I am part of a generation in the Church that is obsessed with the poor. And that’s not a bad thing either. The “in” theology of the day focusses on the “Church for the poor” and “God’s preferential option for the poor”. Of course, these “in” theologies aren’t really that new. They are a resurgence of Liberation Theology. And this Liberation Theology is not only provoking Christians to social action, but is also bringing Christians together from all over the theological spectrum.
Liberation Theology is a huge area of theology which I’m not really going to explore in this article. What I’m most concerned about is thinking about the emphasis on the Church connecting with the poor. Now, it shouldn’t surprise you to say that I have no problem with this whatsoever, and in fact, I, along with many others, believe that it is an explicit command of Christ to befriend and help those in need.
But what’s worried me is the changing attitude of the Church towards the rich, especially since the General Election.
It was very uncomfortable to see Christians disagreeing in a very unloving way with each other about which party was closest to the Christian worldview. In my experience, most people seemed to suggest to me that the colour of the kingdom of God is red.
And of course, with the red votes came the unwavering attack on the Conservative party and their supporters, for oppressing the poor and only looking after themselves. Some Christians who voted Tory couldn’t help but feel a bit isolated, and possibly un-Christian.
But many of those who voted Tory weren’t rich. They weren’t privileged. They were just a “normal”, working man or woman (whatever normal means in Parliament). But what about those voters who were rich and privileged? Shall we feed them to the Lions because of their wealth? This isn’t meant to be a post to advertise any political party. In fact, I’m going to say outright that I’m a floating voter. But a point can be made from these recent events.
A famous Christian figure once said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. So how should the Church respond, knowing how difficult it is for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven?
I would maybe suggest the response should be the same as the one we give to the poor: help and welcome. In fact, there are some Christians who’ve cottoned on to this, and they do help the rich. They put on conferences for rich people, they hold special services, surgeries and workshops in the cities. They provide chaplaincy in Canary Wharf. I’m sure the list is as endless as the one that includes Christians Against Poverty and Foodbanks.
But what about the dirty, rich, Christians? I wonder how they felt after the General Election? Not all of them would have voted Conservative, but they still may have been rich and wealthy. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels that the Church seems to be pressurising the rich to give up their wealth and become poor. You can only truly minister to the poor if you become poor yourself. You can only be one of us if you deny what you’ve inherited financially, or earned.
What a load of twaddle. For me, it’s how we use our money that counts. A rich Christian can be very useful in providing ministry to the poor… and to everyone else.
If you’re an Anglican, then studies show that it is highly likely that you would vote Conservative in an Election. It is my guess that there are many rich Conservatives in the Anglican Church, who happen to give a lot of money to the Church.
I am an ordinand. I don’t receive a salary or stipend, but my training, living costs and expenses are paid for by the Church. The money that is given to the Church has to come from somewhere, and investments aside, I bet I could trace at least some of it to one of those horrible rich Conservatives. OK, I can also trace some of that money to the ordinary working class individual too… but what I’m saying is that everyone matters.
And everyone has a place in the Church, whether you are rich or poor. Let’s not swing from one extreme to the other. Let’s remember the call to follow God.