“Religious people just do all citizenish things better than secular people, from giving, to voting, to volunteering. Moreover, they offer their money and time to everyone, regardless of whether they belong to their religious group.”
Mark Vernon, The Guardian
The British Government is working hard to encourage citizens to take responsibility for solving the social problems in their areas. The previous government advocated a ‘big state’ model, in the belief that the government was both best able and best placed to meet the needs of its citizens. If all the money is centralised, it can be doled out fairly and efficiently to those in need.
When the Conservatives took over, in a time of financial crisis, the fact that there was no centralised pot of money remaining only served to strengthen their philosophy that money isn’t everything, and problems are more often solved through relationship and community than through financial assistance alone (which is not to say that there are not Labour supporters who also believe in community action, this is just a broad brush-stroke picture of the guiding philosophies of the 2 main parties).
As the Tories start to look around for who is helping the poor, feeding the hungry, caring for the elderly, providing supplementary education (and child care) for those who are falling behind, they’re noticing that an awful lot of the groups are run by Christians or people with other faiths, often, though not always, as a ministry of some particular church or place of worship.
This leads them into a dilemma – they don’t want to appear to favour religious groups over non-religious ones, but they do want to support the groups which are actually getting involved, and how do they do that when the ones involved are predominantly motivated by their faith?
I’m conscious, writing this, that not all my readers are Christians (or have any religious faith at all). Part of me wants to write a piece saying ‘well done, people of faith, this is just what Jesus wants us to be doing – demonstrating the truth of the Gospel by loving our neighbours’ but the other part wants to say to the rest of my audience ‘You can do it too!’
I love reading things like this that say ‘look, Christians aren’t all horrible, hateful, bigoted and closed-minded, they love others and act on that love’, but I’d also love to read things that say ‘there’s a movement sweeping across this nation of groups of citizens of every creed and colour working together to make things better.’
Let’s hope we start seeing that soon…