Welfare Reform in Today’s Political Agenda

A society which allows large numbers of its citizens to live in poverty is unlikely to be sustainable. We have seen, since the 1980s, how whole communities hit by economic contraction can sink into a kind of collective depression from which some, especially young men, seek to emerge through violence, gangs and other destructive (and self destructive) ways of life.

Nick Morgan linked to the Church of England’s report on Welfare Reform on The Book of Face. It is a long read but has some good insights into the current UK government’s policy and how it relates to our faith.

I think the key phrase in the above quote is “since the 1980s” as it is telling about the current trajectory of the UKs economic policy. This report doesn’t quite give a bloody nose in the way that Faith in the City did to Mrs Thatcher’s government, but it does point out many of the failings of the current regime.

20130705-105012.jpg

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

Let’s Fly The Jolly Roger!

Of course Christianity is not political so we’re not allowed to make a stand against oppression.

IF

488023_500773729985145_1506914699_n

Earlier this year our Parochial Church Council decided to back the IF Campaign.  Members of the congregation brought it to the wider church because they believed it is something we should be doing to make our voices heard.  This is something people at Holy Nativity care about passionately .

As a community we read the bible each week and find that the author of our faith is challenging us.  From the sermon on the mount where Jesus calls us to a kingdom where the lowest are raised up and the poor shall be filled (Luke 6:20-21) to the things that we do “for the least of these” in Matthew 25:34-36, Jesus calls us to bring Justice.  Justice for the poor.  Justice for the hungry.  Justice for the oppressed.  At the Churches Together Lent Course this week we had a scientist talking about “God’s divine love revealed through science”.  As John spoke these words struck me:  “We live in a world that produces enough resources for everyone.  Sadly there are people who don’t like sharing”.

We’ve seen rhetoric for years about how the world is full of inequality.  We’ve seen other similar campaigns to bring an end to world hunger.  We remember Jubilee 2000.  We remember Live 8.  We remember Dawn French’s impassioned plea as Revd Geraldine Boadicea Granger.

In the UK we live lives where people feel disconnected.  We live in lives where people feel powerless.  We live lives where we assume that there is someone else going to make the decisions for us and we don’t have a say in that process.  A faceless “suit” who is going to make these inequalities happen anyway.  The way we begin living in a society that operates like this is by losing our voice.  By refusing to speak out.  By allowing the distractions that those in power want to throw at us to become the most important priority in our lives.

Tonight we raise money once again for Comic Relief.  So much of what we do is a response to the symptoms of poverty not to the root causes of poverty.  We raise money to fix problems that are often caused by the systems we perpetuate.  We don’t even realise they are there because they are under the surface.  If we’re honest, it is only in the last six months that anyone has thought twice about buying a Starbucks coffee because we didn’t know that there was a problem with corporate tax avoidance.  A member of the Halifax Food Drop in spoke to our Deanery Synod last week.  She said “this was never supposed to be a long-term solution”.  The few raising money to feed the hungry on a global scale was never supposed to be a long-term solution.

This is not how it should be.  In God’s kingdom, this is not how it should be.  You have a voice.  We all have a voice.  It is only by giving up our voice that we allow the few “suits” to make decisions for the many.  Join the campaign.  Publish it wide.  Write to your MP.  Tell your friends.  Tweet about it.  Put it on Facebook.  I don’t want to find myself posting a video of Geraldine Granger again in 8 years time.

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.

General Election and The Church

The General Election has been announced and Christians have started to debate the pros and cons of various political views.  My view is this – get to know the character of God and then vote for who you think represents that closest.

Here is the video that Spring Harvest managed to organise in the past few weeks.  Steve Chalk asking the main three party leaders what their view is of the Church’s role in a modern Britain.

The Election

It would seem that we are in the run up to a general election here in the UK.  Not officially – but everyone is acting like it anyway.  So here are my thoughts on the subject as a Christian.

a)  Make sure you use your vote.  Don’t sit this one out!

b)  Pray about it.

b)  Ask yourself the question – who would Jesus vote for?

http://www.makethecrosscount2010.net/

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/

Nick Griffin on Question Time

Here’s hoping that he says some of the things he is quoted as saying in the above video.  I suggest we all watch BBC1 tonight and find out.

The BNP and Question Time

It would seem that the ongoing saga of Nick Griffin’s appearance on BBC’s question time this week is going to be a hot talking point all week.  In a week where I have witnessed first hand a reasoned debate get thrown out of the window in favour of name calling and petty squabling, it would seem to me that David Aaronovitch has come up with some pretty sensible advice for how the BNP should be dealt with in a live television forum.