I am a great admirer of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and their social research that can hold a disturbing mirror up to us and the way we live. Its latest report makes for troubling reading as it reflects that greed and family breakdown are amongst the new social evils in Britain today. (see www.jrf.org.uk). The report reflects an individualism that has led to a breakdown in community.
‘We no longer share a set of common values and we have lost our moral compass’ the report warns us which has led to a widespread selfishness. We are also reminded of the growing gap between the rich and the poor: ‘Everything seems to be based around money and owning things’ reflected on participant from the series of groups that were canvassed across the country.
The report criticises Government for being out of touch and for not doing enough to address these challenges. I share its strong condemnation of the media for promoting and propagating negative and damaging attitudes. Big Business is accused of fueling inequality and consumerism.
And religion? It doesn’t fair well – we are identified as a cause of conflict and confusion! Divided and irrelevant to most lives and comunities.
It would be easier for us all to distance ourselves from another academic report and imagine that it has nothing to do with us. But – no – we should be very bothered about the world it describes because we are both part of the problem and the solution. We must take some personal responsibility for our community and world. We must try and build better and different places where all belong and participate. It is our Christian duty to feed the poor and bind up the wounded. That doesn’t start with any one else but you and me – and our attitudes and actions.
As I write (it is just after 7am on Sunday morning – many services will be ending in the UK) – I shall be getting ready for Church here and take these puzzling matters with me into the heart of prayer and offering and worship. But words and good intentions are not enough. What are we to do?