Saturday, February 22, 2014

Food Bank Britain & the Bishops

Good piece in the Guardian yesterday by Jonathan Freedland in response to the discussion prompted by the bishops intervention on welfare cuts earlier this week:

there has been something of a delayed reaction to the rise and rise of genuine hunger in this country. The unkind would call it denial. But it is becoming harder to deny.
This week the nation's most senior clerics told of what they are seeing every day, in the parishes where they and their colleagues live and work. Vincent Nichols, the newly elevated Catholic cardinal, branded the way the welfare system functions "a disgrace", while 27 Anglican bishops and 16 other Christian leaders blamed the government's benefits changes for a "national crisis" of hunger.
Predictably the coalition's defenders told the men of the cloth to back off, telling them they had no business poking their nose into such matters and should stick to "religion". Apparently they interpret the old Alastair Campbell dictum that politicians shouldn't do God to mean that God shouldn't do politics.
Perhaps they think churches exist to tidy up the hymn books and keep flowers in the vestry. In fact, the major faiths see their mission as nothing less than healing the world. So of course if they see people going hungry, they cry out. It is their duty.
It's their right too. Few institutions in our national life are doing more to deal with the return of a problem some might have thought we banished after the Depression, if not the Victorian age. Where do you think many of the more than 400 food banks run by the Trussell Trust operate? In church halls....
The Telegraph takes a different tack, pointing to a survey last year that showed that the 'majority' of Anglicans thought the welfare budget too high, and that it should be cut. 
2 brief points for Telegraph readers:
a) Thinking that the welfare budget is too high is not the same as wanting people to be destitute. I'd probably agree that the welfare budget is too high, but there must be ways to tackle it that don't force people to choose between heating and eating.
b) 83% of the Anglicans in the survey aren't active members of any church. Describing yourself as an Anglican isn't the same as being an active, worshipping member of an Anglican church. The Telegraph fails to mention this. 
Maybe they're miffed that the bishops wrote to a left wing rag like the Mirror, if their coverage of the story is anything to go by.


  1. The PM agrees that the church should speak out in such matters as welfare debate because its a moral issue . Read his blog .He doesn't have to agree with their views though.

  2. It always puzzles me when politicians get upset at church interventions. It´s not as though there wasn´t a strong tradition for it. Surely they all learn´t about Thomas Becket at school?