Thursday, September 13, 2007

To Affinity And Beyond, 1

It is ironic that the very point where being online would be especially helpful – for accessing all kinds of information; for keeping in touch with family and friends – is the very time when we have lived in the Sheol of existence without the substance of the virtual world…

It has also been interesting, to me at least, to observe how helpful blogging is to the process of theological reflection, and indeed of simply keeping the brain ticking over. Over the summer, I’ve been trying to reflect on one of the major news stories, the apparently dramatic rise in murders – both premeditated and opportunistic; by knife and gun and savage kicks to the head; by individuals and groups – by teenagers. I say apparently dramatic because the rapidity with which trends move is inversely proportional to the numbers involved, so that when we are dealing with a very small number of incidents (e.g. murders) as a percentage of the possible agents (e.g. British teenagers), the trend inevitably appears to grow or be reversed rapidly (if such killings were commonplace, a small increase or decrease would not be felt). On the other hand, it is a growing concern – and concern about the situation may well reach a tipping-point that provides the opportunity to address the problem, before the problem itself reaches its own tipping-point and explodes exponentially.

We have seen an outpouring of column inches in the press, as columnists and politicians alike react to the events of the summer, attempting to identify the causes and the best responses. The difficulty is that, while we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the problem, the wrong responses will only further add to the problem we face. We need to be careful and thorough in our diagnoses; and careful and thorough in the choice and ongoing monitoring of our prescribed course of action.

The apparent problem – the one most readily identified by columnists and politicians, and on the grounds of which many of the suggested responses have been made – is one of lawlessness. That is, within a law-abiding majority living in a society built on legal principles, there are rogue elements, law-breaking individuals. And it is a matter of concern that an increasing number of children are being raised without reference to, or respect for, the legal code; a trend that left unaddressed would ultimately undermine the legal society.

As I have reflected on these unlawful killings, I believe this to be a fundamental misdiagnosis. The problem, as I see it, is not that we live in an increasingly lawless society, but that we live in a graceless one.

And therefore, far from being rogue elements, teenage murderers – and those who sell them weapons – are entirely consistent graceless members of a graceless majority, living within a law-based society. I shall explore this further in the following post.

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