Anne McGuire MP On The Bedroom Tax
Before Easter, CSM's Zoe Hart spent half an hour chatting to Anne McGuire MP, shadow DWP team member, about her thoughts on the bedroom tax. Listen to it by clicking here
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Rob Carr, 15/04/2013
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Emma Aston, 20/11/2012
He Is Our Peace
It has been a very long time since my last blog post! A lot has happened in my life, in politics and in the world… I have completed my MSc in Development Studies with Modern Hebrew at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. If you are looking for a university that specialises in the Near and Middle East, Africa, Asia, Development, Gender, and Globalisation etc. then do check SOAS out! They also have excellent language courses in Hebrew, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu etc.
For my research I have been focusing on poverty and on Israel/Palestine. Recent events in Israel/Gaza have caused me to write an entry on my thoughts at this time for CSM. Even though I know this is as difficult to discuss as it is to research! I would like to firstly encourage Christians to pray for Israel/Gaza at this time, for peace in the region, for wisdom in negotiations and for an end to the current conflict. Perhaps meditating on this scripture which talks about how only Christ reconciles us to one another and brings peace…
‘He is [Himself] our peace (our bond of unity and harmony). He has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one [body], and has broken down (destroyed, abolished) the hostile dividing wall between us, by abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the enmity [caused by] the Law with its decrees and ordinances [which He annulled]; that He from the two might create in Himself one new man [one new quality of humanity out of the two], so making peace. And [He designed] to reconcile to God both [Jew and Gentile, united] in a single body by means of His cross, thereby killing the mutual enmity and bringing the feud to an end. And He came and preached the glad tidings of peace to you who were afar off and [peace] to those who were near.’ Ephesians 2:14-17 [Amplified Bible]
It comforts me to know that this is God’s plan for peace.
He [Jesus] is our peace…
Politically speaking, I think that we cannot abdicate from our responsibility to engage with what is happening, but perhaps the most important thing we can do is encourage the Israeli government and the Hamas administration to make decisions based on the good of their people, especially their youth and children, and to appreciate their duty to leave them a legacy that enables them to live in peace and to prosper in life.
Francesca Chin-Lewis, 20/11/2012
The other side of the bank vault
See the original article as it appeared on the Premier Christian media's website here...
Trust lies at the heart of our transactions, you pay money and trust that you will gain
something in return, from holidays to financial products, trust is key.
The amount of trust we put in our banks is up there with the trust we put in our education
system to teach our children well and our health service to keep our well being in check.
We put our money in banks because we believe that it will be safer than it would be under
the mattress at home, it’s one of the most important trust relationships we enter into. Yet
what do we actually trust our banks to do?
The banks most of us use do a great job of helping us to feel secure in our banking, they
aim to provide excellent customer service , a range of financial products and appealing
interest rates, 24-7 customer help-lines, flexible ways to deposit and access money and
the rest of it. A great deal of effort is put into attracting you into the bank with the promise
of security for your money and more often, to journey with you through life’s challenges,
helping you along the way with a range of products designed to put you first.
At face value, this is great! Just as we expect our schools to put our children first and our
NHS to put patients first, so our banks put customers first. Or so the advertising claims.
It only takes seconds to realise that, of course this isn’t the case. We may put more trust in
our banks than in any other business, but we know that at the end of the day, they are still
businesses that share the common bottom line of all businesses, they exist to make
money. This is what comes first; of course treating customers well is key to turning a profit,
but I’m afraid that yes, you are a means to an end.
If we think about it, all the things we trust our banks to do focus on our side of the bank
vault. Take a peek through the other side however, and a different story emerges.
It can prove incredibly difficult to find out what your bank does with your money, but there
are some who have taken it upon themselves to do just that: investigate and publicise the
nature of the investments made by our most popular (and most trusted) high street banks
and whose money they choose to invest. The findings open a number of ethical cans of
worms, that as followers of Christ, I believe we should be concerned about.
From investments in the arms trade and propping up corrupt regimes to exploitation of the
environment, excessive bonuses for directors to blatant tax avoidance, the picture painted
is not a pretty one.
The independent monitoring body ‘ethical consumer’ rates all of the ‘big 5’ banks
(Barclays, Lloyds group, Santander, RBS and HSBC) no higher than 4.5 out of 20 on their
ethical rating system, with some scoring as low as 0.5 overall. Sites like these give a very
useful break down of where you are inadvertently investing your money.
So what does this have to do with you? In trusting the banks to keep your money safe and
give you a decent rate of interest you are, in quite a direct way, financing a range of
investments that you yourself would perhaps wish to steer clear of, even things that you
might condemn and campaign against in other ways.
