Lord Truro and the “Undeserving Poor”

Once more all decent folk found themselves under attack from the ever hungry and multiheaded mythological beast. Fortunately Lord Freud was able to defend us all once more from the onslaught of the “undeserving poor”.

20130703-074824.jpgThe daemonisation of the poor is a well documented phenomenon and a tool that is being used to drive ideological political change. “Why don’t they help themselves out of poverty?” We have a situation in the UK where food bank use has trebled in the past year. Lord Freud seems to be of the opinion that food banks are one of the many choices that people mmakes when planning their weekly shop. “We can get some cold cuts from the farmers market, they do that lovely Brussels Pâté. We need to make sure we get to Waitrose on the way home for the loo roll and dishwasher tablets. Ooooo, and we’d best stop at the Food Bank and get some beans for the kids”.

The Bishop of Truro challenged Lord Freud on his statements to The Lords. Church Action on Poverty challenged these ideological beliefs five weeks ago. Oxfam challenge this ideological belief daily. Everyone who works with people in poverty challenges this blame culture, designed to shift the focus of blame for the current global economic climate to the most vulnerable in our society. The people who aren’t challenging this are those who are using the myth to drive ideological political change.

The growth in food aid demonstrates that the social safety net Is failing in its basic duty to ensure that families have access to sufficient income to feed themselves adequately. The exponential rise in the creation of food banks reflects a growing problem and only delivers mitigation. Food banks provide a vital emergency service to the people they support but they do not address the underlying structural causes for the growth of food poverty. – Walking the Breadline

Silent Night

I spotted this guy outside Covent Garden begging/busking.  He’s found a traffic cone and he is playing all of the Christmas Classics on it.  He was very good.

Of course this photo doesn’t exist because we don’t have any poor people in the UK.

The Advent Calendar Conspiracy

Have you started opening the windows on your advent calendar? Is there chocolate inside? Wondering if there is more than this? I mean what are we really heading towards anyway? Some tinsel, a new jumper from your mum and a roast turkey? Is that it?? Really?!

Each day we will post a new 30 second animoto video clip juxtaposing the issues we face with wealth and poverty and the consumer culture that surrounds Christmas. What is it, or who is it we are really heading towards this December……

www.facebook.com/adventcalendarconspiracy

All I Want for Christmas: The Advent Conspiracy

It can’t be a year can it?  Really?!?  We find ourselves once again in the middle of Advent making that almost inevitable journey towards Christmas.  Some of us have time-honoured traditions that we follow each year.  You will probably recognise these as part of your yearly routine as you prepare for the feast of Christmas.  Advent is a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for the twelve days of the Christmas season.

What do you mean this doesn’t sound familiar?

It seems there is an increasing disparity between the Christmas the church historic celebrates and the winter festival upon our TV screens and high streets.  At the heart of the two thousand year tradition was the tale of a child.  Christ’s birth tells of the incredible love that God has for the world.  As God stepped into His creation he began an earthly life in inauspicious surroundings placed by His teenage mother into a manger.  He joined a world marred by inequality, poverty and violence.  The Divine Christ Child came bringing a promise of hope, and a message of revolutionary love.

So how did we get from the Christ Child to 2011 and how has the world been changed by this message of hope?  Within the last few generations society’s structure has changed and we now live in a consumerist culture that drives us with a constant pressure to buy, to use and replace the things we have in our life.  As we look to the world around us we see an explosion of winter spending that is focussed upon this word Christmas.  What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a saviour has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, crowded streets and shopping lists. 

When it’s all over what are we left with?  Many of us return to those same shops to exchange the gifts we didn’t want.  We live in fear of the post coming through the door and the looming debt that will take months to pay off.  As we move through January is there an empty feeling inside of missed purpose? Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

This isn’t about being Scrooge and saying “humbug”.  In fact it is the polar opposite of that.  Scrooge wanted to get as much as he could out of the world and store it up for himself at the expense of those around him.  Christmas is much more significant than that.  God’s gift to us through Christ is a relationship built on love.  With this in mind, it is easy to see that Christmas would become the time when we seek ways to show our family and friends how much we love them.  What if we took that incarnational gift of love God gave us in the Christ Child as inspiration for the gifts we give this Christmas?  What if Christmas became 12 days dedicated to the significant people in our lives.  As children take time from their studies at school and people take time off from work, time becomes the real gift that Christmas gives us.

No matter how hard we look around the shops, we won’t find this gift of time:

“Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mum a letter. Time to take the kids sledging. Time to bake some really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?”Advent Conspiracy

As the world looks to the issues of wealth and poverty I encourage you to get together and give a gift that is meaningful.  Why not give a gift that is significant?  Why not have a look at Christian Aid’s wishlist at http://www.presentaid.org/ ?

A gift like this will transform someone’s life!  Surely this is the real meaning of Christmas? 

