Vanessa on Periscope

Have you investigated Periscope yet? It is one of the many ways that people are connecting with people on line. The idea is that if you have a phone with a video camera that can download an app for either an Android or an Apple phone you can record a video and leave it online for a few days.

Like anything else there are good and bad ways of using it. I have found 2 or 3 people to follow who I find quite edifying. In other words they make me think rather than some of the other rubbish floating round out there.

I don’t agree with everything Vanessa says on her Periscopes but she does make me think. This week one of her scopes was very much in line with my thinking.

The problem Vanessa saw

Vanessa is a church pastor but prior to taking on that role she had worked in various capacities supporting people living in poverty. A lot of what she did was help people access various forms of government assistance.  I put it like that because I did not quite appreciate all she was saying in that respect as her experience is in the USA and mine is in the UK.

The predictions are that many of the government assistance programs will be cut back in the coming months.  Given the situations Vanessa was describing I can understand why. For example people who were given so much money to buy food they had enough spare to pay the rent as well.

She also said that she  had met families where four generations of women had become career welfare recipients. Imagine a teenager having a baby in her mid teens and claiming government assistance like her mother, grandmother and even great grandmother had done.

Many of the people she had worked with would struggle to get a job simply because paperwork was beyond them. The reason why they were able to claim anything at all was that their case workers put the claims in for them.

They had become totally dependent upon others for their survival. Vanessa’s argument was that the system had led to them becoming increasingly dependent. Some had so much money coming in that they did not need to manage their money very carefully in order survive.

The problem gets worse before it gets better

There is only one way of making people move out of that kind of situation and that is take their crutch away and make them walk. It is called tough love. The aim is to force them to feel the consequences of their actions so that this increases their desire to change them.

Vanessa was not particularly happy about the idea that less money would be available for government assistance programs. She was though enough of a realist to know that without that kind of approach people would only stay dependent. It sounds crazy  but the kind of tough love approach that took away the money people depended on could actually benefit them in the long run.

OK the reason given for the coming cut backs was that it was needed in order to reduce government spending and therefore the amount of money the government borrowed. Yet it would also force people to stand on their own two feet which is not a bad idea.

The problem was that if they had not helped themselves for a long time how would they learn to adapt to the new circumstances. This is why Vanessa said that the church should become a social services hub. She based her argument on the fact that this was what the early church was like.

This so resonated with me. Her social services hubs were very similar to the concept of Lily’s Place. Her idea like mine was for the church to meet the needs of the community around it.  It would be the church that people turned to for money management classes and for the support they needed to find a job.

The consequences of not doing this

What happens when people feel hopeless and helpless? One thing is that they get agitated and the whole community gets restless. So restless in fact that there can be social unrest even revolutions.

This reminded me of the statement Marie Antoinette is supposed to have made when she was told that people were up in arms because they had no bread. Her supposed response was let them eat cake. If that is really what she said  then it would show so little understanding of the plight of her country that it would be incendiary. There is a lot more to her life history than that but in the end the extreme social unrest of France meant that she was guillotined in October 1793.

No one in their right mind would want a repeat of the French Revolution. Nor would they want a repeat of the riots that were sparked by rising food prices in various places in more recent years.

Why is the church struggling to do this?

Vanessa gave a number of reasons including

  • Church members are looking for their own comfort rather than wanting to help others. This leads to them spending money on huge buildings where they can gather a few times a week. Buildings that cost a lot of money but don’t have the facilities need to support the community.
  • Church people are looking for goose bump faith experiences for themselves rather than helping others. This then develops a culture of travelling ministers some of whom commercialise Christianity with their speaker’s fees and books and recordings.
  • People are waiting for things to happen instead of making things happen. It is the old story of we cannot do this because we are waiting for someone to help us I am not sure if it was in the same scope but recently Vanessa also talked about the man by the pool of Siloam. He was waiting and waiting for someone to help him get to the water. He had given up trying to get there himself. It was only when Jesus helped him help himself i.e. told him to stand up that his situation changed.

What is the alternative?

Do you know what was happening in England at about the time of the French Revolution? It was the era of the Methodist revival. Men like John Wesley travelled the country preaching in the open air.

They provided an alternative form of revolution for the poor of England. Some of John Wesley’s sermons covered every day topics like handling money. Things like live simply i.e. save money so that you can use what money you have to help others. John Wesley lived so simply that few of his followers managed to follow his extreme example of giving away 90% of his income.

Every country is different with a  different culture and history. However one thing does not change. The church is supposed to be serving people and when it does not fulfil this role the country really struggles.  In other words if we want a peaceful country we need to roll out sleeves up and get up and doing something.




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