“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night … till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6–7)

On Sunday, 7th August, Mark Duggan was shot dead by officers of the Metropolitan Police firearms unit in the London suburb of Tottenham. The police reported there was an exchange of gunfire. This was later disputed. Whatever the facts of this incident, it was the trigger for nights of violence, anarchy and looting, first in London, then in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and other centres. The police response at first seemed tentative and ineffectual; the mobs were out of control. “We can’t cope”, one officer admitted, stating the obvious.

The pictures and videos flashed around the globe with the immediacy that now characterises our modern world. Many of the young thugs were wearing ‘hoodies’ or in other ways covering their faces; others brazenly made no attempt to hide their identities. The police numbers increased until thousands were attempting to clear the streets of the unruly mobs. Shops were looted and burned. Livelihoods were destroyed; in some cases the work of generations wiped out overnight. “We’re just getting back our taxes”, one looter blithely declared. In upscale Notting Hill, thugs entered a restaurant, emptying both the till and the wallets of diners. On the streets some were forced to strip and hand over their clothes to the thugs. In one widely reported incident, a bleeding boy was helped to his feet, only to have his backpack rifled and his possessions stolen by his ‘helpers’.

This lawlessness is not restricted to the UK. On the 4th August, gangs of black youths attacked and assaulted white visitors leaving the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee, USA. And a new tactic in shop looting is gaining currency in the United States. Rather than a single ‘shoplifter’ plying his or her trade, gangs now ‘swarm’ a shop in groups of as many as twenty youths, simply overwhelming the shopkeepers. This is being done brazenly with no attempt at concealment. The mob simply ‘swarms’ into a shop and steals at will. These are not acts of desperation by starving people. The thieves are well dressed and well fed. And, apart from some of the younger looters grabbing icecream, they target not food but upmarket clothing and electrical goods. And authorities wonder why this is happening.

The Jewish writer, Melanie Phillips, a perceptive British political and social commentator who writes for various newspapers, made the following comments as she sought to outline the reasons for the anarchy on England’s city streets:

“I have written for more than two decades on the various elements that have contributed to this collapse of order: family breakdown and mass fatherlessness; the toleration and even encouragement of grossly inadequate parenting; educational collapse which damages most those at the bottom of the social heap; welfare dependency; political correctness and the vicious injustices and moral inversion of victim culture; the grossly irresponsible toleration of soft drug-taking; the shuddering distaste at the notion of punishment and the consequent collapse of authority in the entire criminal justice system; the implosion of the policing ethic and the police retreat from the streets; the increasing organisation and boldness of anarchist and left-wing subversive activity; and the growth of irrationality, narcissistic selfcentredness and mob rule and the near-certainty of a fundamental breakdown of morality and order.

To every one of these arguments that I have made over the years, the left has responded with jeers and smears. Now, as terrified citizens see their homes and businesses torched, looters queue up in order more efficiently to steal from shattered shops and passing motor-cyclists are dragged off their machines and beaten up and robbed – all with near-total impunity – we can see all these chickens coming so frighteningly home to roost.”

We, too, ought not to be surprised at these developments. The near collapse in the West of standards of Biblical morality, the disdain and rejection of Christianity by the political and media elites, accompanied by the emergence of an aggressive and well publicised atheism, are the background elements of a society testifying that “in the last days perilous times HAVE come”. Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:1–7 are no longer indicators of future events, but graphic depictions of a shocking, present reality. “For men [ie people generally] ARE lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” See how Paul describes those who act like this. In verse 2 they are “men”; by verse 8 they are “men of corrupt minds”. Finally in verse 13, “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse”.

As we observe and make our judgments about these events, let us try to have our Lord’s perspective, who was compassionate towards those who were “as sheep having no shepherd”. Remember his cry concerning the city that would slay him: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” This is not to lessen the culpability of any who perpetrate the outrageous behaviour we have witnessed. But the greater responsibility belongs surely to the political and social elites, to the media enablers and the excuse makers who call evil good, and good evil – upon them will come the greater condemnation. Meanwhile we must hearken to Paul’s injunction at the end of his comments on the “perilous times” of 2 Timothy 3: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and has been assured of.”

Market mayhem

Though circumstances may have changed by the time these comments reach the reader, at the time of writing, and following the downgrade of the credit rating of the United States from AAA to AA+ by the rating agency, Standard and Poors, stock markets have crashed precipitously, then recovered a little around the world. Once again, panic and fear dominate the world of finance and investment.

Massive budget deficits, year after year, and total unfunded debt levels reaching nigh incomprehensible amounts, both in the United States and Europe, with the ever present threat of default, hang over the world economies. Consumers in the West are saving as never before, paying down debt and attempting to put their own house in order. But this fiscal prudence is not what economists want. They want, and apparently need consumers to open their wallets again to get the economies of the Western world growing again. Having got into this mess down the road of waste, consumer profligacy and unsustainable debt, we are told that irresponsible spending is the only way out. Well, of course it is not put in precisely those words.

