Why bother criticising Occupy and the Arab Spring? In the last fifty years we have lived through a social revolution and the only way of recovering stability in society will be by another revolution in how we think, and Occupy and the various Middle East Springs show us precisely what not to do.
Occupy are spoiled children playing at revolution, the Arab Spring are revolutionaries acting like spoiled children. Both arise from an emotional base, both respond to what is seen as social injustice, and both fail to reach their aims.
Whilst both movements have a general idea about what they are against neither actually knows what they are for other than in the vaguest terms. As a result Occupy continually runs into the sands once the emotional have been allowed to blow off steam and the freedom seeking Arab Spring only serves to open the door for oppressive Islamic fundamentalism.
This is not only a matter of movements. Noam Chomsky, supposedly the most googled name on the internet, is brilliantly strong on analysis, but utterly devoid of any solution never mind articulating practical steps on how to get there. Chomsky being the most articulate and influential intellectual left wing anarchist of our day this lack of practical effectiveness is undoubtedly a good thing.
Unfortunately Christians tend to have the same problem. We have a clear idea of what we are against, but far less sure about what brought it about or the kind of society we are for, and even less sure about how to get there.
A case in point is the state of the family in the UK today. Christians recognise the family as a cornerstone of social stability and are rightly concerned about a destruction of the family unit so thoroughgoing that you could be forgiven for thinking it deliberate. Between 1961 and 2000 the number of first marriages in the UK fell from 300,000 to 180,000 despite an increase in population from 52.7 in 1961 to 58.8 million in 2000. The rate of first marriages has fallen from 83 per thousand single women in 1961 to 33 per thousand in 2000. For men, the rate fell from 75 per thousand in 1961 to 26 per thousand in 2000.
Between 1986 and 1999 the proportion of single women in cohabiting relationships nearly doubled from 13% to 25%. Today cohabiting unions make up 70% of first partnerships. Although increasingly popular cohabitation unions tend to be extremely fragile. On average cohabitations last a mere two years before dissolving or converting to marriage. Of cohabiting couples who do not marry, only about 18% survive at least ten years, compared to 75% of couples who marry.
Christians rightly bemoan these figures. We respond by saying that the government should give married families tax breaks. Whilst this is part of the solution it fails to reach the nub of the problem. These figures are the result of a revolution in the way, amongst other things, we think of: the roles of men and women, the nature of marriage, the role of the state in child care, our system of societal and individual values, and the shape of virtue.
It is only when we get below the initial reaction to discern why the particular problem has arisen that we can begin to see a desirable alternative and effective response. Too often it is as though Christians concentrate on the symptoms rather than the causes, the measles spots rather than the rubeola virus. This leads to an inevitably weakened response; camomile lotion may soothe the symptoms but it is vaccination which protects against the disease.
It is when we know what the ultimate cause is that we can begin to work out a positive response. It is not enough for Christians to be against what is wrong, we have to promote a clearly attractive alternative for all of society.
When we have a vision of that alternative we can begin the slow, painstaking and difficult work of building alliances to achieve that end. Christians are adept at single issue politics such as abortion, homosexual marriage and discrimination against Christians, however, there is little appetite for co-ordinated and co-operative action across a broad front. So often between Christian organisations the background music is the sound of colliding egos, grievance one-upmanship and mutual suspicion and sniping.
If we are ever to roll back the destructive results of a total world view based on materialism shaped by chance we must practice viable Christian alternatives whilst taking legal and political action. Some will argue that all that is needed is to preach the gospel and practice those Christian alternatives and leave the legal and political. Unfortunately this is utopian, we live in a fallen world which requires the use of every legitimate response to the unreality of destructive relativism.