Moralism and Child Poverty

Monday, July 4, 2022

Categories: Gospel and Culture

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Good Morning and Welcome to this week’s Gospel and Culture update, by Alan Vink
Moralism and Child Poverty

Monday 4th July 2022


POV. Looking back I grew up in a ‘moralistic’ Christian environment. So did most of my Christian friends who were attending Brethren, Salvation Army and Pentecostal churches. In this environment there were an awful lot of ‘Thou shalt nots’. Thou shalt not buy groceries or anything for that matter on Sundays, thou shalt not play sport on Sundays, thou shalt not dance, thou shalt not play certain card games, thou shalt not listen to rock and roll music (for fear of backward masking amongst other things), etc. If you are 50 or over and grew up in church you will remember those days.

My three siblings and I were quite fortunate compared to many. We grew up in a strong evangelical presbyterian church in down town Wellington, New Zealand where moralism existed all right but at a low level…..meaning there were not to many of these thou shalt nots and besides they were not that strictly enforced. We did dance, we did play cards and even put a few bucks on the table occasionally and we were allowed to hold hands at youth group. It seemed that both our parents and youth group leaders understood something about what has become known as ‘extra-biblical teaching’ and were at least trying to minimise its impact on us. Maybe they understood that the true Gospel was about a life changed by Jesus and not by a false Gospel of rule keeping.

Further and what I find fascinating is that there is a complete absence of moralistic teaching from Jesus. Please keep in mind he lived in an extremely sinful context, I mean really bad stuff was going down. So here’s my question. Did Jesus ever rail against the culture? Did he ever publicly criticise the law makers (politicians)? Did he ever act as if He was the moral policeman? No He did not.

Rather what we do know is that He hung out with prostitutes, fraudsters and drunkards. He showed them a better way. And not-yet-Christian people were attracted to Him and His teaching by the score.

Friends, I have been worried for a while about a new kind of moralism evident in evangelical circles in New Zealand. It seemed to be emboldened during the Trump era. Christian leaders getting up on their soap boxes and having a rant about the evils of our world. And now with social media we are bombarded by ‘cheap shots’ being fired across the bow. Sincerely, I just don’t think it will help our cause, not for a moment. All it does is reinforce the notion in the minds of most that we are morally superior. And most non-believers know that is simply not true. And then from moralism comes another attitude that really repels people to our message, namely, judgementalism.

Finally, I am ever so aware that my message here can be easily misunderstood. So to be clear I am not saying that as evangelicals we should hold strongly to some moral imperatives, not at all. We absolutely should. But it is how we express these moral beliefs and principles that really matters. We are not called to be the moral police in modern times.

Child (family) Poverty

Poverty is most often multi layered and multi-generational and it is heart breaking. Without enough money to get by families are crowding together to save on rent; without enough money for good food, children aren't getting the nutrition vital to a healthy immune system; without money for heating their houses they are cold and damp and the resulting mold harms their respiratory systems; without money for doctors’ visits for minor illnesses the minor becomes major because children are too often sick, cold and undernourished they don’t learn as well; without enough for the necessities of life these households are stricken with acute stress.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) there are now 150,000 children in NZ in extreme poverty.

POV. Right here is a ministry opportunity. If every local church in NZ signed up to become a member of the CPAG for $100.00 per year that would give this superb organisation a cash injection of about $300,000 every year and you would be part of movement that is seeking to create “An Aotearoa where all children flourish, free from poverty”. That would be a most excellent Christian response.

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