The Parish of Burchetts Green


July and August are supposed to be quiet months when nothing much happens: the 'silly season' when the media struggles for real news stories. Not this year! July and August have seen financial chaos, rebel forces in Libya entering the capital Tripoli, and, perhaps most notably, rioting and looting in parts of London and other major cities.

What are we to make of the near- anarchy we have seen on our city streets this summer? There has been a lot of media comment about the lack of a sense of personal responsibility and a general decline in moral standards as being to blame, at least in part. I don't want to enter into that debate.

It seems to me that in recent decades, in some areas of life, we have seen an improvement in ethical standards, in other areas of life, there has been a decline. We will all have our own view.

What we all share I think, or the vast majority of people at least, is that arson and looting should not happen; neither should the crippling consequences for ordinary people of the machinations of the financial markets, and there should not be repressive, cruel dictators like Colonel Gaddafi.

We sense that there is such a thing as fairness and justice and that we do have to take responsibility for our own actions. Where does this sense come from I wonder?

It certainly doesn't come from the practical outworking of neo-Darwinism. The 'survival of the fittest' would lead us to expect widespread thieving without regard for the consequences for others;the strong arm tactics of Gaddafi, and the impersonal outworking of the financial markets.

Any examination of the ruthless competition in the natural world of the 'tangled river bank' will tell you that. Darwinism is incapable of telling us why moral and ethical standards exist at all, let alone why we should care about them.

So where does the widely-held sense of justice and fairness come from? In his book Simply Christian. Tom Wright suggests that our deeply-held feeling that the world needs fixing is more than a day-dream. It is an echo in our imagination and conscience of a voice, a voice that also echoes in the longing for spirituality, the ache for authentic relationships, the appreciation of beauty.

Christians see these as the promptings of a God who longs for justice-God who is Spirit, God who yearns for a vital relationship with us, the God of beauty and order.

Maybe you too have heard that call to something deeper, something, someone outside and beyond us, beckoning us on. If so, it is my prayer that you will follow that prompting and find the living God, Christ Jesus our Lord and an experience of the Holy Spirit.

The Rev'd Keith Nicholls considers