Banks can very subtly straddle that divide between the way we think about trusted
institutions that provide important services and the way we perceive big business (in often
less positive terms). This is a call to rethink what we trust our institutions and businesses
There are alternative banks, building societies and credit unions whose purpose is to
invest ethically and locally, to be trusted by customers to work for the common good as
well as to offer competitive services. You can find out more through CSM’s ‘Put your
money where your mouth is’ campaign at www.thecsm.org.uk
Why entrust your money to businesses you cannot trust to hold the same values as you
hold? Why settle for giving a proportionally small sum to good causes whilst the bulk of
your money runs the risk of finding its way into dodgy investments that have damaging
impacts on people and the planet?
Let’s bank on something worth while, in something we can trust.
Sam Buck, 24/04/2012
Hope and Ben Hur
I've only ever watched parts of Ben Hur before, I didn't even watch it in its entirety today, but I did see the longest chunk to date.
Some classic acting and some over dramatic 'ohs' and 'ahs' - brilliant rainy day TV.
I'm glad I took a bit of time to really watch it and empathise with the main character Judah who has been through so many ups and downs in his life, he has come close to death so many times and has lost so much on the way. He stands in the crowd as Jesus is being crucified. Another man, Balthazaar is there. He's an old man, his character is supposed to be one of the wise men who came to see Jesus at his birth and has followed him through to his death. At this point There's a bit of dialogue between the two men in which Judah is basically saying 'look where your hope has got you'.
He says this to the old man out of a place of experience. He has seen how hard life can be, even his last ounce of hope, that Jesus might heal his family from leprosy has been taken away from him; he is full of anger and disillusionment and who could blame him!?
And yet this old man, distressed though he is at all that is happening, clings on to hope, a faith that this is all for something greater, deeper than one man's death, that there is something going on beneath the surface.
This seems, in my experience, to be how God loves to work. When all seems hopeless, when despair is at its height and there just seems no point trying to hold on to anything... that's when God acts. It's a theme you can see time and time again in the Bible narrative whether you look at Moses, Esther, Daniel, David etc... It seems that God just waits... until the very last minute... every... time.
So why? does God just like playing with us? is it some kind of sick game, to see how long He can keep us on the edge? I would suggest not.
I think it's got something to do with resurrection actually.
All these characters in God's story I've mentioned and more came to the end of themselves. Often there was physically nothing they could do in their situations except rely on something bigger, deeper, stronger than themselves and they threw themselves onto God's grace and strength whole heartedly. That's where their heart was, by that point there was little else left that they could put their trust in. And in many of these stories, it's interesting to observe that once they've been in that place of desperation and complete reliance on God, next time they're in trouble, He is their first port of call (if they learnt the lesson).
Old Balthazaar and those with him in the crowd were party to the greatest example of this in all of God's story. It was one of those situations again, where, if God was going to act, He was going to be characteristically late (thus taking those hopers to the edge of themselves and showing His power more brilliantly). There was still hope, even as some taunted him, wondering if Elijah will come and save him.
But that moment came... and it went.
Not this time.
Judah Ben Hur is proven right, life is tough, death trumps everything, what's the point in hope?
What's the point in hope?
Why even hold out that something can be done about injustice that brings poverty to billions in our world?
Why hope that caring about our planet and tackling climate change will make the blindest bit of difference?
Why hope that people in crippling debt or broken and abusive families or caught in a cycle of depression or self hatred will be able to experience real joy and genuinely smile again?
What's the point?
You know, things might not change, not even at the last minute, billions more may fall into poverty, the planet will change irreversibly with catastrophic repercussions for our eco-systems and all life that relies on them (especially those already in poverty). Maybe those estranged family members will never build bridges or speak to each other again, maybe that child will always feel abandoned.
There's still something worth hoping for.
Old Balthazaar knew something was going on beneath the surface, God was being even sneakier than usual.
And he was right.
Jesus dies, but not for long.
Resurrection has a promise in it.
The redemption of all things is coming, it's being fought for around the world by people who have this crazy hope, even in the face of impossible odds, in the face of insatiable greed and malice and corruption and selfishness. There's something going on, beneath the surface.
That thing is resurrection.
Springing up here and there in hopeful stories of God pulling through at the last minute, and sometimes not. But even in those times, God has shown what He's about.
He has shown us in Jesus' death and resurrection that regardless of results, hope is still worth holding onto, more than ever.
Because we hope for something unmatchable, unbeatable and immovable - resurrection life.
You can see it around you, if you look. Just God bringing life, just bubbling beneath the surface.
Judah Ben Hur finds this life at the end of the film and what was once a life bereft and hopeless is transformed into one of wholeness, hope and resurrection life.
Sam Buck, 10/04/2012