- Have you ever thought the UK poor are lazy and don’t want to work?
- Do you think they are poor because they are addicted to drink or drugs?
- Have you ever thought ‘they just need to manage their money better…’?
- Do you suspect many benefits claimants are on the fiddle?
- Have you ever thought that a life on benefits is an easy life?
- Do you wonder if benefits claimants caused the deficit?
If so, I urge you to read this (click to open in a new tab). It is a study by a group of churches – The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church. In fact, even if you haven’t thought any of those things, I’d urge you to read it. I write as someone who has had regular contact with the poor through volunteering for Foodbank. I have also been on the receiving end of people’s judgement and prejudice, and even I had my eyes opened when reading this report. In particular, I was shocked by the blatant misrepresentation of the figures – indeed outright lies – by the people who run our country, about the most vulnerable. It is sickening.
The report says:
‘Churches have a special interest in speaking truthfully about poverty. Both the biblical warnings of the prophets and the example of Jesus teach us to pay special attention to the voices of the most vulnerable and underprivileged. The systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society is a matter of injustice which all Christians have a responsibility to challenge…
‘…In 1753 John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “So wickedly, devilishly false is that common objection, ‘They are poor, only because they are idle’.” Yet today many churchgoers and members of the general public alike have come to believe that the key factors driving poverty in the UK are the personal failings of the poor – especially ‘idleness’. How did this come about?’
The report later states:
‘As a coalition of major British Churches, we want to create a new story; one grounded in truth, compassion and hope. Part of our calling as Christians is to seek after truth, and that means facing up to our own blindness as well as calling others to account.
Collectively we have come to believe things about poverty in the UK which are not grounded in fact… It is a task we must approach with humility; one which puts the lived experience of poverty at its heart, and one which is committed to truthfulness – no matter how uncomfortable we find those truths to be.’
Amen to that.
I do hope you’ll take the opportunity to read The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty.
It is also wonderful to see these different denominations collaborating in this manner, and sticking up for the most disadvantaged in our society. Hats off to them! May I say I’m proud of them?