First Thursday December 2017

Summary of discussion December 7th


Isaiah (28:15) condemns Judah’s leaders for their “Covenant with Death”- likely the military alliance with Egypt (see more clearly Isaiah 30:1 to 5).  They think this will save them from the threatened Assyrian invasion- but it won’t.  Instead, they should trust God.  Is this a general principle, or only relevant to that situation?  Britain in NATO keeps nuclear weapons as a “deterrent” (MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction).  Is this our own “Covenant with Death”- should we rather take the risk of trusting in peace-building?  Would a political party with that in its manifesto be elected?  And how many Christians would vote for it?

The United Nation’s 1947 plan for Palestine envisaged Jerusalem as an “international” city under UN supervision- perhaps in hope of becoming the joint capital of a united people, a vision reflected in Psalm 87, especially verses 4 to 6.   President Trump’s decision about Jerusalem and the US Embassy probably does not share that hope- nor will it be seen that way in Israel itself.  Some US Christians support Trump’s decision because they think it will precipitate Armageddon and the Return of Christ.  More likely it is consistent with the aim of the US (and the UK and France earlier) to keep a foothold in the Middle East (because of its oil).  This risks being “trumped” by President Putin’s moves to re-assert Russia’s place in the world (after NATO and the West pushed it to the margins in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed).  His alliances with Syria and Iran counter-balance the West’s alliance with Saudi Arabia.  Would Isaiah call this another “Covenant with Death”?  The use of starvation as a “weapon of war” (eg in Yemen) is nothing new (witness the U-boat campaign and the blockade of Germany in WW2) but is an obscene component of this “Covenant”.

Hunger is an increasing feature of our own wealthy society, along with homelessness (rough sleeping in cold weather at its extreme) and other deprivations.  After the Second World War a political decision was made to counter the poverty of Victorian times and the mass unemployment of the 1930s by ensuring that the basic needs of the whole population were adequately supplied- and that the economic inefficiencies this would inevitably involve were an acceptable price to pay for that security.  By the 1970s, however, those inefficiencies had become sufficiently glaring to convince the electorate that a return to economic efficiency was needed, a shift made in the 1979 Election.  “Economic efficiency”, however, does not supply the needs of all people- if enough goods are produced to supply everyone’s needs, prices drop and profits disappear (this is called, in economic terms, “over-supplying the market”).  This is perhaps clearest in the housing market, but it affects other basic needs also.  We have a political decision to make, whether to continue to pursue economic efficiency (likely to be demanded even more strongly by the challenges of Brexit) at the price of leaving a substantial minority of the population excluded, or to risk losing economic efficiency by supplying the needs of the whole population, whether by taxation, subsidy or some other means.

The Social Mobility Commission recently produced its ranking of all 324 local authorities in England, measuring how likely a child brought up in a “disadvantaged family” is to achieve his or her full potential in life.  Wellingborough came near the bottom (318th) and East Northants little better (306th, possibly because Oundle and Thrapston drag Rushden up a little).  By contrast Bedford (Borough) is fairly good, at 109th.  So what is wrong with the Wellingborough-Rushden area, and what should we be doing about it?


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