One of the things the church has a chance to be is a community that models a different approach to life. For many years it's been popular to describe this as 'counter-cultural'. The trouble is that this term has been frustratingly vague and often informed as much by cultural factors as by Biblical thinking.
Trevor, commenting on a previous post about social solidarity, lamented the fact that churches aren't really talking about what's happening in our country. Part of the reason for this, I guess (rather obviously), is that within our churches are people who voted for most of the options on offer in May's election; there are people who want to pay less tax and so support public spending cuts and those who think the state has a responsibility to protect the poorest in our community. Because of these divisions of opinion, we tend to steer clear of talking about these issues in church.
Trevor reminds us of Jeremiah 29 - a text that called me into ministry 30 years ago - and suggests that 'our churches aren’t going to be able to prosper if the communities around them are being ravaged by cutbacks and redundancies.' That's food for thought, isn't it?
What does it mean, in the context of impending spending cuts and the general fragility of our economy, the squeeze on household incomes and general gloom about our economic prospects following years of boom, to 'seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.'? How will we 'pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper'?
The word rendered 'peace and prosperity' is the Hebrew word shalom that offers a picture of wholeness, well-being, the welfare of everyone in the community. Church, according to Jeremiah, is a gathering, a collection, a community of people who embody the values pre-supposed by this rich Hebrew word. What does that look like?
Peter reflects on this passage in Jeremiah in his first letter and one of his observations is that 'as foreigners and exiles, [we] abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.' (1 Peter 2:11-12).
Perhaps if we see sinful desires as referring less to sex and more to our economic lives (greed, for example; the use of our cash only to satisfy our wants and desires and not the needs of those around us), we could begin to reflect on how this call to godly living might resource counter-communal living in today's harsh economic reality.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Being church in a harsh economic climate
Labels: church, reflections, the economy
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there are people who want to pay less tax and so support public spending cuts and those who think the state has a responsibility to protect the poorest in our community. Because of these divisions of opinion, we tend to steer clear of talking about these issues in church.
I hope it is okay to pick you up on the above remarks. Of course there will be those who voted for the party who will do most for them ,be it any of the 3 major parties but the implication of your remarks ,intended or otherwise, is that all those who voted Conservative or indeed Liberal did so because they would pay less tax.Given the state of the public finances I think many people would not have been that naive. Having voted Labour in the past ,and even Scottish Nationalist at one point I voted Conservative in May .I did it for a number of reasons including the shambles that the economy is in which doesnt help the poor anymore than anyone else
I was also attracted by some of the radical thinking that Duncan Smith has done
I really enjoy your blog but forgive me if I think your a little tribal when it comes to politics.
By the way there is no reason to avoid speaking about these issues in church but in a reasonable way that doesnt cast doubt on others motives
Yeah, I hear what you're saying about voting motives and recognise that the paragraph you quote was not as judiciously written as it might have been. Sorry.
I'm not sure I agree with the economic analysis, however. trying not to be partisan, but emerging from a deep recession with a 10% structural deficit is not that bad really. I think all the parties have got their knickers in a twist about it in a way that's meant they've taken their eye off all the other balls that need their attention.
I agree that there are all kinds of inefficiencies and inequities in the system that harm the poor more than the rich.
I also think Ian Duncan Smith is making a good case for welfare reform. I'm not 100% convinced by his plans yet but I support his direction of travel.
Thanks for the response
I think that as economists disagree on the economic analysis we have permission to do so too
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