Repairing Broken Britain
Over recent years and months we have become familiar with the expressions, "broken society" and "broken Britain", particularly from David Cameron, our new Prime Minister. Mr Cameron affirmed that "the biggest challenge facing Britain today is mending our broken society. That will not happen overnight: long-term social change needs long-term thinking." He indicated his thinking on the subject: "We need to have a more pro-family country, we need to get behind marriage and commitment and fatherhood and we need to have much more discipline in our schools and we need to have a revolution in the way that we provide welfare and education that will really mend the broken society". His view was: "Take any marker of our broken society, and educational failure lies at its root. The evidence is clear: if we do not get education right, we will not get our society right."
In the Queen's Speech at the recent opening of Parliament, setting out the initial plans of the new Government, Her Majesty began by stating: "My Government's legislative programme will be based upon the principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility. The first priority is to reduce the deficit and restore economic growth." One fully recognises the responsibility of Government to deal with the economic situation of the nation and welcomes some recognition of problems which face our society and affirmation of principles which certainly ought to determine the Government's approach to them. Christian people may differ as to policies and practical ways in which some of these principles should be applied by politicians. What they all can surely agree on is that, sadly, there seems to be a general failure to diagnose the root cause of our trouble as a nation, with a consequent con¬centration on more-or-less futile attempts to remove some of the symptoms. The neglected principle which should determine the approach of the leaders of a professedly-Christian nation is that "righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Prov 14:34).
It was good to notice that the Queen's Speech ended with the words: "I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels". The trouble is that God does not seem to be taken into account in these counsels and there is a failure to acknowledge that the problem with families, education and society at large is that "they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward" (Is 1:4). Significant pointers to our fundamental malaise include the facts that all the major "faiths" are commonly regarded as equally valid, "committed" civil partnerships are equated with marriage, Christians' freedom to express biblical truth and follow Christian practice is endangered, much education is secular and largely proceeds on humanistic presuppositions and contributes to the godlessness of our generation, and the assumption underlying political agendas is that we have the solution to our problems in our own hands.
In 1560 the Great Council of Scotland charged the leaders of the Reformed Church to present them with their judgement concerning the reformation of religion in the realm. In the conclusion to what became known as The First Book of Discipline they recorded their desire for those in authority: "God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit so illuminate your hearts, that ye may clearly see what is pleasing and acceptable in His presence and so bow the same to His obedience, that ye may prefer His re¬vealed will to your own affections; and so strengthen you by the spirit of fortitude, that boldly ye may punish vice and maintain virtue within this realm, to the praise and glory of His holy name, to the comfort and assurance of your own consciences and to the consolation and the good example of the posterity following. Amen."
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?", or, "what hath the righteous done?" (Ps 11:3). These are searching, humbling questions. We feel helpless in view of the national situation. Nothing is impossible with God, as the sixteenth-century Reformation of Church and state testifies. It is ours to seek grace to be as salt in our society, to use whatever influence we have on the side of truth and to be instant at the throne of grace that God would in wrath remember mercy and revive His work among us.