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Politics Today

Taking inequality seriously

todayFebruary 2, 2018 40

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The News Hour

The days when treating women less well than men are long gone and that is right from Christian as well as secular perspectives.

The Creation narrative makes it very clear that women and men both bear the image of God (Gen 1:27) When God chose to incarnate himself in human form he chose a woman, Mary, to serve him in this. Jesus clearly valued women as much as men.  His first post resurrection appearance was not to one of his male apostles but to women, and especially to the former demoniac Mary Magdalene (John20:10ff). His teaching on divorce (Matthew 19:8-9) reflected compassion for the female victims of divorce, as did his treatment of the woman caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:4) This was an extreme example of inequality. The Pharisees wanted to stone her to death whilst apparently ignoring the man involved in this act.

Obviously, we are not all equally talented. I enjoy listening to great musicians but lack their talent. Materially some are born into wealthy families and enjoy a privileged upbringing and education whilst others have none of the opportunities wealth makes possible.  That is true of nations as well as individuals. For those born into endemic poverty life will be a constant struggle to survive on an inadequate diet and in unhygienic conditions. That the wealthy should act to change such gross inequalities is recognised by those who support charities like TEARFUND and CAFOD but as a nation we seek to help the most disadvantaged by allocating 0.7% of our national income for overseas aid and development. Those who advocate slashing this budget and reallocating the money for domestic purposes clearly have no care or compassion for those whose lives depend on the help and hope this aid gives them.

Whilst inequality is not as extreme here there are still substantial inequalities of income and wealth in the UK. The poorest 10% have a disposable income of £9,644 from wages and benefits. The top 10% are nine times better off with disposable incomes of £83,875 after tax. The gulf between them is even greater if taxes and benefits are excluded. There are also regional inequalities. Average household income in London is considerably higher than that in the North East. In her first speech as Prime Minister Theresa May recognised the effects of inequality.  “If you are a woman, you will earn less than a man”, and she promised “the Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours”.  Jeremy Corbyn fought the 2017 election with the slogan “for the many, not the few”. Whoever is in office, these slogans need to be translated into policy that tackles the dehumanising effects of gross inequalities.

That said; tackling inequality cannot be left to the politicians. Who knows when they will be able to turn their noble intentions into policy and law? Quite apart from that we all have opportunities to put the interests of others before our own. One sad truth is that we are all sinners, capable of putting our own wellbeing before that of others. (Romans 3:9-18). The challenge is to take seriously Jesus’ teaching about loving one’s neighbour (Luke 10:25-37). Moreover he specifically addressed the issue in conversation with a rich young man (Matthew 19:16-24) and his parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). The point is that it is not enough to wait for the Government to make us pay more to help the poorest, how can we all voluntarily help our needy neighbours like the Good Samaritan?

Written by: Rufus Olaniyan

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todayFebruary 19, 2020 44