I am a keen follower of social media and although frustrating, it serves the purpose of keeping me in touch with what people say. There is much discussion about foodbanks, charity, the ‘do-gooders’ who dole out charity to the poor and needy, those who think the vulnerable are feckless and so on.
As Christians we believe we are called to be compassionate and charitable; this makes me uneasy. I was challenged recently at Canon Mark Oakley’s lecture on ‘The Viciousness of Injustice’ – a lecture in memory of Fr Ken Leech. Mark reminded us that Ken considered ‘that Christians always find compassion easier than justice.’
It’s so easy to be compassionate and sympathetic, to put cans in the foodbank collection, to pray for the needy, and give money to charities. All of these things are good and they certainly address initial need. We are called to do more: to stand up, assertively against injustice, voting for those who will level the playing field, being willing to pay more tax in order that the person serving us our latte can afford to live without the fear of poverty. Injustice in all its forms, is cruel and vicious; it creates vulnerability, it robs people of dignity, it robs people of self-confidence and of hopes and dreams.
Compassion alone simply will not cut it. Compassion alone can end up being a sticking plaster. Jesus did not offer tea and sympathy; he brought true healing and sought to alleviate vulnerability. As a Church, I believe that alongside compassion, we seek to challenge injustice and level the playing field, by reducing vulnerability. By being inclusive, we reduce the vulnerability of the marginalised. Our language class, works with trafficked people, reducing their vulnerability by helping them learn English.
Challenging the viciousness of injustice is not comfortable, that is because injustice is expedient, but justice is the right thing to do and costly, but it is what makes us fully human and Christ-like.