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Thought for the Day - John Bell

John Bell

Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ .. is a song from a previous era, but a sentiment which does not go away.

However the notion that men are inherently superior doesn’t stand up to empirical proof. While in physical strength they might usually have the advantage, in terms of moral fibre and human decency men don’t always come out on top

Because we live in a broadly patriarchal society, we should not be surprised that the culture which brought about the worldwide financial meltdown was overwhelmingly masculine. But consider also that the people who are most vocal in denying human responsibility for the disastrous effects of climate change are mostly male.

The people who control factories of wage slaves in the developing world are almost exclusively men, as are the commanders of terrorist regimes. Leaders who threaten or declare war are mostly men as are those involved in paedophile gangs.

While there are women who have been found guilty of this activity, to the best of my knowledge there have been no prosecutions of gangs of women. But there are untold networks of men who organise systematically the abuse of children.

It was an American 20th century theologian Rheinhold Niebuhr who moved sin from the personal into the corporate world. He suggested that there is within any interlinked group of people a propensity for evil which is greater than the sum of the malign potentials in each.

If you’ve ever run a youth club - as I used to - you’ll have seen this.

On the dance floor, a local boy and a newcomer square up to each other. As soon as the first punch is aimed the friends of the local boy join the fray and as you go in to break up the fight, you notice that some of those who are putting the boot in are boys who, on their own, wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

I have no doubt that of the nine men sent to prison for vile offences against children in Rochdale, the seven who were fathers would never want their daughters to be raped by men up to four times their age, yet in association with each other they conspired to do that very thing to girls from other people’s families.

The mystery of the evil that men can do collectively peppers sacred history. The Old Testament Israelites and the Christian crusaders mercilessly slaughtered innocent people in the name of God. It was a cabal of men who engineered the crucifixion.

It was men - who hugged their wives and kissed their children - who herded human beings into Nazi gas chambers.

In the face of this evidence, to regard sin as a purely personal thing is bad psychology as well as bad theology. Private sin is not the only sort. It is from the evil which we can do together that we need deliverance.

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