My Comments on the London Riots of 2011

London is burning.

And not just London, but other parts of Britain, such as Manchester and Birmingham.

Looters and rioters have run loose for days in that great country, and now there are a few people dead, many businesses destroyed, hundreds arrested, and untold damage.


Most of the rioters appear to be young and disaffected, unemployed and not in school, and above all, holding to a complete entitlement mentality. They seemed to be looking for any excuse to steal and destroy. Last week’s shooting by the police of a young man, allegedly involved in a drug-crime, was as good an excuse as any for the tinderbox to explode.

These young thugs have lost their moral compass, if they ever had one.

A looter was reportedly caught with 14 cell phones. When asked why, she said that she was just trying to reclaim some of the tax money the government had taken away from her.

As I was reading various articles on the riots, I noticed these comments:
 One girl looter said to the BBC that the rioters were proving to “the rich” and the cops “we can do what we like.”
 Another rioter said that something “tastes better when it’s free.”
 A social media entry (as in Twitter or Facebook) sent out the word: “If you’re down for making money, we’re about to go hard in east London.”

A friend of mine from south England told me at the gym the other day, “To see what’s happening now makes me ashamed to be a Brit.”

One British commentator summed up the looters this way: “Not only do they know nothing of Britain’s past, they care nothing for its present. They have their being only in video games and street-fights, casual drug use and crime, sometimes petty, sometimes serious.”

Someone sent me a link of commentaries on Facebook, reacting (lightly) to a photo of one of the London looters, smiling as he held up his trophy—a big bag of rice. After viewing several mindless comments, I finally put in my two cents: “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

This recent episode in England reminds me of a conversation I had during the L.A. riots of 1992. My brother has an office high atop the city with a great view, and he and I were on the phone. He would say, “Oh, there’s another fire over there! And another one on that side!”

Then he said something that shocked me, coming from him.

He said, “It’s all these kids without religion.”

“But,” I said, referring to his views at that time, “You’re an atheist. How can you say that?”

He said, “I know. But it’s still true”—in other words, that these were kids without religion.

George Washington said in his Farewell Address that religion and morality were “indispensable supports” to our political well-being. He went on to say, “…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

What we’ve been seeing on the streets of England is man’s base nature coming through without restraint.

The Good Book has many sober reminders of the reality of human nature. “The heart is desperately wicked, who can understand it?” asks the prophet who lent his name to our English word “jeremiad.”

G.K. Chesterton is alleged to have said that since the dawn of recorded history, we have had 6,500 years of empirical evidence of the doctrine of original sin.

As Cassius says in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”

What we see before our very eyes is that the traditional supports of our society are crumbling. We thought we could be moral and good without God. But incidents like the British riots are the result of a generation (or more) without Biblical teaching.

But obviously not everyone shares these opinions. Do they assume that human beings will just be good on their own?

Many years ago, media mogul Ted Turner said that the Ten Commandments are obsolete, and they ought to be abandoned. He came up with a not-so-modest alternative, which he called “the Ten Voluntary Initiatives.”

When speaking before various groups, I have asked the audience if they remember this story. Occasionally a hand or two might go up. Then I have asked them, if they remembered the story, can they remember any items on his list? The answer is always negative.

No, not one.

Anybody can make any list of rights or wrongs they want to, but accountability is the key. Ted Turner is not the one before whom we’ll give an account on the Day of Reckoning.

Those kids “without religion” looting on the streets of Great Britain remind me of Dostoyevsky’s famous statement (from The Brothers Karamazov): “If there is no God, then all things are permissible.”