Monday, October 10, 2011

The Church's Role Before Structural Injustice

"My own vocation has taken me to an area of my country where, for many people, hope is in short supply. A nebulous sense of injustice hangs over many a community in the shape of the half-formed belief that the industrial collapse of the late twentieth century must be somebody's fault and that something should be done about it.... It is a reflection on the fact that when a large community has been built up over several generations around one or two key industries, and when those industries are then shut down not because they are unproductive or because the workers are incompetent or lazy but because they do not fit the larger strategic plans of people whose faces are never seen in the area, then there is a quiet anger, a sense that something has gone wrong at a structural level. Human societies should not work like that, and if they do then questions have to be asked. Part of the task of the church must be to take up that sense of injustice, to bring it to speech, to help people both articulate it and, when they are ready to do so, to turn it into prayer (it's surprising, until you find yourself in that position, how many of the Psalms suddenly become relevant!). And the task then continues with the church's work with the whole local community, to foster programs for better housing, schools, and community facilities, to encourage new job opportunities, to campaign and cajole and work with local governments and councils, and, in short, to foster hope at any and every level. And part of the argument of this book is that when this is done, this is not something other than the surprising hope of the gospel, the hope for life after life after death. It is the direct result of that: the hope for life before death" (N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope, p. 231)

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