Monday, January 30, 2006

The Holy Spirit and Justice

I went to a very interesting session at my church this evening at which Simon Ponsonby gave a lecture on “The Holy Spirit and Justice”. It was thought provoking to say the least and highlighted why as Christians we have a duty to care for the poor and the world around us. As someone said to me afterwards (quoting, I think, William Booth) “Sometimes we get so involved in saving people from the hell of the next world we forget to save them from the hell of this”.

I’d highly recommend downloading the MP3 when it gets posted at media.staldates.org.uk over the next couple of days. If you’re a Christian it will challenge you and encourage you to think more about social justice and social action. If you’re not a Christian it might make you realise that Evangelicals do care about ‘the social Gospel’.

Walking home however we came across someone selling the Big Issue. Spurred on by what we’d just heard we duly coughed up, only to realise that this wasn’t an official Big Issue seller. Maybe he did genuinely need money for the Night Shelter but nevertheless I felt slightly conned. This raises some interesting questions. Should we care where the money we give goes? I’d given something (albeit only a little) to someone less fortunate than me and that can only be a good thing. But could my money have been put to better use? If we all just gave to anyone who demanded money we’d feed quite a drink and drug problem for a start. But how often do we use that as an excuse not to give at all…? I wonder what God was trying to tell me through this little encounter?

4 comments:

Tim said...

Of course we use the drink and drug problem as an excuse not to give, but I believe we are just to do so. By us giving money who is addicted to the aforementioned we are simply feeding two vile habits, however for those who are not addicted to these drugs the government provides a perfectly adequate support system. One should not feel guilty about not giving money, by failing to give money one is saving them from the evils of drink and drugs.

Ian said...

maybe... but you can't tell who is on drugs and who isn't, so to tar all the homeless with the same brush is wrong.

What I think the best thing to do is to give directly to one of the shelters
e.g. http://www.oxfordnightshelter.org.uk/

and then, you're making sure that the cost of a bed is staying incredibly low (i.e. £3), so helping the homeless by helping the systems that are there to support them. that's better than making excuses about them all being druggies, non?

Ian said...

I should add... I'm very skeptical about big issue sellers in Oxford. Where I live (Rugby) they all "look" genuinely homeless, whereas in Oxford all of the genuine ones (i.e. with ID tags) seem to be pretty well turned out and just, well, don't look homeless.

But then, how do you "look" homeless? People still want their dignity don't they. You don't have to look homeless to be homeless, it's a bit of a dilemma, but it makes you think... what are the criteria for becoming a seller?

That's why when I buy it, I always buy it from the guys that I recognise who are always there day-in-day-out, rain or shine, like the bloke on the end of Turl Street with the poems... ("the sky is grey, you're feeling blue, so why not buy a big issue...").

Just never buy it from the dodgy people who accost you on cornmarket after dark... they never have the ID so probably nicked it off some other poor bugger.

Tim said...

Yes, I agree with your point Ian, at least the one about who is homeless and who is not. Where I currently reside in Canterbury we have several "usual" beggars. However, there is one beggar, a female one who looks "genuinley homeless" and who is always resident in Westgate. Just the other day I was walking past Wetherspoons, and noticed the afforementioned tramp tucking into a mixed grill, downing a pint and on her mobile phone. Genuineley homeless, I think not, looks can be deceiving!