sorry for the elite liberal Londoners who have suddenly discovered what millions of others have lived with for decades.

The mass criminality in the big cities is merely a speeded-up and concentrated version of life on most large estates – fear, intimidation, cruelty, injustice, savagery towards the vulnerable and the different, a cold sneer turned towards any plea for pity, the awful realisation that when you call for help from the authorities, none will come. . . .

No doubt they will find ways to save themselves. But they will not save the country. Because even now they will not admit that all their ideas are wrong, and that the policies of the past 50 years – the policies they love – have been a terrible mistake. I have heard them in the past few days clinging to their old excuses of non-existent ‘poverty’ and ‘exclusion’.

Left-wing parties all over Europe are losing elections because they are out-of-touch and because their big idea - the welfare state - is outdated. It does not work. Why not? Because it is based on a false view of human nature; it simply does not conform to reality.

It believes that people are basically good, though corrupted by society. These Leftist Utopians read Rousseau and Marx and think they sound like they know what they are talking about when, in fact, they are completely detached from reality. The welfare state ideology assumes that the main problems people face are material in nature, in other words - poverty. "Solve" poverty and we will have a good society, they say. How do they propose to solve poverty? Do they have a way to make people hard-working, educated and productive? No, they propose a short-cut; just take from the rich by redistributive taxation and give to the poor. Problem solved. But moving money from bank account to bank account does not alter human nature. It does not solve depression, sin, pathological behaviour, immaturity, disrespect for the law and lack of care for one's family.

Pentecostalism is growing so fast in Latin America - Brazil for instance is on the verge of becoming a majority Protestant country - because it does what the welfare state cannot do. It makes men stop drinking, take their pay cheque home, put their children in school and stay married. Now that is revolutionary!

The welfare state could be viewed as a demonic parody of the church and socialism as a demonic parody of Christian theology. The message of Marx could be seen as a demonic parody of the message of the Gospel. The fruits of the preaching of the Gospel and revival are life, but the fruits of the socialist, welfare state ideology are the culture of death.


Hitchens then turns to the actions of Prime Minister David Cameron, whose response to the crisis is to talk tough. But he is such a fraud, that no one in his right mind would buy the act. Hitchens writes:

Take our Prime Minister, who is once again defrauding far too many people. He uses his expensive voice, his expensive clothes, his well-learned tone of public-school command, to give the impression of being an effective and decisive person. But it is all false. He has no real idea of what to do. He thinks the actual solutions to the problem are ‘fascist’. Deep down, he still wants to ‘understand’ the hoodies.

Say to him that naughty children should be smacked at home and caned in school, that the police (and responsible adults) should be free to wallop louts and vandals caught in the act, that the police should return to preventive foot patrols, that prisons should be austere places of hard work, plain food and discipline without TV sets or semi-licit drugs, and that wrongdoers should be sent to them when they first take to crime, not when they are already habitual crooks, and he will throw up his well-tailored arms in horror at your barbarity.

Say to him that divorce should be made very difficult and that the state should be energetically in favour of stable, married families with fathers (and cease forthwith to subsidise families without fathers) and he will smirk patronisingly and regard you as a pitiable lunatic.

Say to him that mass immigration should be stopped and reversed, and that those who refuse any of the huge number of jobs which are then available should be denied benefits of any kind, and he will gibber in shock.

Yet he is ready to authorise the use of water cannon and plastic bullets on our streets (quite useless, as it happens, against this sort of outbreak) as if we were a Third World despotism.

Read it all here.

It is rather hard to bear talk of morality from a man who, as Prime Minister, has demanded that the Church of England embrace sodomy. David Cameron is an opportunistic vote-chaser without a principle to his name. The very idea that such a person could lecture either hoodie thugs or parlimentarians who abuse their expense accounts with moral indignation is laughable.

What is the point of abusing David Cameron? Well, it isn't personal; the point is simply that England has the leadership it deserves. An immoral, undisciplined, selfish, hedonistic, narcissistic population naturally throws up political leaders who tell it what it wants to hear and perpetuates the welfare state, multiculturalism, moral relativism, the sexual revolution and equality.

