Financial Scandals Highlight Spiritual Void

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Financial Scandals Highlight Spiritual Void

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In May, we took a family vacation to England, spending most of our time with four of my brothers and their families.

I am always struck on such visits by the contrast between their lives and ours. Whereas religious belief has played a major role in our lives, the four of them have no interest in the subject at all. Not one of them has a Bible in his home. If asked, they would consider the book of no relevance to us today.

One of my brothers observed the reason for my religious beliefs was that I'm older and was educated in a different age. I was at school in England in the 1950s and early '60s, whereas my four younger brothers were educated in the late '60s and '70s. In his mind, religious belief died in the 1960s.

It is true that in the 1950s the old standards still prevailed. Each school day began with a Bible reading and prayers. On Fridays we ended the day similarly, as if we all needed fortifying for the temptations the coming weekend might offer! We were taught the Ten Commandments and basic biblical principles common to all churches. In short, there was a certain familiarity with the Bible.

We were also taught some patriotic values. Our sports teams were named after famous British heroes. Scott, Drake, Nelson and Livingstone were the four "houses" in my school. As we marched single file into our assembly hall for morning prayers, we passed an impressive portrait of the new queen in coronation regalia. A map of the world was still largely colored red, denoting the various colonies and dominions of what was still the British Empire and Commonwealth.

By the middle of the 1960s all this was to change. The death of Sir Winston Churchill in January 1965 seemed to close the curtain on a glorious era. Replacing it were new values that were not really values at all. Materialistic values, money, promiscuity and a good time became the new gods as the nation rejected the old values, many of which were based on the Bible.

The latest scandals

Perhaps all this explains the latest scandals that have dominated the headlines in the United Kingdom during the last few weeks. People have been shocked to discover that many of their members of Parliament (MPs) are corrupt, having abused their expense money for personal gain.

Frankly, I was shocked that the public was shocked to find their politicians are motivated by self-gain! For the first time in over three centuries, the Speaker of the House of Commons was forced to resign. Many MPs have also announced that they will leave office at the end of the current session, which has less than a year to go.

One MP tried to focus the blame on former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who revived Britain's economy after more than three decades of decline. She claimed that Lady Thatcher brought in a culture of greed.

This comment was motivated by an antibusiness bias, the suggestion being that it's only people in business who are greedy. At least businessmen invest their own capital at their own risk to make money. If they are successful, they contribute to the national prosperity and create jobs. Politicians, on the other hand, are not taking personal risks. They are simply taking, as the national revelations have shown!

Another MP defensively stated: "At least, we are not as corrupt as other countries!"

This may be true. But Britain at one time had a reputation for being generally corruption-free. Clearly, this is not the case today. The consequence of the newspaper revelations is that people have lost all confidence in their members of Parliament and in the institution itself. Papers variously described the House of Commons as the "House of Ill Repute" and the "House of Horrors."

Importance of the Ten Commandments

London's Mail on Sunday carried the front-page headline: "The Queen 'Is Deeply Troubled'" (May 17, 2009), with a follow-up article offering more detail five days later. More than once, I heard people say that the 83-year-old monarch is the last person left with any values. I'm sure that isn't the case. There are many people in Britain who are appalled at the state the country is in but feel powerless to do anything about it.

There are also many people who place the blame for the country's predicament on the decline in religious values. Even one of my brothers made this observation, lamenting that schoolchildren are no longer taught the Ten Commandments. One of the commandments is, "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15). Stealing is taking something that doesn't belong to you, including money that rightly belongs to the taxpayers who earned it!

Interestingly, when speaking to Ephraim, whose modern descendants include the British people, God said: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). When the Ten Commandments are not taught to children, they grow up without biblical values. The children of the '60s now dominate the British Parliament, ruling with the secular and antibiblical values that blossomed in that decade.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote of a similar time in ancient Judah. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores" (Isaiah 1:5-6). Further down in the chapter these words were written: "Your princes [rulers] are rebellious, and companions of thieves; everyone loves bribes, and follows after [financial] rewards" (verse 23).

The people of Judah failed to heed God's warning sent through His prophets. The result was that Judah came under foreign control.

Ironically, that's another issue widely talked about in the United Kingdom at this time. European elections are scheduled for June 4, when voters have the opportunity to select representatives to the European Parliament of the European Union. The elections are likely to result in increased support for UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party), a party that is anti-European. There is a general feeling that Britain has ceded too much power to the institutions of the EU and is losing its sovereignty. Increasing disillusionment with the establishment parties over abuse of expenses will likely increase UKIP's support further.

Talk of national bankruptcy

Finances would have been a big issue without the financial scandals. Britain has been hit hard by the current recession, with a significant drop in home values and in peoples' net worth. The country also suffers from rising unemployment. Now there is talk of national bankruptcy.

The major news item on the front page of the European edition of the Financial Times on May 22 was "Warning to Britain Over High Debt Level." The article said, "Britain yesterday became the first large economy to be warned in the financial crisis that it might lose its top-notch credit rating, in a move that raised fears of possible downgrades for other big industrialised nations...

"S&P [Standard and Poor] based its warning on a forecast that UK net government debt risked approaching 100 per cent of national income and staying at that level...A loss of the top credit rating could raise the cost to Britain of financing its national debt, putting further strain on the country's public finances and adding to pressure on Gordon Brown's administration to bring public borrowing down faster than it has planned.

"The International Monetary Fund this week urged the UK to reduce its public deficit more rapidly once the economy was recovering from recession."

In a warning to other Western nations, including the United States, the Financial Times pointed out that "S&P's move sets a precedent for other big economies with triple-A ratings whose debt burdens are also approaching 100 percent of national income. The UK debt burden is forecast over coming years to be similar to that of the US, France and Germany, all of which may now be vulnerable to an S&P downgrade."

It's not surprising that the United Kingdom's finances are in bad shape when there is so much dishonesty at the top of British society. This also applies to the United States where recent executive branch nominations were withdrawn once public disclosures of financial impropriety affected the reputations of the various candidates. When those selected to lead the government can't handle their own finances with fiscal integrity, then it's hardly surprising that the national finances are in such a mess.

Isaiah's words echo down to this day: "The whole head is sick." The problem is a spiritual one, which will not be rectified without a national repentance and a turning back to God and solid biblical values. WNP