Sunday, 31 March 2013

If These Churches Feel So Strongly About Poverty..

Here we go again. One might imagine that with it being Easter churches might put out statements which are - at least - vaguely connected to Jesus.

Four left-wing pressure groups denominations - the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain - have decided to condemn welfare cuts, whilst Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith has said that the United Kingdom is not managing to cut the welfare bill.

I remember as an undergraduate there would often be motions at JCR meetings mandating the Committee to go on marches to represent the JCR. I once heard this concept mocked - quite rigthly - as feeling so strongly about some issue that you're going to stay back in Oxford and mandate other people to march on your behalf.

And this is how these denominations are coming across.

One source of revenue for the churches is from the Government. Er, actually the money the Government has coming in from taxpayers of all religions and none. And this is Gift Aid, which is - on one level - a marvellous idea as it increases charities' revenues.

But, if the churches didn't take their Gift Aid, then there would be more money for the Government to spend on welfare. Simples! So why don't these churches call for this? Or at the very least treat the Gift Aid money as money from the Government taxpayers to be spent exclusively on projects to help the poor people they talk about?

Put your money where your mouth is

One event in the early church was the prophesied famine covered in Acts 11:27-30, and Paul tells the Roman church about churches elsewhere which were pleased to help the poor in the Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:25-29)

How pleased the church in Jerusalem must have been when Paul arrived bearing photos of protest marches and examples of postcards that the young churches had sent to Caesar asking him to "do something" to help.

No! The early church dug into their pockets and gave sacrificially to help the poor. What I find in the Bible is that it's up to the people of God, and not the State, to do this.

What did the Victorian Christians do when they saw a practical need? They got off their backsides and did something. And that attitude is still there today, with Christian-based charities helping the poor and suffering, and individual Christians working for secular charities.

Yet from the hierarchy of these denominations it seems that all you need to do is make a little political point attacking the Government and you have done your job. No need to get one's hands dirty. No need to reach into one's pocket. Just moralise about the Government's duty to reach into other people's pockets.

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