Following the narrative of American politics and of the unfolding life and times of The Episcopalian Church I have never noticed the leading bloggers of the latter showing even scant appreciation of anything good coming out of he Republican Party. To the right of Genghis Khan doesn't even begin to describe the general evaluation of Republican politicians. But apparently a good number of Episcopalian priests (retired) are living off the fat of Bain Capital. As revealed by an impeccable source, Mitt Romney himself, as reported on another impeccable news digest, The Lead. That's the thing about the world, dear readers, it is the easiest place to subject to left-wing critique and the hardest place to live in without some capitalists earning some money!
Speaking of worldly realities, I see our bishops and other church leaders have once again taken to the air waves to pronounce about the iniquities of the world. This time it is child poverty, which features somewhat too highly on world rankings for comfort. There is also a mention of this issue in another Taonga article here, in which my colleague Jolyon White says, "The story often told in our society is that it is your own fault if you are poor. The game is to show we are all in this together and inequality can be just as much due to the way society is structured." Fair enough: poverty is a complex problem. But, in respect of child poverty, I wonder how deep our leaders are going to push the discussion they seek. First, money doesn't grow on trees, so what kind of economic growth are we going to support as churches in order to enable new levels of support for poor families? Secondly, are we going to talk about targeted support or a universal child benefit? Our prime minister this week made the excellent point that a universal benefit being touted by parts of our parliamentary opposition also benefits the already-rich kids. Thirdly, as observed somewhere in my reading this week, it is not a general statistic about child poverty which is the problem in NZ society, but a particular manifestation in which some families are choosing to have more children than can reasonably be predicted to be able to be supported by those families. The children who do not feature in child poverty statistics are precisely the children brought up in families which have made careful decisions about how many children can be reasonably supported (by which I do not just mean financially). Jolyon is right: children should not be blamed for being poor. But does something need to change about adults making decisions about how many children to bring into the world?
I recognise that question is part of a long-term path towards a solution and in the meantime we need to address the present problem. But if that is about providing more dollars, where are they going to come from? Let's face it, we could send a lot more money to the younger generations if we did not spend so much on the burgeoning population of older people! Jolyon, again, is spot on in observing that 'we are all in this together and inequality can be just as much due to the way society is structured'. But will we really engage in the complexity of equality, justice, welfare and access to wealth, or just focus on one issue at a time with pleasant soundbites and hand-wringing? To take one galling issue about child poverty: the poorest children in NZ live in the worst houses re dampness and cold, with inevitably flow on effects on health. But what do we see being rapidly built around NZ to the highest standards of insulation and warmth? Vast complexes of buildings to house our elderly. What transfer of government funding from one generation to another would yield a solution to the inadequate housing stock of the nation? Dare we even ask that question?!
This week has seen much discussion about marriage in our nation. (Quite a bit is appearing on Facebook for those who link to controversialists such as Glynn Cardy and Clay Nelson - Yes, as an inclusive Facebooker, they are my friends!!) On gay 'marriage' we now have a Stuff headline, 'Churches say they will snub gay weddings.' Well, of course. There is a distinctive understanding within Christianity and other religions ['church' is quite a broad term for Stuff, which includes mosques and temples] about marriage relative to popular secular understanding. Anyway, here is my thought at the end of a long week on these matters:
What if we stopped performing weddings in church? Without changing one canon or statute, all ministers could voluntarily agree to refuse to conduct weddings, send couples to registry offices, while offering to subsequently pray for and ask God to bless those relationships which fall within the teaching of the church. No one would be 'snubbed' re weddings, per se!
Speaking of marriage and the rumbling debate re marriage, Christian v secular, there is a stirring and robust commentary here in relation to the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen's stout defence of his diocese proferring a 'submit to husband' alternate marriage service. I think it worth reading as a great contribution to reflection on the nature of marriage. It challenges glib Christian dismissal of secular society's embrace of marriage. It is particularly poignant one week after one of our leading Christian leaders was announced to have left his marriage after being married for nearly fifty years. One week later, incidentally, I think this link is the only statement you will find about this situation on any official site connected to the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. What an enigmatic remark is made at the beginning of the sermon published in that link!
Finally, what are the Irish among us to make of a Press headline this morning, "Irish getting a bit of stick over stereotype"? Isn't it a good thing when people assume we are happy people who love a chat over a pint of beer, with plenty of good humour lacing our conversation, and not much care for tomorrow or whether if we want to go to Kilkenny, this wouldn't be the place we would start from?