David Rhodes talks about the vision behind the new edition of his book, Faith in Dark Places.
The character of our nation seems to be changing: for the worse.
Once there was neighbourliness, but now we have greed; once we cared for the vulnerable, but we now despise them. We’re turning against the poor and even the word ‘welfare’ is used with contempt.
When the impoverished workers of Jarrow set out on their famous march we admired and respected them. Now the tabloids demonise people hit by poverty as skivers and scroungers, and ‘poverty porn’ is becoming cheap TV entertainment.
We’ve got a Christian prime minister and (statistically) we’re still a Christian nation. But where’s the love of God in this nightmare? Who can halt this relentless evil?
Groups like Church Action on Poverty have struggled heroically against the growing tide of selfishness and greed for years. Telling us with a prophetic voice of God’s love for the poor. Never giving up – even when the struggle for justice seemed hopeless.
Then, when we least expected it, something strange began to happen.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury started challenging the loan sharks and the power companies. A new pope said Christians should be the church of the poor. Baptists, Methodists and the United Reformed Church set up the Joint Public Issues Team (follow them on Twitter, @PublicIssues) and started hammering government propaganda. Some of us started writing books on faith and justice.
Perhaps, now, a wonderful possibility is beginning to dawn. The church, which seemed to be asleep for centuries, is stirring. Like a sleeping giant beginning to wake up, it’s as though the church is rediscovering the gospel. That Jesus brought good news to the poor.
Governments often seem to be unstoppable juggernauts. Once elected nothing, it seems, can stop them. Two million marched in London and still we went to war. The voice of the little people didn’t count.
The temptation was to give up.
But what if the giant we thought was sleeping is awake? What if the church across the land is beginning to stir? What if the whole church begins to challenge injustice? Starts to live out the gospel?
If you’d told me a year ago the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope in Rome would make my heart sing, I’d have said you were crazy. If you’d told me a year ago a book called Faith in Dark Places would be part of that awakening, I wouldn’t have believed you.
If you’d told me love for the poor was salvation for the church – and life for the nation, I’d have said it’ll never happen.
But maybe it will.
Faith in Dark Places is published by SPCK at £9.99. David Rhodes is a priest, a writer and a long-standing supporter of Church Action on Poverty. David will be at our conference in Sheffield on 9 November – hopefully with a supply of his book! You can find him on Twitter as @RhodesWriter and on the web at www.turbulentbooks.co.uk.