Christians in Britain today are called to take a stand. Faced with the biggest cuts to public spending for over a generation, it is not enough to retreat into the private ghetto of religious consolation.
As Christians, we are convinced that the actions of the current government are an unjustified attack on the poor. The rhetoric of necessary austerity and virtuous belt-tightening conceals a grim reality: the victimisation of people at the margins of society and the corrosion of community. Meanwhile, the false worship of markets continues unchecked and the immorality of the growing gap between rich and poor goes unquestioned.
We call on the churches to resist the cuts and stand in solidarity with those targeted. We urge them to join the forces fighting back against a distorted ideology. Above all, we commit ourselves not to give in to despair, fear and fatalism. Another world is possible, the world announced by Jesus in his teachings, embodied in the love he took to the cross, alive in the Spirit of his risen strength.
Some might scorn such sentiments. After all, surely the government is sympathetic to Christian ideals? They promote the Big Society, in which the state hands power to individuals, entrepreneurs, charities, and, yes, faith groups. So shouldn't the churches be taking this opportunity with both hands? Shouldn't Christians show they can contribute through this ‘Big Society’ opportunity to easing the pain of these hard times?
We challenge this misconception. Not because we enjoy the luxury of opposition for its own sake, but because we believe that the rhetoric of Big Society is a Big Lie. It masks oppressive business as usual, suffocating all dissent with its phoney 'we're all in it together' soundbites. It is divide and rule dressed up as high-minded community spirit.
We recognize that, on the ground, churches and ministers are faced with difficult choices. We have to work within the current system as a means of trying to get the necessary resources to support the vulnerable and the poor. Sometimes that will mean taking government money with a ‘Big Society’ label to do what has to be done.
When we find ourselves ‘caught in the middle’ in this way we need to help and support each other making the right decisions, never forgetting that we have been placed in this position by a government which takes the side of big business.
It follows that any engagement we have with the Big Society agenda or its equivalents should always be guided - and often limited - by a fundamental critique of the present order. Praying and holding onto the vision of the Kingdom that is revealed in the Church’s sacraments and other symbols of transformation, we are called to speak against the false consciousness of the market driven idolatry in which we presently labour. Nothing should dim the fire of the hope that is in us.
In this document, we briefly set out why we take this position on specifically Christian grounds. We stand ready to work with those in other communities and traditions who resist the cuts.
We encourage Christians to
· Sign this Statement and become part of the Common Wealth Network.
· Read and learn about arguments against the cuts and dominating myths about the need for debt reduction eg http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Countering-the-cuts-myths
· Explore study material arguing for a radical Christian vision for economic justice, based on recovery of Biblical tradition. Check out the resources page on Common Wealth website.
· Support and work with local anti – cuts alliances and the national co-ordinating bodies facilitating resistance to the cuts for instance The Coalition of Resistance http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/
· Support workers to struggle for ways to more fully participate in their own economic wellbeing and that of their co-workers.
· Oppose the waste that spends billions on weapons of mass destruction like the Trident missile system
· Seek ways to share our wealth from rich churches to ones based in poorer communities in funding projects to alleviate the worst excesses of the cuts and to assist organizing grassroots community organized resistance
· Support initiatives like Church Action on Poverty and its community organising arm ChangeMakers empowering local communities often at the brunt of the cuts in public services and welfare benefits to speak and act for themselves.