On the role of the Church after the riots

Andrew Brown comments on the Archbishop of Canterbury's address to the House of Lords and says that the "Church of England is demonstrating its value as a social body:":

For Williams, the cure for further outbreaks could only be found in the long-term and in the reorientation of schools towards teaching virtues rather than skills: "Over the last two decades, our educational philosophy at every level has been more and more dominated by an instrumentalist model; less and less concerned with a building of virtue, character and citizenship – 'civic excellence' as we might say. And a good educational system in a healthy society is one that builds character, that builds virtue.

"Character involves … a deepened sense of empathy with others, a deepened sense of our involvement together in a social project in which we all have to participate.

"Are we prepared to think not only about discipline in classrooms, but also about the content and ethos of our educational institutions – asking can we once again build a society which takes seriously the task of educating citizens, not consumers, not cogs in an economic system, but citizens."

Chartres picked up the same note but more practically: "Those who went on the rampage … seem to lack the restraint and the moral compass which comes from clear teaching about right and wrong communicated through nourishing relationships. The background to the riots is family breakdown and the absence of strong and positive role models."

Here's a nice straightforward soundbite. But it's worth noting that the "clear teaching about right and wrong" is to be communicated by "nourishing relationships". This is an appeal to human authority, working through our human affections, rather than something supernatural. Then, of course, comes the pitch for the important role that the church already plays in anything like a 'big society': "This once again underlines the vital importance of the work that the church has been doing through its schools where we share the responsibility for educating 50,000 young Londoners a day."

Comments (3)

And that "clear teaching about right and wrong communicated by nourishing relationships" is rooted in something even many Christians forget or willfully ignore:

"Treat others the same way you want them to treat you," as Christ Jesus said in Luke 6:31.

In other words, "I won't torch anyone's business and steal their stock because I don't want my house torched and my belongings stolen."

Of course, that also leads to "I won't legislate for the putting homosexuals to death because I don't want to be put to death."

Do our bishops get that? Some do, some don't, it seems. So then how is the rest of society supposed to get it?

"Sounding a clear call," a la 1 Corinthians 14:7-9, comes to mind.

I agree with Gregory. Of course, there is another element. The example at the top is pretty grim, greedy bankers, the Murdoch scandal, and all those MP's caught with their hands in the till (outrageous expense accounts, etc.). Those forces are even harder to take on than "character education" for school children, although that's a good start. And yes, once you understand that all people are created in the image of God - yes, really, all people, you don't get to pick and choose - then it leads to new conclusions about dignity, respect, rights, and our responsibilities for our fellow humans.

The title on Brown's item is "The C of E's response to the riots has cemented its role in society." What they are cementing depends on your prior beliefs on its role. If you believe it's largely become impotent and irrelevant, with a few good folks in the mix, what you'll perceive is more of the same. The ABC's remarks in the House of Lords are mere words.

P.S. - r.e. Cynthia's comment about MPs and expense accounts, I recall some of the bishops in the House of Lords abused their HOL expense accounts as well.

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