The politics of helping the poor, needy and vulnerable
A little while back, I had a helpful conversation with a Christian friend who has done much to help the homeless. Unsurprisingly, we agreed on much, except he suggested (knowing my sympathies) Trump supporters are less inclined to help the poor, needy and vulnerable than those who aren’t.
I disagreed, although it would be somewhat of a challenge to find out who is correct. I explained in my twenty years of involvement helping such folk (discussed in my book Outside the Camp) I have worked with people at all points along the political (as well as religious / ideological) spectrum in order to achieve one’s goals and have found soul mates in terms of doing what needs to be done all along the way when it comes to motivation, leading me to conclude that helping the poor, needy and vulnerable is neither the domain of the left nor the right. While critics may rightly point out that that drop down politics of the right (the rich benefiting the poor) often doesn’t work due to human greed and selfishness, neither does take from the rich and give to the poor politics of the left, who too often talk a good game and do little to make a real difference, with socialism being repeatedly found to be a failed experiment.
I got thinking along these lines when last night I attended a moving and enlightening presentation regarding the Christian charity, Caring for Life (see here for their website and what they do). This is not going to be a plug for this worthy charity, other than making a few observations, including here is a good example (and there are many others I can think of closer to home) that are much more about walking the walk than talking the talk. Having studied the history of Christians making a difference in their communities, particularly when it comes to helping the poor, needy and vulnerable, my observation in more recent times is many (probably most) dilute the Christian ethos in order to get help from those who don’t share this (and because the church has failed to step up to the challenge) and in order to get public money, which often comes with strings attached. Without, deriding their achievements, which are considerable, Trust Links (here for their website), South East Essex’s local independent charity for mental health and well being charity I helped to set up in the early days, has gone more down that route. What I found refreshing, as far as I can make out, Caring for Life has not done so. It boldly claims and with ample justification that it is a Christian charity and, importantly, has resisted the temptation of going along with whatever government agenda.
I am now retired and, in my dotage and disability, I do less at the coal face and am less active on the front line. However, I continue to take heart that many, including people that I know and regard personally, are helping the poor, needy and vulnerable and making a difference. I do what I can to support and encourage, including beneficiaries of the services being offered, who I often empathise with. There is no simple solution to meeting the huge needs that continue to face us and it is not for me to say follow either the Caring for Life or Trust Links, or come to that any other route. Besides compassion and encouragement, having been round the block many times, I can offer wisdom and experience and glad and heartened when I see the next generation rising to the challenges that our broken society presents, who do their part in addressing the (often complex) needs and overcoming many barriers. Politics and religion (in the best sense) continue to have an uneasy relationship when it comes to addressing societal needs. Notwithstanding, given gaps in terms of unmet needs, there are very practical helps that can and should be given to the poor, needy and vulnerable, but more than anything else they need the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.