A Guest Post By E. Fink
Originally posted on my home blog: Finkorswim.com
Lord Sacks published a lovely op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The article attempts to explain the underlying reasons for the horrible riots in London. As always, Rabbi Sacks is articulate, passionate and well-reasoned.
However, in this case I think the good rabbi is mistaken. At least to a certain degree.
Rabbi Sacks makes the claim that the depreciating value system in the UK is the source of the problem that gave rise to the riots. In particular, the eroding of Judeo-Christian values in Britain has created an environment which spawns a litany of social problems.
I agree that the social problems are one of the things that can cause riots. They are not the only consideration.
Economic woes are also a huge factor. When people are bored, have no job to look forward to, they are more likely to engage in anti-social behavior. Sure, one can also try to wedge the unemployment issues around the world into a failed allegiance to Judeo-Christian values. I know I have heard similar assertions. But I believe that is a bit far-fetched. Religious societies, have recessions. Even (believe it or not) the "free market" also allows for recessions in the economy. Permanent growth is impossible.
The problem I have with the article is that it ignores all the mobs and riots throughout history that certainly were rooted in Judeo-Christian values. Or the mobs and riots in predominantly religious neighborhoods. Or the thousands of years of killing in the name of religion.
It is hard to believe that this riot should have a different cause than all the riots before the decay of the Judeo-Christian values in Britain.
Further, there are many wonderful societies not based on Jude0-Christian values where, I know this is going to sound shocking, there are not violent riots.
I believe that there are equally compelling arguments for good social behavior from a non-religious perspective. One problem, in my opinion, is that the religious people view the non-religious as heathens and the "enemy". This creates a hostile social environment. There are universal values that we agree upon. The issues upon which we disagree should not create the discord and anger that they do.
Religious and non-religous people all agree that riots are bad. Honesty and peace are universal good values. There is no reason to make this a religious issue.
Perhaps most bothersome to me about the article is that similar hooligans in the USA who are gang members certainly express themselves as religious. They wear crosses, they get crosses and other religious symbols tattooed into their skin, many attend church as well. It is simply unfair to paint rioters with an anti-Judeo-Christian brush.
In short: Rabbi Sacks assumes 3 things that I think are faulty assumptions. First, the reason for the riots is the decay of Judeo-Christian values. Second, that Judeo-Christian values "prevent" rioting. Finally, that rioters do not identify with Judeo-Christian values.
Otherwise, I loved the article.
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