NZ Herald on Church Call

The NZ Herald editorial is unimpressed with the churches having woken from a 10 year slumber, and suddenly having rediscovered poverty.

Church leaders invariably lead with their chins in political debate. We have not heard from them for some time on poverty, in fact not since the last National Government was in office.

As the clerics observe, Labour has left National’s benefit levels largely intact after inflation adjustments. Now the collective social conscience of the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Salvation Army leadership will be mobilised in a “call to action” for the restoration of benefit rates that were cut in 1991.

That would be ludicrous. Much has changed in the past 17 years, not least the level of unemployment in an economy that has enjoyed constant growth for the past decade. What point, other than a political one, would be served by restoring any facet of the economy to a position it was in 17 years ago? And why now? The church leaders surely have not been waiting nine years for the Labour-led Governments to heed the hikoi staged in National’s last term. It is hard to escape the suspicion they have recovered their energy this year in anticipation of National’s return.

The churches have been silent on these social issues for too long, and now they have been silent on their preferred political solutions for too long – the duration of Labour’s policy leadership. Their return to the fray at this stage can be taken only as an attempt to keep Labour in power and, should that fail, to prepare for a renewed campaign against a National government.

Some people wonder why church leaders almost always back left wing Governments, despite the fact that conservative parties always have a much much higher proportion of true believers and church goers.

The answer tends to be that few (not all) church leaders actually literally believe in God (as taught in the Bible), and are far more concerned with social issues than religious issues.

Again this is not new, and I refer people to an excellent Yes Minister episode on this issue.

Incidentally Gavin Knight blogs that the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services never intended their statement to be seen as a call to reverse the 1991 benefit cuts, and this was just discussed in response to a question.

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