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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Mathematics

Responding to Woolwich

In a week that has seen the internet in the UK explode with a wave of racial tension, I came across this cartoon on my desktop.

This is at the heart of the good news of Jesus Christ.

How to change the world

IF

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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.

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.

My Chains Fell Off

“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”

That is just a little excerpt from next Sunday’s reading, a taster if you will.  How often do we look for examples of justice and mercy to illustrate the Christian faith?  Today one dropped in my lap when someone shared it with me.  There is an article in today’s Guardian explaining that Richard Branson has started to encourage Virgin to employ recently released offenders and those who are approaching release as a way of giving people that second chance.

 “Everybody deserves a second chance,” … “One of the prisoners I met in Melbourne told me he’d been released with no money. He had to find his own way to the city. He was thrown back out into this world with no help whatsoever. The end result was that he was back inside in a very short time. For people coming out of prison it’s a vicious circle. If they can’t get a job, the only thing they can do is reoffend. From society’s point of view that can be very painful.”

 

That Christmas Advert

OK, perhaps not that Christmas Advert

Over the last two years society has increasingly looked at the state of the nation’s finances on both a macro and a micro level.  We are starting to see a relationship between the prosperity of the country and the way in which people treat the money in their pockets.  People are examining the causes of our current financial state and finding that people were spending money they didn’t have on things that they perceived that they needed because external pressure was applied to them.  The systems increasingly indoctrinated people into using credit to buy trinkets and gadgets to prove their worth to the world around them or the value of their love to another.

I regularly listen to the radio throughout the day whilst I am working and the above advert is played regularly.  Its catchy format lends it to audio as well as video by capitalizing on the old song by Terry Scott, “My Bruvva”.  Yesterday on the blog I tried to articulate something about the way in which Christmas could still inspire us to change the world.  With this in mind it is with sadness that I am confronted with the old world order every twenty minutes throughout the day.  Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a child induced guilt trip over an X-Box, 0% finance and crippling debts for… my lovely, lovely mother.

Now that’s the real meaning of Christmas :-/

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

The Environment – Global Warming

I don’t know if you’re looking for resources for a harvest festival service.  Unfortunately mine was a couple of weeks ago.  In this clip David Mitchell says something incredibly obvious.  It is almost so obvious it doesn’t need saying.  Never the less he has said it anyway.  Good for him!