17 08 2011

Feral, evil, savage, immoral, callous, lost causes. Those who do violence to others in the name of quick profit are called many things. Be they hoodies ransacking Debenhams and taking what isn’t theirs or bankers gambling our money and taking what isn’t theirs.


But name-calling is so easy. It starts in the playground and continues into adulthood.


What we need to do is pause.


Pausing is that thing you do when you count to 10 before you yell at your child or slap a cyclist or swear at a Policeman or call people names.


Pausing before speaking or acting means that we have a chance to think. Because what this country really needs is space to think. Deeply.


Deep thought will lead to deep justice. For the rioters, for the rioted; for the looters, for the looted. For bad bankers and for those trampled underfoot.


Without a pause, there is only revenge, knee-jerk reactions, spite. We don’t need spite. We need justice.


Justice is good. Justice is enough.We believe in deep justice not cheap spite because of our God.


People often fear God‘s justice, but we welcome it. We do not go beyond that to spite because to do that is to ignore the Jesus we claim to follow. If we do follow him we must rise above that. To do that, we live differently, love differently. God’s justice is fair. God’s justice has unfailing love as its core. That seems a good place to start.


It’s why the Torah said to a violent and warring tribal community an eye for an eye is enough and not a life for an eye like everyone else said. It’s why Jesus said love your neighbour and pray for those who persecute you instead of hating them and returning violence with violence like everyone did. It’s why Jesus told radical and offensive stories of good Samaritans and bad priests, or good chavs and bad toffs. Or whoever your feared ‘other’ is.


There have been many fascinating debates over the last week. We have seen the surface of many deep issues scratched – about families, about community, about fatherhood, about gangs, about stories, about underlying moral codes – and this has been brilliant. It is about time. We in the church are always talking about these things, as Nick Baines wrote about the apparent silence of Rowan Williams.


As followers of Jesus we need to be the ones who carry on with this. Because we believe in pausing, and then acting. We believe in being embedded in our communities. We believe in crossing the road to the injured and the wounded, however ‘other’ they are. We do this all the time. This is our chance for others to see it. Like here, in Wolverhampton. Like here, across the country. Like on CNN, with Patrick Regan of XLP. Like in the Guardian, with Martin Saunders.


But we do not do this to score points. We do not do this for eternal reward or a pat on the back.  We do it because we believe in deep justice, not cheap spite.


It’s that simple. And that hard.




4 responses

17 08 2011

Another word for it is . .Wisdom.

17 08 2011

I think pausing is a good thing to do. As is thinking and deliberating.
Interesting word, deliberating, by the way. The opposite of liberating, presumably?
Anyway, yes, absolutely. I agree with you, Kevin.
Do we need to pause and reflect after significant events happen, because we don’t do enough pausing and considering and anticipating before such things happen? We are a reactive culture and our reflexes aren’t reliable.
Financial crisis, MPs expenses scandal, gang-cultures, corrupt media hackers, judgemental vox-pop shouters, law-breaking policemen, vigilante tabloid editors, inept Government policy-makers, broken-down Britons…
All these things are part of something bigger than we care to think about. And we don’t know what to think. Or even care enough to want to think more clearly.
And those who we trust to do our thinking for us seem to be thoughtless or brainless or arguing amongst themselves. Anything other than accepting responsibility for how things are, it seems.
And anyway, we think that acting decisively is probably a good thing to do. And maybe it is. But then we get it all wrong somehow and act stupidly.
Someone wise once said that the difference between a good chess player and a great chess player is that a great chess player recognises when it’s time to stop moving the pieces about and start thinking really hard about the endgame.
But we will still think that if we can lock up some juveniles and stigmatise some parents and target some alternative cultures and blame some public sector workers and recruit some more policemen and provide some tax-incentives for high-earners and let some self-important politicians vent their spleens some more and let our media become even more excited than they already are and somehow convince ourselves that the real story is really all about us and about what we want, then we will surely feel that we will be making a significant difference and things will surely start to get better.
Yeah, right.
Time to pause and think indeed.

18 08 2011

Justice is supposed to be blind, which is why there is no room for “sending a message” by over punishing somebody. It is supposed to look just at the facts and so to establish guilt or not and an appropriate sentence. Sadly, just as the politicians can’t stop interfering with the Police so the are trying to interfere with Justice and influence it. What we need is to pause and reflect why we in this country have a separation between parliament which makes the laws and courts who enact them and the police who prosecute them. Perhaps the way in which politicians try to blur these boundaries is yet another symptom of the malaise in this country. It made me so cross when i saw an MP who had been caught with her snout in the expenses trough condemning the looters and calling for tougher sentences. “Calm down dear!” lets pause.

Actually God’s justice isn’t blind, it goes further. God’s justice has pity on the poor and the downtrodden and calls them blessed. Gods justice talks about forgiveness not vengeance, love not greed. Now there is something to think about.

Suppose you have a child who has been let down and mistreated by those he should have been able to trust – his family, his social workers? Because of that he is suspicious of those who try to help and ever alert for the ‘probability’ that he will be let down again. As a result his behaviour sometimes falls short of what society expects. Sure he needs to be made aware when his behaviour is unacceptable. But long term punishment and vengeance are not things that will help save him for what others have wrought upon him. What may save him is unconditional love from a new family and from God. Now in a hypothetical case it is fairly easy to nod and agree to that. Actually doing it takes a whole lot more courage and strength over a long period. Those who do it are saints and deserve our support and thanks.

But what about when it is whole communities who are like that. Communities of youngsters who have been let down by families, schools, police, governments, church, us … How do we go about saving them from what society has wrought upon them? Lets pause and think about the implications of that. I am sure it isn’t likely to be a popular message, but just possibly now is the moment and the Church has the leaders, and who knows, God’s spirit might be waiting for us to care enough to think, and weigh and speak and act. And then what might happen to this sick society? Come Lord Jesus!!!!

19 08 2011

Thank you for all these comments – you guys are all wise and thoughtful and leave me more to go and deliberate on (and not just how English can make thinking into something de-liberating – thanks for that Edge!)

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