I felt complicit, if not a little dirty. I was witnessing something brutal.
Barry a recent but frequent visitor to TSA either through need of the foodbank, our computers or simply in need of a chat, was completing his application for a loan. So this guy who needs help to get through his chaotic life misses his benefits appointment and is sanctioned. No money for two weeks. First solution a bit of reduced label swapping in ASDA's failed, so a loan with an eye watering 4124% APR it is.
I stood watched, and was powerless. What I have slept walked into?
Horsley & Siberman point out that within Jesus' life he suggested that God was establishing his kingdom by creating an alternative society pp54. He was speaking...
...into a society under the pressure of debt and taxation,
...into a system that had efficiently transformed close knit villages into badly fragmented communities of alienated frightened individuals pp55.
...into a people who may previously have felt a responsibility to help their neighbours in times of shortage but now themselves were debtors' pp 55
The problem Horsley & Siberman identify is that Roman legal standards not the Torah had begun to take precedence pp55. No longer were they shaped by God's dream for kindness, justice and righteousness (Jeremiah 9:24). Into this Jesus spoke shalom and jubilee.
The benefit cuts, bedroom tax, cuts to legal aid, increased community charge, universal payment, on-line applications for computer illiterate and poor, benefit sanctions, esa reassessment, increased demand at foodbanks, increased homeless, increased displaced families is a perfect storm of poverty that we will need to be prepared for. Ready to incarnate the life of Christ as we reject injustice and offer practical resistance to the darkness of rejection, isolation and loneliness that will come for the most marginal, vulnerable and unwanted. Those demonised by the papers that have allowed us to sleep walk into an intolerable society. Those that Brengle called 'lost sheep that have no shepherd'
"Our musicians will play meticulously and will revel in the artistry of song that tickles the ear but will leave the heart cold and hard. Officers will be accepted by Mayors and officials and be greeted by outsiders but God will not be among us. We shall still recruit our ranks and supply the Training College with cadets from our own young people, but we shall cease to be saviours of the lost sheep that have no shepherd."
Barry was lost and I'm afraid I didn't feel much of a shepherd! What kind of shepherd stands and watches when the cliff edge is far too close?
Horsley, R. A., & Siberman, N. A. (1997). The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformation. Putnam Pub Group,