Summary of the discussion, February 1st, 2018
We noted the discussions about unequal pay between men and women in the newspapers. What people are paid is an indication, in our modern society, of how much they are valued by the people they work with and serve.
Patterns of “reward for work done” have changed radically over the years. Before the Industrial Revolution the whole family (including children) would often work together at home in eg spinning and weaving. Mechanised factory employment then gradually replaced domestic industry, with later laws banning child labour. After World War Two there was a conscious effort to persuade women that their place was in the home caring for children (Bowlby’s “Childcare and the Growth of Love”, published in 1953, argued that “maternal deprivation” was the cause of many social problems), but recent economic developments force families to need two incomes, not for luxuries (as is sometimes claimed), but for necessities, such as housing- a joint income of £60,000 plus is needed to buy a house locally, and £200,000 plus in London. Rented accommodation is equally in short supply.
Abraham Maslow, the US psychologist, suggested that all people have a “hierarchy” of needs: Food, air, exercise and shelter the basics; then love, family, friends and pleasure; goals, aims and self-actualisation; leading to value and self-worth. So where does our modern society find its values, and its criteria to value people, recognising that a good deal of “anti-social” behaviour stems from a lack of any sense of being valued by society? There is no longer a commonly accepted “authority” for values, in the Bible or the teachings of Jesus. Far fewer people now go to Church- though within living memory many young people went to Sunday evening services because there was little alternative, other than the pub.
Schools have recognised the vacuum that this leaves, and have begun to place much more emphasis on the teaching of “values”, though these are not necessarily explicitly “Christian”. Do we want to argue that only Christian values can form the basis of a good society, or do we believe that we can (and should) work “co-operatively” with others to build a solid moral basis for our society in the future?
The early Church had none of the advantages of an “established” (though arguably much diluted) Christianity as the background for its witness. Its effectiveness was based on the vitality of its own community life, and the sharpness of its own moral attitude to wealth, to relationships, to reconciliation and forgiveness, to power and class divisions in society. If the modern church is able to rediscover those values, some of the younger people who now have abandoned it may look on it with a fresh respect and interest.