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London Bridge Is Burning Down

London is one of my favorite cities. I am shocked and grieved at the sight of rioting, looting, and burning. Why is it happening?

Well, I’m no expert on the sociology of Great Britain, but the words of British historian and journalist Max Hastings ring true.

Writing in the Daily Mail, he says, “The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorised communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame...They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped. They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.”

As a result, he says they’re looking for fun, for something to make their lives interesting. As one female looter told the media, they wanted to show the rich and the police “we can do what we like.” And what they like is stealing and destroying.

Where are these “feral children” coming from? Hastings’s answers sound ominously familiar.

First, he says, these young people are utterly adrift. “Nobody,” he writes, “has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community.” And I would add their God or their fellow human beings. They are functional nihilists; people who believe in nothing except satisfying their urges.

Second, Hastings says, “The [liberal] social engineering industry unites to claim that the conventional template of family life is no longer valid.” Single motherhood is encouraged, fathers are missing.

Finally, British schools are basket cases: teachers have lost control and are frequent victims of threats and curses.

Hastings concludes, these young hellions “are the product of a culture which gives them so much unconditionally that they are let off learning how to become human beings.”

Folks, Hastings’s brilliant if bleak analysis is right on, and we are right behind the Brits. For more than 35 years in the prisons, I’ve seen the results of family breakdown, of young men turning to the gangs because they had no male role model. In our overflowing prisons, I’ve seen first-hand what Harvard professors James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein concluded: Crime, they said, is caused by a lack of moral training in the morally formative years.

This is the reason I’ve devoted so much time and effort to studying and promoting ethics -- to rebuilding the ethical and moral foundations of our society. It’s why we wrote the Manhattan Declaration -- to protect marriage and the family. It’s why Robby George, Brit Hume, and I created “Doing the Right Thing”-- our six-part DVD series on ethics. If you haven’t seen it, now’s the time -- with your family, your small group, your church. We have all the information you need at DoingtheRightThing.com.

Surveying the wreckage in London, Hastings hits the nail on the head: Liberal opinion holds that these feral children are victims, but not in the way we normally think of victimhood. They are, he writes, “victims of a perverted social ethos which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline -- tough love -- which alone might enable some of its members to escape the swamp of dependency in which they live.”

Well, the Brits are waking up to the smoke-and rubble-filled reality. The urgent question for us is this: Will we?

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: August 15, 2011.

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