General Lord Richard Dannatt on the Moral and Spiritual Vacuum

In the 2011 Theos annual lecture delivered last week, General Lord Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, said the Armed Forces could no longer presume that new recruits “would have absorbed an understanding of the core values and standards of behaviour required by the military from their family or from within their wider community.”

Though greeted with alarm by some, this sort of observation will not seem novel to people of faith who believe that there is a Law Maker over all our lives.

We know that in many families values are presented as a matter of personal choice. Small wonder that when we hear of a politician cheating on expenses they insist there has been “no wrong doing.” They are claiming that it is simply a matter of rules, rather than personal values. The summer riots were evidence that for many it is a matter of what they can get away with rather than living according to principles and convictions.

I believe that Christians should be better employees as they work for a Master that always sees what they do and who calls for their best service. They of all people should not be taking a ‘sickie’ to suit their own convenience, or arriving late for work, or pilfering from their work place.

Would we have had the banking crisis if there had been more bankers that lived by a moral code other than putting self first, I wonder? Would we have had the phone hacking scandal?

I know the atheist claim that they to can have high moral standards. The problem is that for them their standards are of their own invention, and therefore can be changed with a change of wind direction. They have gained ground in our society and we can see the results of this social experiment – it is failing! A compass works because it constently points in the same direction. A moral compass that spins is not going to work.

One interesting thing that General Dannatt said was that the moral dimension alone is not sufficient.  There needs to be a spiritual dimension too. He repeatedly said that “everyone, when push comes to shove, is reaching out for something bigger than themselves.”

Dannatt was careful not to impose his spiritual beliefs on others. He repeatedly emphasised that it was “down to individuals to work out what their spiritual dimension is for themselves.” However, he is clear that his deeply held Christian faith are, and have been a moral compass for him. When he was Chief of Staff he had instructed the Chaplain General “to make sure that everyone deployed on operations has some understanding of the Christian message.”

Many people do what they do because of the effects of their actions on other people. A Christian will do that too, but will also consider what God requires, and what the Holy Spirit within them is saying.

History is littered with examples of Christians who got it wrong, but there are many more who got it right. That is why almost all social reforms can be traced back to those who were followers of Jesus.

This stuff about Jesus is not just true, it works!

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