Whilst helping to set the church up for the social event we are having tonight (Beetle and Chips, Don't ask!), the treasurer, his wife and myself got talking about the yob culture that seems to be gripping our nation.
I had a walk down to our local "purveyor of hamburgers under a golden arch" on Wednesday evening and on the way to the retail park I had to cross an open grassed area that is notorious for young people congregating. As I started to walk across the area I noticed three young men sitting on the wall of the raised flower bed in the centre of the area. They spotted me, said something to each other and started walking towards me. Preparing myself for some sort of altercation I raised my head high and stared at them as they approached. As they got a little closer they appeared to say something to each other, take another glance at me and then turn round and walk off in the opposite direction. I have no doubt that their intention was to cause some sort of trouble and it was only after they saw my size and my defying glare that they thought better of their intended course of action. Am I being unfair to them and maybe they just changed their mind about where they wanted to go? Perhaps, but then this isn't the first time I have been accosted in this manor and I am fortunate that the last time it happened I was in a particularly bad mood and the three young men who stopped me that time ended up feeling much the worse for wear. In any case whatever their intentions I think even the fact that I assumed this of these young men shows how we are affected by the increase in violence that plagues or society today.
Yesterday I had a doctors appointment and when I went to our local bus stop to catch the bus I found the window of the bus shelter their smashed. The information board with timetable and such sits on this window and this has obviously been damaged too. On boarding the bus and setting off I was even more horrified to find that the next shelter on the route had received the same treatment. There must have been close to a thousand pounds worth of damage done. Both of these shelters are on a main road with houses lining both sides of the street. Did anyone see anything? Probably so, but would they say if they had? Probably not through fear.
On our way to pick my girlfriend up from the railway station yesterday in the car with my family we were driving down another very busy road in town and three young boys, probably no older than 11 or 12 , threw a stone at the car as we passed them on the side of the road. I told my Dad to stop the car and gave pursuit but due to the time it took us to stop from around 45 mph and them scampering down the canal side they had too much of a head start for me to catch them, but they certainly looked worried hen they saw me begin to give chase.
These are simple examples of a culture that seems to be heading more and more towards violence as a way of life. There is no respect any more for either people, their possessions, or even the law. If I had caught those young boys yesterday, what could I have done? Nothing basically without fear of being arrested for assault or similar. If I had seen the people who broke the shelters what could we have done then? Rang the police? Would they have been able to attend before the culprits ran off? I'm not knocking the police as I think they have a very difficult job to do requiring more patience than I think I could muster but it is an unfortunate fact (and one that really proves my point) that a smashed bus shelter is really probably pretty low on their list of priorities when there are so many other, often very violent crimes to deal with. If I had confronted those young men who seemed to be heading to accost me would I have found myself facing a knife or even worse. Would I have been accosted the next time I walked that route but by a much larger group?
I know all these things sound like moaning and worrying abut things that haven't happened and many of you may even think I'm being unrealistic. The fact of the matter is I'm not. These things do happen, and worse, and we have to accept they do. The question is how do we reply to them as Christians. This is a subject I find amazingly difficult and some might even say the last time I was accosted I was wrong to stand and fight.
From my perspective the decline in Christianity is closely linked with the incline in crime and the lack of respect. Children who are bought up in Christian families get taught what is right and wrong and to have a respect for others and the law. There can be no doubt that we need to increase the numbers who attend worship to save our "dying church" but maybe even more to the point is that we need to do it to save out dying country.