Saturday, July 13, 2013

a holistic solution

The church offers a holistic solution to child poverty This dire situation has to be addressed through the social dimension, not through top-down, impersonal tinkering. by John Millbank, 12th July, Guardian

I agree with the basic sentiment of this article - the title at least. But much within it is problematic for me.

The assumption that the church is ideal, flawless and lives out it's ideals
The statement in the first few paragraphs claims that Christians hold all people equal in the community. The Christian belief is that all are equal, and therefore all matter. But the reality in the church today? The way the church has treated various groups of people (gender, poverty, sexuality, age...) in recent history does not back up that ideal. We want to believe that all are equal. We're still learning what that actually means.

Sadly, this assumption in articles such as this one are easy bait for those who hold church in less favourable light (for an example, spend a few moments reading the comments on any CiF article that dares to mention organised religion...) We really can't be walking into the middle of any arena and declaring "Church is great. We've got everything right and we're the answer to all your problems" It just annoys people, particularly those who've been hurt by church experiences in the past, and why should anybody want to hear what else the Church has to say after that?

I do agree that churches should be offering solutions to child poverty. And many other things. So yes, holistic. But that's because they should be well-placed community centres, places of open welcome to all, places of resource where each person can share skills, knowledge, time and resources with others, places of safety, refuge, growth, development, change and freedom.

And I also believe that the alleviation of poverty is something that Jesus calls us to do. To love, to serve, to feed, to clothe, to listen, to heal, to set free...

And then later in the article come these gems:
"It's a matter of Christian care for all children, along with their often unfortunate parents, not plucking a few out of poverty."
"We can't deal with the children without dealing with the parents."
Now I agree that any child-focussed approach to poverty will be insufficient. A family-wide approach is necessary for longer lasting change, both in individual families and across society. But "deal with" and "unfortunate parents"?? DEAL WITH??? That's what you do with a wasps nest that takes residence in your loft space. And as for "unfortunate parents," perhaps just "parents" might've been enough? If the intention was to convey that the parents are struggling in their situation too, then there's a wide vocabulary more appropriate.

This is the same superior attitude which led the government to believe that tackling "problem families" was a good idea. Did they not think that labelling anyone a "problem" might not be a helpful first step towards change?


  1. Oooh, how did I miss this??? Brilliantly said Rachel! X

  2. I posted it late and backdated it, sorry!



Sometimes I do go on...