awkward questions, awkward responses

Do you know the United Kingdom has the fifth biggest economy in the world?  Our banking industry is the envy of the world! So why are thousands of people in UK without homes? Why is it that tens of thousands of people visit food-banks every month?  Why an increase in disparities and inequalities? Consider Class, ethnicity, gender and age: who are the privileged?  Are people poor because they are lazy? Some believe this. Some religious teachings even preach it. If wealth is the result of hard work, then every African woman should be a billionaire!

Something systemic is wrong: the economic system is geared for the rich and powerful. It fails and feeds on the rest. Take the rich city of London (as one example of a long history of empire): here you see it all – in the buildings, in the exorbitant prices, the gentrification of neighbourhoods, who lives in what postcode, and the colour, class and sex of poverty.

The charred remains of Grenfell Tower which sticks out like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with Easter yet to arrive, images (as one example) of an economic ‘shitstem’ (as the Rastafarians name it), on whose altar lives are sacrificed. No amount of covering up that charred icon will hide the failure. The lives of the poor do not matter – as the rich and privileged pass by. The economic system we are all hooked on: thrives on hunger, poverty, homelessness and death. This is not fullness of life. It is the denying of life for the 99%.  And, to paraphrase Shakespeare: when the poor have cried, neither Caesar nor Church hath wept.

Two bible stories come to my mind: the one of that battered man rescued by the Good Samaritan that our preaching dotes over. The other one is about Dives and Lazarus, with its pie in the sky reversal. But look again at these stories and consider the following.

In terms of the first, move your gaze away from those that pass by on the other-side and the one who displayed compassion: there is a deeper question: why was that road a dangerous place to travel on? What in the system contributed to let that danger thrive, caused robbery to thrive, and for people to look the other way?

Likewise consider Lazarus’ condition: even in heaven he remained voiceless with the rich man the active voice, displaying his right to privilege by demanding action on his family’s behalf. The rich man doesn’t get it in the end. His indifference to Lazarus is still present. Even in this supposed after-life scene he does not ask Lazarus for forgiveness. He is demanding mercy. “Send Lazarus to help me,” is not an idle line. It betrays habits of control. The Rich Man still believes that he can command and expect a response. That’s privilege at work. It is what the system thrives on. Lazarus and those I have noted above, want their fair share but ‘in this life’, not in some next one. That is BS theologising!

A question before us is this: what new must we do to both challenge and help change the fundamental structures of a debt/death-dealing economic system, ‘where (to quote Macbeth) fair is foul and foul is fair’. What, we must ask, would the Jesus way  have us do today?

© jagessar October 2017

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