UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
A man dressed as Jesus joins other demonstrators in London in 2011. The group was protesting the U.K. banks’ handling of the financial crisis. Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Economic justice is a core Christian value

A Christian critique of current affairs

By Michael Coren


William Temple is one of my heroes. I realize that he’s hardly a household name, but in his day he was quite the figure. A public intellectual before the phrase was common, this beloved Anglican priest would become Archbishop of Canterbury in the closing years of the Second World War. He was bold in defending the oppressed and the marginalized, as well as being politically outspoken. “Socialism,” he said, “is the economic realization of the Christian gospel.” More than this, he argued that there were two choices as a Christian: socialist or heretic.

I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I know precisely what Temple meant. The Christian faith is not politically or morally neutral, and if we live and act as if it were the case, we do indeed become heretical. He saw, and he was surely correct, that the Old Testament is not a collection of esoteric codes of archaic manners but a book of liberation — economic, political and spiritual liberation.

As for the New Testament, the pleas for equality and social justice are unavoidable. And don’t forget the Letter of James — probably Jesus’ very own brother. “Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire.” Hardly ambiguous!

Yet if we asked most Canadians about political Christianity, I guarantee you they’d mention opposition to gay rights, abortion and euthanasia, and a belief in capitalism. That is not only extraordinarily sad but also a knife thrust into the body of the faith.

In many ways, The United Church of Canada has been a sparkling exception to this, as have other liberal Protestants, Anglicans and left-leaning Catholics. But the hierarchy of the Roman church and the mass of evangelicals far outnumber Christ-following advocates of social justice.

I genuinely think that the tide may be turning with the new generation of believers. But there is something fundamentally important that has to be stressed, and it’s also where I may lose some of you: there is no contradiction between orthodox Christian belief and radical political and economic views. In fact, I would argue that the deeper the faith, the more likely it is that we can leap forward to social justice activism. The firm base of belief in Christ enables us to spring forward with confidence and compassion.

William Temple died in 1944, when tangible evil still ruled most of Europe. Yet he remained an optimist, and he was proved correct. The old politics have failed us, the hard right is expanding from continent to continent, and the climate, the economy, common decency and human rights are under siege. Not a good time, of course, but a perfect time for a truly revolutionary creed to take centre stage and proclaim that Jesus is not in the boardroom but in the breadline.

Michael Coren is an author and journalist in Toronto.



Author's photo
Michael Coren is an author and journalist in Toronto.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Environment

Song leader, police and gate blockers in front of the Kinder Morgan gates. Photo by Kimiko Karpoff

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

A faith leader reflects on protesting the pipeline with the Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. Photo: Lindsay Palmer

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Society

June 2018

Why some women of colour are hesitant to say #MeToo

by Jacky Habib

Three women share their stories in the hope of creating safe spaces they never had.

Environment

May 2018

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

On April 28, 2018, faith leaders from many traditions, including the United Church, stood in solidarity with Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation to protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C.. Kimiko Karpoff captured the day in pictures.

Faith

June 2018

After 93 years, this will be the United Church's last General Council meeting

by Mike Milne

When the United Church meets in July, top priorities will be a streamlined governance structure and Indigenous ministries.

Justice

June 2018

#MeToo in the United Church

by Trisha Elliott

9 women share their stories of harassment and sexual assault in the United Church.

Columns

May 2018

On grief and the healing power of gardening

by Paul Fraumeni

A writer reflects on how growing tomatoes is helping him find peace while dealing with the loss of loved ones, including his son.

Editorials

June 2018

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image