European debt levels, with the possibility of default by one or more of a number of European countries, are contributing to the general panic. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is the International Business Editor for The Telegraph, and has written on world politics and economics for thirty years. His recent article on the European debt crisis was headed: “Eurogeddon postponed again as ECB gains three weeks”.

Evans-Pritchard went on to say: “Eurogeddon is postponed again. Jean-Claude Trichet (the current President of the European Central Bank) has saved civilization. There will not be a spiralling bond crisis in Italy and Spain in early August after all. An imminent disintegration of Europe’s financial system has been averted.

On balance, this is good, though not optimal. (Lancing the boil immediately by organising an orderly German exit from EMU (Economic and Monetary Union of the EU) would be better: it would halt the Fisherite debt-deflation spiral in Club Med and clear the way for recovery.)

Now for the hard part. Unless the ECB (European Central Bank) is willing to back up its new role as lender-of-last-resort with massive purchases of Italian and Spanish debt, it will inevitably be tested by markets. Weak hands will take advantage of rallies to offload holdings onto the ECB, ie onto euro-zone taxpayers. Frankfurt will find itself underwater very quickly without a legal mandate or EU treaty authority.

RBS (the Royal Bank of Scotland) calculates that the ECB will have to buy roughly half the outstanding tradeable debt of the two countries to defend the line. RBS calculates €850bn. I would put it nearer €1 trillion.

This is currently impossible. The ECB is acting as a temporary back-stop until the revamped EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) bail-out fund is ratified by all parliaments over coming months. The EFSF will then take the baton.

Yet as we all know, the EFSF has no money [this is not quite correct – note the comments on Germany below] … I have a nasty feeling that nothing whatsoever has been resolved.” It is not really our province to comment on the mechanics of the massive debt and budgetary problems facing the world. They merely serve as a wake-up call to all of us to “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psa 146:3).

Massive social dislocation in the UK, massive economic problems, even huge crowds on the streets of Tel-Aviv demanding lower prices, these are surely just some of the “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars” of which Christ spoke. Men’s hearts really are “failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth …” (Luke 21:25-26).

Germany, Europe and Russia

Stratfor had an interesting article on July 26th which bears on our expectations of the role of Russia and Europe at the time of the end in the light of Ezekiel 38 and Daniel 2 etc. The springboard for their comments was the European debt crisis and the way this is rapidly seeing Germany move into a controlling position in the EU.

They said: “Europe’s contemporary financial crisis can be as complicated as one wants to make it, but strip away all the talk of bonds, defaults and credit-default swaps and the core of the matter consists of these three points:

Europe cannot function as a unified entity unless someone is in control
At present, Germany is the only country with a large enough economy and population to achieve that control
Being in control comes with a cost: it requires deep and ongoing financial support for the European Union’s weaker members.”
But Stratfor identified the process, outside present EU Institutions, by which Germany is now able to exercise that control, through the EFSF, the European Financial Stability Facility, which Evans- Pritchard referred to.

This is how Stratfor sees it: “Unlike previous EU institutions (which the Germans strongly influence), the EFSF takes its orders from the Germans. The mechanism is not enshrined in EU treaties; it is instead a private bank, the director of which is German. The EFSF worked as a patch but eventually proved insufficient. All the EFSF bailouts did was buy a little time until investors could do the math and realize that even with bailouts the distressed states would never be able to grow out of their mountains of debt … Faced with the futility of yet another stopgap solution to the eurozone’s financial woes, the Germans finally made a tough decision.”

The New EFSF

“The result was an EFSF redesign. Under the new system the distressed states can now access – with German permission – all the capital they need from the fund without having to go back repeatedly to the EU Council of Ministers … The EFSF has been granted the ability to participate directly in the bond market by buying the government debt of states that cannot find anyone else interested, or even act pre-emptively should future crises threaten, without needing to first negotiate a bailout program. The EFSF can even extend credit to states that were considering internal bailouts of their banking systems. It is a massive debt consolidation program for both private and public sectors. In order to get the money, distressed states merely have to do whatever Germany – the manager of the fund – wants.”

But there is another player here whose relationship with Germany is growing and who massively influences Germany by virtue of German dependence on its energy supplies, namely Russia.

Here is how the Stratfor commentators see that relationship:

“The Russians are feeling opportunistic. They have always been distrustful of the European Union, since it – like NATO – is an organization formed in part to keep them out … With Germany rising to leadership, the Russians have just one decisionmaker to deal with. Between Germany’s need for natural gas and Russia’s ample export capacity, a German-Russian partnership is blooming. It is not that the Russians are unconcerned about the possibilities of strong German power – the memories of the Great Patriotic War burn far too hot and bright for that – but now there is a belt of 12 countries between the two powers. The Russian- German bilateral relationship will not be perfect, but there is another chapter of history to be written before the Germans and Russians need to worry seriously about each other.”

All of these developments, frightening to a world lost and distracted, are signs to ‘watchmen’ to be alert and ready, active in our ecclesial responsibilities, supportive of each other, waiting for our Lord from Heaven.