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

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Three and a Half Letters (I Need a Job)

The church is in a process of focussing its attention more closely on issues of wealth and poverty.  People are standing on the steps of the Cathedral and asking the question “what would Jesus do”.  This is the new song from Chickenfoot’s second album.  Sammy Hagar reads three and a half letters that were sent to his charitable foundation asking for help.  It has become the soundtrack of my life for the last two weeks.

I’m 37 years old
Married to my childhood sweetheart
Two beautiful girls, two and a half and four
Worked nine years at the plant where my father worked
And his father before him
I have a B.A. but laid off seven months ago
It’s been hard tough so many others
But I still believe
Can you help, brother?
Can you help?

I need a job
I need a job
I’m willing to work
But I need a job

I stand in the street
With a sign in my hand
But I need the work
I need a job, yeah

I just returned from Afghanistan
Spent four years in the military service
I’m 24, strong and I can’t find work in my hometown
I’m married with one beautiful son
Seven months old today
Never had a chance to buy a home
Can’t afford the apartment we’ve been living in
Moving in with Debbie’s parents, whose home is now in foreclosure
Can you help?

I need a job
I need a job
I’m willing to work
But I need a job

I stand in the street
With a sign in my hand
I’m willing to work
But I need a job

I’m sorry this letter is hand-written but I don’t have a computer
I don’t have access to one
I’m 51 years old
I lost my wife to breast cancer three years ago
Lost my job of 26 years one year later
I’m homeless with no one to turn to
I’ve been through a lot, bother
I heard you like to help people
Well, I need help

I need a job
I need a job
I’m willing to work
But I need a job

I stand in the street
With a sign in my hand
I’m willing to work
But I need a job

Got nothin’ left
Lost it all
Can I get back to zero
Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero
I need a job

Yeah, I need a job
I need a job

And the last letter said:
I’m nine years old and homeless.
F**k!

#OccupyInequality

The situation at St Paul’s cathedral in the UK has brought the issue of financial ethics to the forefront of The Church’s thinking.  If I’m honest, I didn’t know anyone in the church for whom it wasn’t already.  Global finance is a topic that is too big for one person to fix by themselves and I am a bear of little brain but I will continue to engage with the issues as they arise.  One of my friends posted some of their difficulties with the protest on Facebook.

I think my issue with the protests is that, in the UK, we have free healthcare, education, social security and endless affordable distractions and comforts.

If a banker can make a million by skimming off a thousandth of a percent off the business – is that really a bigger sin than one of us choosing to buy cheap imported goods without asking about worker welfare?

A dozen men cream off a tiny proportion off the bottom of a balance sheet vs a million britons promoting child labour in the third world and putting a thousand local breadwinners on the dole by shutting the mills and factories?

Apologies to him for posting it here but he has made me think!  All afternoon!  My gut reaction was to say – well… yes.

Then I started to think about all of these issues and the global situation.  I believe resolutely that my lifestyle should not be at the expense of someone living in another country.  I do not want goods available on the high street at the expense of the poorest in society!  However, I think that reading the protester’s cause as about the “bankers” misrepresents them.  Their website sums up their position with no mention of bankers at all. 

Our global system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust, driven by profit in the interest of the few.

The protesters are bringing attention to the global financial system and the way in which it operates.  This is the system that allows a big corporation to produce goods using child labour and sell them on the high street to an unsuspecting public.  This is where the bottom of the balance sheet it.  This is the place where the cream is found.

Please watch the TED talk above about inequality.  The economy in the UK works relatively to other economies.  However, it also works relatively between the people within it.  #OccupyInequality

Advent Conspiracy

You may remember last years Advent Conspiracy campaign.  The premise is to make our celebration of Christmas mean something:

The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.

So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.

And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

Check out the site and get ready.  Christmas is coming!

Rioting on Sunday Morning

It seems only two minutes since I found myself standing before the congregation as a “community leader” to talk about the headline news from Norway.  And yet, here I find myself once more.  It is a strange place to be as people look to me to try and make sense of the world around them.  The church can sometimes just stick its head in the sand on a Sunday morning and carry on regardless.  “Riots you say?  What riots”?  I find myself unable to do that.  Perhaps it is a failing of mine and I should add it to the ever-growing list.  No matter where I turn I can’t escape the incarnational God who gets his hands dirty.  I can’t skirt around the God who told us to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as in Heaven”. 

You may have noticed that I have been strangely silent on the blog this week.  Mostly this has been because I have felt a bit numb.  Living in the UK and watching it descend into chaos is all too reminiscent of The Dark Night.  Fortunately we live in a part of the city that hasn’t seen any unrest.  West Yorkshire police dealt with any flickers of trouble around Leeds and Huddersfield brilliantly and we did not see the same level of unrest as others.  However, the whole country seems to be gripped by fear.  I spoke to my brother earlier in the week about the football match we are going to this afternoon.  He was wanting to call it off.  The mood in our community is troubled. 

Some how tomorrow I will stand up and try to help our community make sense of all of this.  I will try to encourage them to be part of the future.  To start to bring that kingdom to our communities. 

I have put together some simple prayers that we will use.  Then we will pray the prayer from the CofE website in solidarity with our nation wide community.

Father in heaven,

In our homes.

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our families

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our communities

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our cities

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

On our streets

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our parks

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our schools

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our police forces

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our town hall

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

In our government

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Gracious God,
We pray for peace in our communities this day.
We commit to you all who work for peace and an end to tensions,
And those who work to uphold law and justice.
We pray for an end to fear,
For comfort and support to those who suffer.
For calm in our streets and cities,
That people may go about their lives in safety and peace.
In your mercy, hear our prayers,
now and always.

Amen

Prayers For Peace

H/T Mr Catolick

There has been much discussion over the death of Osama Bin Laden.  For many it has opened the issue of war and raised questions about the appropriate Christian response to it.  For many there is a sense of vitriolic fervour surrounding the dispensation of justice to a known terrorist.  For others there is mourning at the death of judicial process.  One of the more thought-provoking commentaries has come from Hayley Matthews as she finds herself living publicly through these issues.  I highly recommend it.

For many in our churches this is an issue that we are wary of discussing.  Lots of people feel disempowered by the discussion of violence and death as it instinctively feels incompatible with faith.  The whole world is talking about it and yet many of us feel helpless when asked to engage.  This is an issue that cannot be sidestepped by our churches and we must explore the issues together.  I hope the video can be a good way of opening the subject up for discussion in our communities.

I continue to pray for peace.

Equality

For international women’s day there are some stark statistics which are highlighted in the above video.  Well done Daniel Craig.

I’m married to a woman with a doctorate who earns vastly more than I.  Fortunately she has been given the opportunities that many women on Earth are not.  Some times because I grew up in a world of equality where we were educated to believe that we were entitled to the same rights, I forget that globally there are many whose rights are taken away from them.  Expectation is not that they should achieve their potential but that they should  make sacrifices for their brothers.

@DaveGorman pointed out the irony of this poll.  Dear world, please can you stop corporately failing us!