Plumber Joe and the Bishops
Now, before you think I’ve founded a rock band, this is a post about economies, communities and some very welcome church interference. Let me start by suggesting people go take a peek at Lois’ post on the subject of an American Plumber who shot to fame during the presidential campaign because he didn’t want to pay anymore taxes, and because John McCain decided to use him as a political football.
Lois says, and I agree, that the ideal this man is pursuing, whilst in some ways tempting, is devoid of the warmth of human relationships in their fullness. I’d like to draw attention to something written recently on the BBC as a result of some findings about this idea of “warmth” between people. Perhaps this all somehow ties together with the idea that the more right wing one is the less one likes to sit on warm bus seats.
But anyhow, with the observations of Joe’s values in mind, let us move onto yesterday’s condemnation of the government by certain Bishops (not forgetting that they are, with perhaps a hint of irony, several days behind the Roman Catholics). Finally some enlightened thinking from the top echelons of the church on the financial crises: the government are to blame, because they legislated and governed on the premise that the rich deserved more wealth. Sadly, their choice of words is not that of Isaiah in Chapter 10 and verse 1: “Woe to you who make unjust laws”. Still, we can’t have everything.
The esteemed Right Rev Tom Wright has said "We have not seen a raising of aspirations in the last 13 years, but instead there is a sense of hopelessness. While the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer,” Whilst I have complained before about what these aspirations Brown talked of might in fact be, I do think he’s broadly right. The talk was, unsurprisingly, empty and the plan was, as we know well, to hand large payouts to the rich, and then relieve them of embarrassment when it all collapsed.
Bishop Lowe, who is bishop of Hulme within the diocese of Manchester, later told the BBC he wanted to see an end to "the notion of greed, of getting something you want immediately using the credit card". Too little, too late, but isn’t that what the Church of England is so well known for?
Well, not really. Only yesterday evening I was reading part of Frog and Amy Orr-Ewing’s book “Deep”, possibly the most Evangelical text I’ve read in some time, and yet one I totally agree with for the most part (though odd paragraphs make me balk). They were referring back to one of my favourite politicians (yes, they do exist) – one Lord Shaftesbury, to whom the gospel could not be removed from the need for great changes in the way society is run.
In an age where he could have simply complained at the debauched behaviour of many of the poorest in society (yes, that was a dig at the pope, to make up for previous favour to Catholics) and got on with pious separation from the rest of the world, the man set about some of the most inspiring reforms a non-revolutionary state has ever managed. Without him, much of what is good about Britain (and which is being eroded by the worship of the market economy), would not have come to pass, and he was very much driven by a higher purpose which in no way diminished his work.
What we need is not more bank bailouts, but an apology to the poor and a return to the kind of values once held by the Evangelical church, proclaimed unabashedly by prophets of old and uncompromising in its desire to actively redistribute where necessary. These bishops have made a valiant attempt, and have stepped well beyond the precipice of what has come to be understood as normal conduct for the church, but the whole church must step a whole lot further, seizing the day completely, if it is to make a real impact in the world. I fear it might not be prepared to undertake those steps.