What on Earth is going on? Day after day the Media, through the Press, via television and radio, stories of knife crime seems to be exploding across England, with the majority taking place in and around the London area. Quite a phenomenon really, when considering those monthly train trips to London from my home town of Bracknell around fifty years ago, in the 1960s while I was in my mid-teens, and barely out of school. Mum had never worried too much about her elder son travelling thirty miles on his own during the weekend, for with knife crime being totally non-existent, she had little to be concerned about. The point of this is whether Mums at present are far more concerned about letting their teenage offspring out alone in cities such as London - the present culture of helicopter parenting.
Those monthly leisure trips into London became weekly trips to college, located in Shoreditch in the area of east London, then known for its furniture trade. It was where I could have bought a bottle of shellac, wood stain or even lacquer for French polishing or other forms of wood finishing, items which would have been extremely difficult to get elsewhere in the UK. And it was also the location for the London College of Furniture, where I had to attend during those day-releases which every firm employing school-leavers were obliged under law to give.
|London College of Furniture - attended 1968-1970.|
If I might add here, throughout the life of the family-owned business manufacturing furniture for the connoisseur's choice, just as every apprentice was given a day release to travel to London to attend college, a set mode of transportation was followed. The student boarded a train from Bracknell to London Waterloo, then from there took an LT bus to Shoreditch. Every apprentice up to my time did the same. But when my turn came, I had to be different! A quick check on the London Underground map showed a quicker and more efficient way to get to the college - Waterloo Station to Old Street underground station on the Northern Line, changing at Kennington. A little later, that was modified to changing at Elephant & Castle, on the Bakerloo Line, thus making the journey a little shorter.
This new mode of transportation caused quite a stir throughout the company I worked for. My foreman's tongue couldn't stop wagging, astonished on how someone like little me, a teenager with no school qualifications, actually launched what could be called a mini-revolution, just because I took a look at a map of the London Underground. As a result, thereafter, every apprentice student working at that firm took the same Underground route which I had first "discovered" - in the years that followed.
But whatever I did in London, I never felt threatened or in any form of danger. After college, I met my first girlfriend, who lived at Wimbledon. Therefore, trips to London became a twice-a-week schedule into the seventies - Wednesdays and Saturdays - and had never encountered any form of threat during those days, and that despite the rise of the National Front causing racially-motivated street scuffles against immigrants of ethnic diversity.
The National Front, formed in 1967 with the amalgamation of the League of Empire Loyalists, the Racial Preservation Society and the Greater Britain Movement, such attitudes going back to the 1950s, when immigration from faraway lands such as Jamaica was at its peak, followed by those from Pakistan. Whether you may agree with me here or not, it does seem that such right-wing extremists have always suffered a problem of self-identification or self-worth. And I could be wrong here, but I have gotten the impression that many of those members are from working-class families. I once had a good friend working on the shop floor of a precision engineering factory throughout the mid-seventies who was a member of the National Front.
I was impressed with his commitment to his cause, and he asked me whether I was interested in joining his movement. I said that I would consider after I have read their manifesto. This positive attitude towards his ideas was not because I was patriotic, but because of my naivety in being a young, newly-converted Christian believer. Back then, to believe in Christ was synonymous with capitalism, while socialism was, so I thought, arose from the pits of darkness. And I mistakenly believed that supporting the National Front was honouring to God! However, I insisted on reading their credo before making any move.
It was after reading their leaflet when I realised that the whole movement was militaristic, racist and anti-immigrant from which I had a change of mind, and declined his offer to join. Unfortunately, from that moment his friendship towards me cooled, and he left the firm a short time after.
I suppose my former friend needed something of a cause to be committed to, a group of people with whom he has a sense of identity, the feeling of belonging with a bedrock of imperialism and of a sense of racial and national superiority. And to this day, I wonder whether this nationwide feeling of tribalism is the real motive for Brexit, as the Queen suggested on Christmas Day, the feeling of anti-immigrant xenophobia, the underlying threat that these "foreigners" could offer something superior to what many of our indigenous Brits could offer.
At the same time, the quest for status has been suggested by the media for many youths of all races to carry knives. And although the recent killing of Manchester student Yousef Makki was done by two middle-class boys who attend prestigious schools, this was a rare exception rather than the rule. As I see it, those who carry a knife are from those who failed at school or were expelled at an early age, and rather than engage in useful employment, often group themselves in gang rivalry engaged in the illegal drug trade.
