Faith that illuminates

Peter Kell

In the lead up to the state election I have been reminded of the hardness of our media to issues that affect the most vulnerable in society.

In a media landscape where ‘grabs’ and ‘speaking points’ are pieced together haphazardly to give the impression of analysis, I increasingly see the needs of the vulnerable being pushed to the edges of public debate.

It is ironic that as media makes information more available, it also has a disempowering effect by moving so quickly through issues. The ‘normal’ citizen has very little scope to engage with or digest issues, let alone back track to provide substantial comment.

This fast paced media culture also directs the character of political debate. For instance, on the issue of energy rebates we have witnessed bad policy promoted by both sides of politics for the sake of controlling the electoral cycle and quick media wins.

The proposed energy rebates are bad policy because they will do nothing to change energy usage or establish long term price controls. A carbon tax may even cancel out the rebates anyway. And in this mix, those on very low and fixed incomes will always pay the highest proportion of their income on energy bills.

Here are two other issues that you will probably never hear about but should feature prominently in the election:

• how NSW should work with the Commonwealth to better care for those with a disability and older parents looking after with a son or daughter with a disability, particularly in the context of a National Disability Insurance Scheme, and;

•  significant new investment in social and public housing to relieve pressure on low- income families struggling to pay private rents.

In one sense I’m not at all surprised by how hard it is to advocate for the vulnerable – apathy and disinterest have often been the biggest road blocks to serious social policy reform.

But Christians should not be characterised by such things – the quality and character of our speech and political commentary should illuminate new possibilities rather than pander to old clichés.

For me, in the face of callous media and social apathy it is completely insufficient to simply say I trust Jesus and then walk past the needs before me. I must do something in His name. James’ instruction that faith without deeds is dead alarms, if not frightens me at times. I ask, do I have a living faith? Am I loving others as Christ has loved me? For we will all be accountable for how we have lived the lives God gives us.

I long for Christ’s return, when there will be no more vulnerability. But until then I encourage you to pray fervently with me for Government and media to pay attention where it is needed and to make policies that will better care for the vulnerable. I also encourage you to advocate to politicians - you will find good information on election issues on our website that you can use in your letters and emails.

In the meantime, let us continue to ensure that Christians are known for their unrelenting love and practical care for those in our own communities who are less fortunate as a way of expressing the unmeasurable love and mercy shown to us through Jesus Christ.

Peter Kell is the CEO of Anglicare Sydney


Photo credit: alancleaver_2000