reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Some thoughts on politics

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Well, this may not be particularly profound, but here it is.

Should Christians be right or left wing? Well some say right wing - conservative on "social issues" like homosexuality or abortion. Agree with that.
Some say left wing - committed to social justice, equality, and helping those who are in the greatest need. Agree with that too.

So, I came to the conclusion that if there was a political party that was right wing on "social issues" [sic] - generally pro-life, policies that promote stable family life, and also pro social justice, dropping the debt, working to eradicate child poverty - well that would be the ideal party for me. Unfortunately no such party exists, but at least I now know that if I were to form a political party, it would be pretty easy to decide what should be in the manifesto.

Or would it? Because quite often, having a policy that is pro-Christian "family values" will be least good for the poorest and most disadvantaged in society. Sometimes, never the twain shall meet.

Little example.

My friend is training to be a teacher, and his wife has had a baby. (It's ginger, which is unfortunate, but they love her, and that's incidental to the story) He went down to the old DHSS (or whatever it''s called these days) to see if he could get any benefits - after all HE was in full time training, and SHE was looking after the baby and so they had no money coming in. What benefit could he get? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. If he was unemployed - yes. If he had left his wife or she had left him with the baby - yes. If one of them was at work, and they put the baby in childcare - yes. But for him - nothing.
Family values says - money for these people in their healthy stable loving permanent family relationship, with him training for one of the most under-supplied professions. Money needed here.

Little example number 2. (hardy har)

This week I was at a conference, the aim of which - getting the government to tackle poverty properly once and for all - I was, due to my Christian faith, very much in favour of. And I was learning all about the working families tax credit, and how lots of people don't claim it, and so are poorer than they need to be. And the reason they don't claim it, is that the means test is done on the basis of the "family unit" - and so there are all sorts of complexities if you change partners, or move in with someone new; some people are turned down because of the income of their expartner's expartner - which is still somehow part of the equation. Basically people are poorer because the government's policy benefits those in stable "family" relationships.

Social justice says - get these people their money.
Family values says - er...not so much.

So what do we do, in this and a million other situations? Family values, or social equity? Morals, or compassion? Coaxing people to morality with the social security system, or meeting in their need with the social security system?

In essence, to me, I think we should err on the side of compassion. Not least because I don't think family values policies particularly work - the upshot of the working families tax credit is that people are poorer, not that they have more stable relationships - but also because in our attitudes to everything I think we should seek to model the Gospel not law. Call me an old lefty, but meeting people at their need, in their sin, giving them more and more grace, seems to me like a much more Gospel response to the issues of the world, than trying to impose a framework of law (even if it is good law for our benefit) onto people who don't know God.

The upshot of it all is that telling people about Jesus is the only real solution to society's problems - what a surprise.


Blogger Joe Carter said...

He went down to the old DHSS (or whatever it''s called these days) to see if he could get any benefits...

Perhaps, I'm wrong but I always thought that the Christian response to such as situation was to have the family turn to the Church rather than the state for this type of help. After all, it seems like the family needs community as much as they need money.

9:33 AM  

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