If there is hope for England (and there is) it does not lie in the politicians or the ruling class in general, but in the middle classes and particularly the lower middle classes influenced by Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Hope will bubble up from there as it did in the 18th century.

Mass evangelism, conversion, revival and the social reforms that flow from such a work of God changed England, Wales and Scotland in the 18th century and then crossed the Atlantic to shape the future United States of America decisively.

I just happened to be reading David Lyle Jeffrey's excellent historical introduction to his English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley last night and was intrigued at how much the early 18th century resembles the 21st century in terms of immorality, hostility to Christianity and alcoholism. After the persecution of both Catholics and Dissenters during the Restoration in the second half of the 17th century the situation became desperate. But out of this persecution came the spiritual masters who would later influence the Wesleys, Whitefield, John Newton, Wilbur Wilberforce et. al. Privately, quietly, working without acclaim, writers like Isaac Watts, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, William Law and Philip Dodderidge wrote hymns, prayers, journals and other spiritual works that would later exert great influence.

This quartet was something of a bridge. They looked back to the deeply authentic Catholic spirituality of the Middle Ages and early modern period (such as St. John of the Cross) and they mediated such spirituality in an Evangelical form to the later, more activist, revivalists. Jeffrey's important point is that the later "missionary spirituality" that took the form of revival preaching and conversion followed by social reform was rooted in a "contemplative spirituality" that was fostered by people who lived outwardly uneventful lives but who were immersed in the reality of God and who linked up to the Great Tradition of Christianity that stretches from the Bible to the Fathers to Augustine to Aquinas to Calvin. (Note to Wheaton Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Evangelicalism at its best has always been Catholic.)

If the UK is to survive, it must be reconnected with its spiritual roots. It must undergo revival and reform. This is not optional or a best-case scenario; it is the only alternative to utter and complete social and cultural collapse. But the good news is that it happened before and it can happen again, Lord willing.


Gordon Hackman said...

Have you read Andreas Kinneging's "The Geography of Good and Evil? (ISI Press)" I am half-way through it and it is an excellent, lucidly written book. Kinneging is a Dutch intellectual who started out as a typical modern liberal, but who came to recognize that the classical tradition of the west held a wisdom that modern people had lost and needed to hear again. One of the main distinctions he recognizes between conservative/classical views and liberal/modern views is that the former recognize that man is "inclined to all evil," while the later does not recognize this.

I am also reminded here of G. K. Chesterton's observation that original sin is the one Christian doctrine that can be overwhelmingly proven by observation. Unfortunately, many people now seem driven to deny what is obvious. Of course, St. Paul tells us in the opening of his letter to the church in Rome that denying the obvious is a part of the condition of fallen humanity, so it really should come as no surprise to us.

Craig Carter said...

Yes, Kinneging is rather good isn't he? It is interesting how you characterize him. It seems to me that anyone who believes in liberal democracy, but who thinks it requires the Christian religion to sustain it and that our current, secularist, atheistic version of liberalism is doomed to degenerate into libertarianism has to be described as a conservative. Who knew that being a conservative was so boring and mainstream? We are just liberals who had a look at socialism and said "No thanks."

And, of course, you are quite right on the money in identifying the doctrine of original sin as one of the key components of Western culture derived from Christianity, without which liberalism cannot survive.

David Kruse said...

Of all the pernicious lies our modern age ever swallowed, the perfectibility of man was the worst. Ours must be the only age that has believed it. Anyone who says man can be perfected does not believe in evil. What he calls 'evil' is really just ignorance or misguidance. The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once had an exchange with a well-meaning American, who asserted that war could be abolsihed if only reasonable men were in charge of world affairs. Sartre said "I believe in evil. He does not."

Don't imagine that ours is an age of unbelief. No other age embraced an idea so flatly contradcited by the facts of history. If only Christians had as strong a faith!

Today's culture wars are a replay of the dispute between Augustine and Pelagius, with Christians in the role of the former and the liberal establishment in the role of latter. Augustine upheld the doctrine of Original Sin and censured as heresy the notion that man could redeem himself outside the grace of God. And like that ancient controversy, the winner will be the same. After all, the facts of history are on our side.