The London riots are over - for now. The perpetrators are facing justice. Some British courts are open round-the-clock to handle the case load. And judges are in no mood for leniency.
Now the Brits are struggling for answers. Why? Why did these mostly young rioters go nuts? And lest you think that’s their problem, not ours, you might ask the same question about why flash mobs of teenagers have ransacked stores in Philadelphia and terrorized and beaten visitors to the Wisconsin State Fair.
A recent New York Times article examined the standard, pat answers: The Police lost control; mob mentality gripped the rioters; kids were unemployed and had no hope; government cutbacks angered them; social media fanned the flames, on and on.
At least the writer, Ravi Somaia, had the good sense to point out that none of these answers add up. And they certainly don’t explain why folks like college graduates and aspiring athletes joined in the mayhem. Quoting a British psychologist, the Times article ends with a shrug of the shoulders: “We may never know” why the riots happened.
Well as the conventional wisdom always had it, as the Boston Globe in an op-ed put it last week, it’s the result of economic deprivation. Or some people say politics, or poverty, or psychology, or racism, or any -ism.
Well folks, it lies in the human heart. This is basic worldview 101. And no one in our super tolerant society today can figure this out.
And though attacked viciously by the left, Prime Minister Cameron got it right, it’s a moral problem. The rioters looted and burned because they chose to do so. They made a moral choice, a very bad one.
All human beings are made in the image of God - free to choose good or evil. Given man’s fallen nature, our proclivity is to choose evil. We Christians call the choosing of evil “sin.”
This proclivity to sin must be restrained through moral training and the formation of a healthy conscience. And the process has to begin at a young age - with an individual’s character shaped, honed, and encouraged by loving instructors, usually the family, the faith community, and, well, once upon a time, by schools.
As the conscience is trained and strengthened, the individual has a fighting chance to reject sin and choose to do good more often than not.
And then, again, as we Christians know, the battle of conscience rages in every human heart. Re-read Roman 6 and 7. It’s an unfair fight, one we only win with divine aid - and the support of others who will hold us accountable to do the right thing.
This is a message I’ve preach for years, and I will not stop. It’s a message that rings throughout our new DVD series on ethics called Doing the Right Thing. I so want you and your church and your school and your business to see it. Please go to dointherightthing.com and find out how you can get a copy.
I know we are swimming against the post-modern cultural tide. We’ve taught our kids that good and evil are in the eye of the beholder; that the key to happiness is self-fulfillment, not virtue. And then we wonder why London burns or flash mobs rage in Philadelphia.
But folks, we have a choice. We see people for who they are - prone to make the wrong moral choices - and commit to train and inspire them to make good moral choices, or this is our choice, we can bar the windows and start hiring more riot police.