It’s very easy to see what others do and then to criticise it. Which is probably why we all tend to do it.
But it’s very hard not to find some conclusions that people have come to recently very strange indeed. I’ll limit myself to three, all fresh in the media this past week.
First, the well-aired decision by Rotherham Council to remove three children from their foster-parents because the couple were members of a supposedly racist political party. In fact I have some sympathy with the director of children’s services, Joyce Thacker. Her department had been under a lot of pressure not to deprive children of their cultural and linguistic heritage by ‘inappropriate placements’. These three were from Roma families suspected of abusive behaviour so the council were in a bind: damned if they acted, damned if they didn’t. But why bring in a political dimension, in that case? Surely simpler to argue the case on the basis of the immediate known facts...?
Second, Danny Nightingale, the SAS sergeant imprisoned for being in possession of a handgun and ammunition. Again, we probably all know the reported fact s by now – the gun a present from Iraqi trainees, the ammunition used in Sergeant Nightingale’s former day-job of training marksmen and the head-wound sustained in Afghanistan that had affected his memory. Again, arguments for both sides but the key point that emerges is this man’s uncontested record of steady, serious responsibility and commitment to duty. Surely – once the irregularity had been discovered – someone senior should have had a quiet word, impounded the arms and told him to ‘carry on’....?
And third, the decision to build houses on the known flood-plain of the River Clwyd . While nearby St Asaph was getting all the media attention during last week’s floods, an estate of 230 homes on the edge of the old hill town of Ruthin was becoming submerged. Yet the houses had only been built within the last five years against a backdrop of assurances that the river’s tendency to flood was ‘a thing of the past’ – and a more widespread knowledge that this had always been a ‘wet field’ and that even if the flood waters were partially redirected, they would still need to go somewhere. Surely – when the council sold the land as ‘suitable for residential building’ – that local knowledge should have been factored in.....?
As I said, it’s easy to criticise others but in each case, professionals entrusted with making decisions seem to have either ignored the obvious, overcomplicated the already difficult or lacked ordinary human wisdom.
When Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Rome, he started by saying that – because God’s way of being and doing is right (something as immeasurably complex as the observable creation must come from an immeasurably wise creator) – it makes sense to pay attention to what He says. Paul goes on “.... so God has become angry as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.
What has happened is this: people know God perfectly well, but when they don’t treat him like God and refuse to worship him, they trivialise themselves into silliness and confusion so that there is neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretend to know it all, but are illiterate regarding life.”
In the three current examples above, there does seem to be a shroud over truth and a distinct lack of direction. The resulting damage to lives is immense.
I’m not exempt: I too can easily damage other people’s lives by my lack of wisdom. I can ignore God’s commands and pretend to know it all. I too can be’ illiterate regarding life’.
James, Jesus’ brother, writes, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him/her ask God who gives generously to everyone and without any criticism.”
By Nigel O’Dwyer, who leads Goring New Life Church, and lives and works in Worthing.