So…….   If you like me a little, why not buy me a goat.  If you like me more why not buy me 24 ducks?  If you like me a lot, I’ve always wanted to be a herdsman…..

And if you’ve already bought something, don’t stress about it – that would be self defeating.  And if you do buy me a goat, don’t do what my mate Tim did one year and panic after buying goats for his family and buy “proper presents” at the last minute.  This is a “proper present”.  This will make me happy.  I will genuinely enjoy opening them and seeing what is inside!

Why not give a gift that is inspired by God who cared so much about humanity he took the risk of taking human flesh and living amongst us.  He came bearing a message of hope that can still change the world for the better even two thousand years later!

The Church Brand: Time to Re-Christianise

There is a lot of talk in the UK press about whether we can be ‘overtly Christian’.  People want to wear a cross around their neck, a ring on their finger, a bracelet around their wrist and a t-shirt that trades upon the branding of the latest must have item.  It is what Jesus would do – “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, for you have a WWJD bracelet”.  For those who buy in to the Christian brand these are must have items and those who do not buy in are seen as “de-christianising” and are therefore vilified.  People must be ‘overtly’ Christian or they are “ashamed of the gospel” and are removing our Christian presence. 

There is an episode of Friends where Joey finds the keys to a Porsche and uses this to spend time with the ladies.  At one point he no longer has the car but wants people to recognise that he is a Porsche owner.  To achieve this he is wearing all of the Porsche gear.  Hat, jacket, keyring… if they make it he has it.  When his friends see him the response is 

“What happened Joey? It looks like a Porsche threw up on you!”

Personally, I ride a motorbike.  There seems to be a broad consensus among bikers about the Harley Davidson brand that they market to two different types of people.  There are those for whom the primary focus is the bikes and those who like the logo.  The bike lovers buy a Harley and ride it.  The others buy a t-shirt.  It is a much cheaper option.  You do get the warm fuzzy feeling of brand loyalty without actually having to do anything about it.  The added benefit is that you don’t get cold or wet as when the weather is bad as you don’t actually ride a bike.  This type of merchandising is concerned with one thing, making money from people who can’t or won’t make the bigger sacrifice and buy the bike. 

So how does this play out for the church?  I agree that it is time for people to stop being “ashamed of the gospel” and to “re-christianise”.  However, I suspect that merchandising is not the best way that the church can show that it is not ashamed.  May I humbly suggest that “re-christianising” does not involve buying a t-shirt but by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison.  This is the mission the church has been sent on.  As Emil Brunner said,

“The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission there is no church”.

You can tell a Harley a mile away because it oozes Harley from every pore.  If we focussed upon following the way then we will have a real christian presence in our communities.  Our “Christianity” will ooze Christ from every pore.

Social Media: An Agent of Change or a Placebo?

Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same, for the NSPCC. Until Monday (December 6th), there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against …children.♥

“Does social media help or hinder working for social change?”:  Krish Kandiah asked this question on 29th of November on Twitter and linked to his blog about the topic.  I made a comment on the blog that said “Does social media anesthetise us? We can click ‘like’ and feel that we have done something about the problem without actually engaging on a less superficial level” and then left it at that.  However, last night and this morning Facebook went wild with the above message asking people to change their profile picture to a cartoon character from their childhood to “stop violence against… children”.

Nowhere does anyone link to the NSPCC to donate to the cause.  So what does the act of changing your profile picture actually do?  Do people donate?  Probably not.  Do people who abuse children look at Facebook, see a picture of He-man and change their behaviour?  Probably not.  Do people who have changed their profile picture feel that they have actively done something about child abuse.  Probably.

Is this sort of viral social media message harmless fun or the next step in the chain email, “Forward this angel to 10 of your friends or something bad will happen” or is it something else.  My worry is that this form of social media action is something much more problematic.  If this is the placebo that convinces people that they have done something to make the world a better place it actually inhibits people from taking part in the real social action that will make a difference to real world situations.

Please give money to the NSPCC.  This is the link you need to do it.  Please be part of the solution rather than the mental anesthetic that disconnects us from the problem.

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.  Whilst on placement in Kampala I stayed at a hostel in Namirembe.  A few yards from the gate was this sign. 

This sign was one of many advertising similar initiatives as you travel around Uganda’s capital.  Spending time in Africa highlighted the great plight that AIDS causes.  Many in Africa are born with AIDS and become orphans at an early age because of it.  AIDS is still a huge global problem and we still need to work together to combat it.  Please support World AIDS Day.

Social Networking Statistics

Sometimes statistics are done on the fly…

Robin Hood Tax

I have just watched this video.

As a Christian I don’t see how I could justify not showing my support for this.  Social justice is right up there in Jesus list of priorities – so I must make it one of mine!

http://robinhoodtax.org.uk/

ColaLife

Check out ColaLife and perhaps join their facebook group.