The latest in-word in the world of politics is "choice". For two of our major parties this has become the salespitch for their latest policies, especially in education and health services. On the surface, to be able to choose what best suits your needs must be good. How can anyone be against the idea?
But there's the rub. How much of what is offered is really choice for everyone? Without far more investment than is currently proposed, the result is likely to be more choice for the well-off and the influential, and less choice for the poor and the voiceless. That's why a word of caution is needed. If more and more people choose what are perceived to be the best schools and hospitals, how are we to prevent the others from becoming less and less good, and the services and opportunities being offered there from becoming worse and worse?
Some may ask why this should be a concern for the Church. All down the ages, one of the church's roles has been to speak up for those who have little or no influence of their own. Go back to the Old Testament, and see how prophets like Amos challenged the rich and powerful, and gave voice to the legitimate needs of the poor. Jesus was condemned by the Establishment for standing alongside the marginalized and rejected. And it should still be so today; the Church has a responsibility to speak up for the disadvantaged, and to question policies which favour one group in society at the expense of others. Whether or not we are gearing ourselves up for a general election, politicians are scrambling for our support. So let's not be seduced by fine words that hide partiality and discrimination, and be prepared to reject what benefits some but at great cost to others. What we really want is action which is for the good of all, not just some.
Enjoy your holidays – and come back refreshed. MALCOLM
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.