The recent disturbances in England show that fundamental issues concerning the legitimation of government, social justice, and societal stability need to be addressed ever more urgently, says Professor Richard Roberts. He argues that scholars of religion should not simply remain reluctant but paid tools of an industrialised system of defective socialisation that initiates students into informed passivity, but rather the source of a truly critical discourse that broadens the imagination and enhances personal agency.
I returned last Friday from a week more or less out of reach of TV, radio and electronic communications to what feels like another country: A country convulsed by anger, outrage and anguish. A country in which the ‘old certainties’ of even ten days ago, now seem past their sell by date.
On 14 August 2011, in church, we celebrated Mary, mother of Jesus. She first appears in the Gospels as a brave, dynamic teenager, hopeful of a better future for the oppressed through One she trusts – and willing to put her reputation and even life on the line for this.
Many people are angry and frightened at the rioting that has caused such damage in cities across England. Some favour harsh punishments. Ideas which have become popular include cutting off welfare benefits to those convicted and evicting their families from social housing. Wandsworth Council has reportedly already applied to the courts to evict a tenant whose son was involved.
I have recently spent the night reading about and watching the (in the first instance) London riots unfold from my hotel room in India. I have lived in Lewisham since 1998 and to see aerial images of cars along the main streets on fire and shops I know well looted has been surreal.