London Riots and Biblical Themes

Mike Ovey, Principal of Oak Hill College in England, wrote on the rioting in London and elsewhere in England a few days ago (the piece itself does not bear a date).  Ovey warns against treating the rioters as the “other,” which he accuses both liberals and conservatives on the political spectrum of doing:

“By and large, whether the columnist is a bleeding-heart liberal or a flog-'em diehard, there's a sense that the looters are profoundly "other", different, alien. So the liberal chat turns on words such as alienated or disaffected. The diehards use words such as enemy, feral or savages. But the liberal and the diehard both seem to see the looters as profoundly other, patronisingly in the one case, demonisingly in the other. The thought is that the looters are not like us.”

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Ovey, however, sees these riots as “consumerist” riots and point to lessons well-learned by those who want to acquire, by illegal and sinful means, the stuff that the rest of society values:

“These are "consumer society riots", says Dr Paul Bagguley, who is a sociologist at Leeds. This is very perceptive. It points clearly to the consumerist, acquisitive nature of the looting, and it hints that these are the kind of riots that a consumer society (and let's not forget, that's all of us) has. It hints that this is the kind of riot you expect from members of a consumer society, not from those who refuse to be part of it. That does not allow me to say the looters are totally alien or other, or even "enemies of society" in a straightforward way. The looters are committed to the consumer society. They're "us", not simply "them".”

Ovey looks to the Bible to suggest a Christian response and explanation. He locates four themes from the Bible which help to understand what was motivating the rioters. This is the fourth of his themes:

“The fourth theme is the great biblical theme running from Genesis 3, through the Exile along to Judas' suicide: sin doesn't work. Consumer societies love the bottom line, and I wonder if some of the intensity the looting has provoked doesn't betray an unease just there. The consumer society has bought the lie of justification by wealth: and it's about time it heard the truth.”

Please read the rest of his commentary here. What do you think?

 John W. Martens

Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens

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