I’m British. I’m white though not ethnically English. I’m from a poor working-class background in a Northern English city. I am lucky enough to have a university education. I passionately believe in social justice and that everybody should have the same chances for health care, educational opportunities, career advancement, and the right to work hard and prosper. I am also a Christian.
Being Christian, One of the Good Guys
Like the United States, the United Kingdom – but really we are talking primarily about England – presents an image of being Christian, socially responsible, moral, or to put it simply “the good guys.” In my view, however, organized Christianity actually strengthens and reinforces class prejudices. It presents the dominant culture of the UK, which is largely an unjust class system, as acceptable, inevitable and the natural outcome of the way British society is and the way British people should be and should relate to each other. This is, in my humble opinion, blasphemous.
Not surprisingly, the Church of England, or the Anglican Church by its other name, is or appears to be a very middle-class institution and certainly a very establishment-centric church. It has the same hierarchy as the worldly society outside it: often well-educated, well-spoken vicars who are always “polished” and otherworldly or aristocratic (although this is not so easy to define or explain). The queen of England is the literal head of the church, the “defender of the faith.”
Posh and Circumstance
A very posh, rich and powerful white, upper-class person heading the Church of England naturally gives the idea, whether meant or not, that the same class structure in the secular world exists in God’s world. So, the generally wealthy and affluent, according to the church, are seen as better in a spiritual sense than the poor, working-class and unemployed. More perniciously, and as a Christian I would truly say more dangerously, it appears also that God justifies such class hierarchy in the church, and makes it acceptable.
The queen of England is the literal head of the church, the “defender of the faith.”
The Church of England is part of a class system that keeps certain groups in control of wealth with better jobs and better educational opportunities, and so often a better and assured future. That system also plays a role in other people accepting second and third rate lives, low-paid crappy jobs that nobody really wants to spend their working lives doing, and less access to better life chances in general.
Challenging the Status Quo
As a faith that is supposed to be set apart, should the Church of England directly challenge the unjust and biased class system that benefits fewer and fewer people, giving tax breaks to those who literally do not need any more wealth and taking more from those who cannot give more? I don’t have any theological answers here, or know whether hierarchies in a wealthy organized church can really speak out against institutionalized social and economic divisions or the very serious economic, social, educational and health problems they can cause.
Some would say that it is just the way of the world, both the fatalist and the religionist, who either think you can’t or shouldn’t interfere or that God does not involve Himself with such trifling matters. But I believe implicitly that God specifically wants us to help people on a very personal level.
God also wants us to be honest in all our financial dealings. People should be paid fair wages. We should all pay the taxes that are due cheerfully and willingly and not seek in any way to avoid or evade any taxes that we are legally, and I believe morally, bound to pay. As a Christian, I believe that we must refuse to accept poverty for ourselves or others, and act in any way we can, prayerfully and always with regard to others.