Down the centuries there have been some notable Christian achievements done for the good of people and to the glory of God. Christians have had the courage to stand up to the authorities and challenge what is wrong in society, in the name of God.
At the same time, for every prominent name, there were hundreds of people in support who never became famous. For every successful cause, years of labour went unseen. There is no easy road to success, and sometimes the route is through hardship we’d rather never experience.
It took years to abolish slavery, and that cause had an MP dedicated to it throughout who had the personal support of Prime Minister William Pitt. It took years to abolish apartheid in South Africa and in America. It took WW1 to get women and non-property-owning men the vote, and WW2 to turn the haut monde against eugenic and racist attitudes – attitudes that nevertheless are creeping back in.
And for every known cause, there are many more which remain hidden. In the UK, Universal Credit has received widespread condemnation and most of the population knows about it, but what about the rest of the benefits system? Despite the hopes of those on the left, the Bedroom Tax did not become the new Poll Tax, and nor have the Benefits Cap, cuts to support for sick and disabled people or the constant undermining of the social care system caused the Conservative government to fall. The NHS is increasingly not universal, with rationing, health criteria and means-tests applied; and the ‘Inverse Care law’ shows that those who most need healthcare get the worst treatment.
What was it that made the Poll Tax become a national symbol against the Conservatives? What is it that has made Universal Credit a household name whilst the majority of the country, and in particular those with any influence, remain largely ignorant of the shambles in the rest of so-called welfare state?
I don’t know the answers.
All I can say is that it takes time, people, resources and contacts to make change happen. And that is not what people on the bottom have.
This is where the church comes in. Or should. Christians have a strong duty placed upon them by God to provide for the poor and defend the oppressed. It’s an inescapable conclusion which we nevertheless regularly evade by not reading, studying, preaching or applying the Bible as we should.
For all that the current mantra is to involve ‘experts by experience’, someone has to act as the mediator between the ‘experts by experience’ and the corridors of power. The church, and other faith groups, have a position in society. Rightly or wrongly they, like big businesses and big charities, at least partially have a route to the politicians’ ears. The church has the time, people, resources and contacts to listen to the poor and bring the voices of the poor to the ears of the government. What it apparently lacks is the political or, dare I say, Christian will to actually do so.
It is my prayer that God will use whatever tools are willing to affect positive change in our society.
It is my fear that the church will be so uninvolved that for all God is at work behind the scenes, his rightful glory will be assigned elsewhere, to the political groups and lobbyists who had the courage to do God’s work whilst those who are ostensibly God’s people danced to themselves in the shadows.