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August 21, 2011 4:15 am

Decline and Fall of British Spirituality

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Barclays Bank staff observe the destruction caused in the early hours of 8 August 2011. Photo: Asim Saleem.

Who is a responsible for the moral rot that has set in Britain? The police are blaming the youth for being hooligans, as if young people are supposed to learn values on their own when almost half are growing on the streets without fathers. The politicians are blaming a culture of selfishness, egged on by Wall Street, as if bankers staring at wads of cash would garner inspiration to put the communal interest before their own pockets.

No, Britain has become a rotting carcass due to the failure of a moribund, stultifying, and amoral religion, more concerned with propriety and causing no offense than simply teaching right from wrong.

I lived in Britain for 11 years where I slowly watched the Church of England and other mainline Christian bodies succumb to PC correctness, refusing to ever condemn immoral behavior. Six of our nine children were born in Oxford and London and on virtually each occasion the three other women who shared my wife’s hospital room had their parents present for support rather than a boyfriend or husband. Even so, religious leaders failed to ever condemn the narcissistic, selfish, womanizing men who behaved like Neanderthalic inseminators rather than gentlemen.

Contrary to public opinion, values do not come from schools or University professors but from the Ten Commandments. Teachers merely convey an established moral system to their pupils. But if that system is allowed to rot by religious leaders forgetting that their first responsibility is to communicate moral behavior and courageously criticize actions that unweave the fabric of society, the result is newspaper editors who will listen in to a dead girls messages to boost circulation and youth who feel the right to burn down a city when angry.

A quick summary of the Ten Commandments and its application to Britain’s problems. 

I am the Lord Your G-d. I am watching you even when the police aren’t. So put down the darn television and your fraudulent claims that breaking into a convenience store has anything to do with social justice.  

Thou shalt have no other gods before me, so stop obsessing over the false celebrity gods and royals that led to the disgusting tabloid mess in the first place. You shall have no gods of silver or gold. Money is a means to an end rather than an ultimate goal. Selling your soul to steal a microwave is simply worshiping the wrong things.

I could go on.

Honor your father and mother. Now that’s rich. Many of these youth don’t know who their father is or were scarcely raised by their own moms. TV was their babysitter, friends, their guides and companions. It was the blind leading the blind, all while clerics watched silently rather than thundering from the pulpit: ‘Mom, Dad. You’re hear in Church by yourself? I don’t want to see you without your kids. Your first responsibility is to them, even before G-d. Now go and raise them. They’re not supposed to be clubbing in their teens. You’re supposed to inspire them to be good people.’  

Thou shalt not steal. Yes, no matter what the grievance. You’re pissed off at the cops. What does that have to do with breaking into an insurance office? What did they do to harm you? Indeed, their stores are in your neighborhood to help your community. But we feel disenfranchised. The government is controlled by the rich. We get crumbs. Really? We’re sorry you feel that way, but ultimately, we don’t care how you feel. Feelings are nothing when it comes to morality. We care how you act. You feel left out? Then organize politically. You live in a democracy. Make your voices heard. March peacefully to achieve your ends. Speak out at giant rallies. But there is no excuse for stealing anything and we clergymen condemn it. But the bankers stole everything and got bailed out? One wrong doesn’t make a right.  

Do not commit adultery. Sex is sacred. Religious leaders, afraid to cause offense, have refused to condemn the culture of easy sex in Britain. Anyone who has witnessed the nightclub scene in Britain on a Saturday night would be staggered by the amount of drunkenness when young people emerge from the clubs at the mandatory closing time of 2am. Still, religious leaders won’t get up and belt out a sermon that a child is supposed to be disciplined by a mother and father rather than the police. 

Do not covet or lust after that which belongs to your neighbor. Jackpot. Notice the Bible does not say, ‘Don’t be jealous,’ which is allowed, but do not envy. Jealousy is where you righteously safeguard that which is yours, like feeling jealous if your spouse flirts outrageously with a member of the opposite sex. Envy is where you crave that which legitimately belongs to someone else. You feel left out? Opportunity has passed you by? We get it. So go out and work hard. Study. Get educated. Religious leaders should be inspiring youth to be people of the book rather than people merely of Facebook.

In the United States 92 percent of the population believe in G-d. In Britain it’s half that. And what Britain needs is courageous religious leaders who make the case for a sanctified life in place of the increasing decadence that the tabloid scandal and riots have exposed. 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is in the midst of launching GIVE, the Global Institute for Values Education. He recently published “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life” and will shortly publish “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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