What a shame it is that in our culture, an individual's self-worth is determined by others on his level of education. The brighter he is, the greater the respect he gets. And I have seen this both inside as well as outside the church. And that was so vividly demonstrated in the nineties on at least two occasions.
I was exhorted to deliver a preach on one evening service during the mid-nineties. I had never done this before, so I felt nervous, draining one glass of water after another throughout the talk. On the front row, right in front of me sat a patriotic Englishman who was either reading something or doodling. After the service, I actually heard him boasting to others around that he didn't listen to a single word I had said! Driven by a strong sense of inferior complex, this one-time kitchen porter always acted as if he was nationally and culturally superior to me, because of my "backwards" Italian origins and heritage. A strong advocate of the British stiff upper lip, he never fulfilled his dream of marrying and raising a family. Just three years my junior, he remains single to this day.
On another occasion, which occurred in 1997, after arriving home after a Round-the-World backpacking trip, I stood at the front to give my testimony of the ten-week journey. Within the talk, I mention a possible link between what was displayed and sold in American shops, especially in Santa Barbara, to the future "strong delusion" of 2 Thessalonians 2:11. Looking back at it now, I realise that I might have been way off track, but that didn't stop someone in the audience to say:
What is that fool talking about? What does he know? He's just a window cleaner!
What a contrast all that is compared with the universal respect shown to any graduate who stands at the front. Regardless whether he takes the Bible as literal history or not, within the very same church, he receives reverential respect, simply because of his high level of education.
Putting it all together, it comes as no surprise that many who failed at school carry a knife as a status symbol. Gripped and driven by a deep sense of inferiority, such a person who instantly retribute anyone who dares pose a threat to his ego. Therefore lives are eternally lost by means of a stabbing, which is now growing at a frightening rate in this country.
And I, myself was from time to time felt a sense of inferiority complex throughout the seventies and eighties. That is until the nineties when it was dominated by world travel, which was a psychological therapy and an emotional panacea which contributed well to my sense of self-worth.
But it is the Bible itself which offers a more permanent therapy for feelings of lacking self-worth. It is found in Psalm 139, which contains these verses:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I'm fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
We are created and each one of us is unique to God! That is a far cry from believing in Theistic or Darwinian Evolution, which in themselves promote a sense of lacking self-worth.
Everyone born is unique and was knit together in the womb by God himself. As such, God loves each one of us so dearly and has a yearning heart for all to come to him through faith in Christ. As the Scripture says, God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and that he is patient, not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Maybe that's why, in verse 19, he writes,
If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
If only...But God doesn't. He is not willing that any should perish but to come to repentance instead, and to receive life. This could be the reason why many Old Testament saints were puzzled over the longevity of the unbeliever persisting in his sin. God is patient, waiting for such to change their minds about him, and to trust him for his promise of a future Messiah.
But equally important, God has formed each and every one of us secretly in the mother's womb. Every one of us is unique to him, and therefore objects of his love. So sad it is that the awareness of sin, combined with guilt, the feelings of rejection and of condemnation, making the soul crying out for love and acceptance, to be respected as one of the in-group, along with the lie that he is nothing more than an animal, along with another lie that he's nothing more than a random collection of atoms in a lucky chance of evolution by natural selection.
I know - the omniscience of God. How could God pay so much attention to the unborn if he also knows that this person will never repent throughout life? This is a mystery of God, him being infinite and ourselves finite. It can be heartbreaking to watch a newborn of unbelieving parents, lying asleep in his cot and wondering whether he will ever be drawn close to God's heart. I'll be honest here, but this is one of God's infinite questions to which I cannot provide an adequate answer.
Perhaps the closest I could come was once suggested by one of our church leaders during his sermon. He visualised an open door, over which was read, WHOEVER WILL, LET HIM COME THROUGH. But when the believer walks through the door, he turns to look back, to read another sign which says, CHOSEN BY GOD IN HIS SOVEREIGNTY.
I know, it might look rather naff, but it could be the closest suggestion made by a finite mind to the infinite mind of God.
However, the real cure for a lack of self-worth is to meditate on Scripture such as Psalm 139 with a believing heart. Reading the Bible and mixing it with faith produces a recipe which is so nourishing to the soul and spirit.