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Friday, 10 December 2010

Relatively speaking, it’s an absolute mess!

Today, the news of student riots in London reached Sydney . . .

Violent crowds broke shop windows in Oxford Street and smashed their way through windows of the Treasury and other departments in the Whitehall government district, set fire to a giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and sprayed graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill outside the Houses of Parliament. Snooker balls, flares and paint bombs were thrown and one police officer suffered serious neck injuries. Police charged the protesters with batons several times and mounted police were deployed to break up the advancing crowds. Julian Phillips, 23, a student at Goldsmiths College in London, part of the University of London, had blood pouring from a cut on his head. He explained, "The guys who were next to me were pushing a metal fence towards them but a policeman decided to lash out at me instead with a baton." He said he was demonstrating because "education is a right, not a privilege."

I found myself asking the question, “What made the students so angry, that anarchy ruled in Parliament Square, and Winston Churchill’s statue was treated with utter contempt?” The answer was not far away. Their erstwhile hero Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal-democrats in Parliament had ratted on his promise (and it was a promise), to scrap student tuition fees altogether. They have now to pay more, not less, for their education. But, that was not the reason why they were smashing up the place. The reason was anger that he broke a promise. Clegg said, “'I regret of course that I can't keep the promise that I made because - just as in life - sometimes you are not fully in control of all the things you need to deliver those pledges.”

But, atheists are allowed to break promises. As the London atheist bus campaign said two years ago, "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

When asked, “How do you think that not believing in God affects or informs your politics?” Clegg said,

“Well, my moral frame of reference Is clearly a Judaeo-Christian one. . . . . I think that fundamental concepts of tolerance, of compassion (of truthfulness), of love for your neighbour run very deep in our culture but they are also intimately bound up with our Christian heritage. . . . . Some of that ethos I very much espouse.”

Notice in the list of Biblical virtues there’s no place for truth-telling. But, truth is the essential ingredient of judgement and justice.

When I heard Jimmy Carter quote Micah 6:8 in his 1977 inaugural speech, it was clear we were in for an interesting time – a man of principle in politics (!), who knew how to aim for both justice and kindness.

KJV Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

How did Carter achieve it? - only at great cost to himself. For one thing, his ratings declined! He also continued to teach Sabbath Bible classes, and remained firmly oriented in Biblical truth. He believed it. He loved it. Truth for him was not a relative concept – it was rooted in the God who had revealed absolute truth(s) about Himself in the Bible. He was never my hero, but he was and is an example to follow - a man of truth.

Only by believing in absolute truth is it possible for a graduate of Westminster School, London (as is Nick Clegg), to acknowledge the value of his school motto: Dat deus incrementum [“God gives the increase,” 1 Cor 3:6}.

Not like that he doesn’t!