Friday, December 12, 2008

Thinking about Karen Matthews

Last week after Karen Matthews was found guilty for perverting the course of justice and kidnapping her own daughter, there were pages of newspaper articles about her and the broken life she lived. Some were at a loss to explain it and others outraged by it and others outraged by the outrage. We wondered again about the nature of evil.

I've been mulling over some of what I've read for a week now and a few things struck me:
  1. None of the bloggers I read mentioned it. We're not likely to mention all of the high profile crimes and crises, but even so. Zip. Two conclusions, I need to read a few more blogs or there's something of a disconnect between news events and the interests of Christian bloggers. Maybe, both.
  2. The Mail (a paper I wouldn't normally go anywhere near or touch with a bargepole) was typically outraged in its condemnation and disgust. It's views will be shared and repeated by millions and no doubt a fair few in our nations churches. Here's a few highlights from just one article:
    "Since becoming pregnant at 19 she has had seven children from five, or more likely six, fathers (such is the nature of her life that she appears to have lost count)."
    "She has never married or had a job and always relied on benefits to pay for her drink and cigarettes"
    "Her house was not only a mess inside (with 'punch holes' in several doors), but the tiny garden outside was piled high with rubbish."
    Paints a vivid picture, don't it? A picture of a woman who was evil long before her plot to kidnap her own daughter. But what happens in a society at the top and the bottom says something about the sort of society we are.
  3. I live in a neighbourhood that's in the bottom 1/3 and nearby is an estate in the bottom 15% of all wards in the UK on social deprivation levels. I can go today to more than a dozen families and houses (that I know personally) and more that I'd have a good guess about, that would fit the above descriptions. Dysfunctional, broken Britain.
  4. Question: Where is the church in these places? Mostly, nowhere to be seen. The suburbs and the estates rarely mix and the churches are in the suburbs. Is that fair? I think so.
The whole episode is profoundly disturbing on so many levels and the question that comes to my mind the most is, 'where was the salt?' (Mt 5:13)


Matthew Hosier on 12 December 2008 at 22:48 said...

Interesting observation.

I guess that the reality is that most blogs function as online diaries, and personal diaries are notoriously personal, tending to make little reference to the wider world.

As I was in Zim at the time of this incident I of course feel exonerated in not blogging about it!

atlanticwriter on 13 December 2008 at 17:07 said...

Guilty as charged (though you may not follow my blog) in not writing about the case.

When I think about why not, the simple fact of the matter is that I was intellectually lazy.

The issues raised are, of course, more complex than the quotes from the Mail might suggest, but in even stating that opinion, I run the risk of appearing to undermine the seriousness of the sin committed against the primary victim.

The fact is, we have become used in recent decades to accepting the existence of a permanent economic underclass in Britain, a class which did not exist in the same way before the 1980s. This sociological fact is itself a spiritual issue, one rarely tackled by evangelicals at a political or structural level.

Describing the actions of this family solely in terms of moral outrage is not the whole story.

The trouble is, it's difficult to tell the whole story. But we must.

Phil on 13 December 2008 at 17:54 said...

Hi Matt, I think blogs are all sorts of things, a combo of diary, journal, but also things I've read, things I've thought about and things I think others should think about. I'm not actually all that surprised, I commit all sorts of sins of omission on my blog. I just noticed this one.

Atlantic - recognising that underclass and the spiritual issues and deciding to engage is the issue...but what to do and how to do it....

dave bish on 16 December 2008 at 08:11 said...

Its a good thought. On the one hand its refreshing reading blogs that aren't driven by the press headlines, deciding what should matter...

...but probably we ought to interact a bit more with what people are talking about.

Phil on 16 December 2008 at 10:30 said...

Hi Dave, you're right that we don't want everything to be driven by the fashion or the headlines, at the same time if none of us think about what happens then we're not really engaging with culture very well

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