“Jesus saves – Even in a recession” declares an evangelical Christian poster.
It doesn’t seem much more reverential than the graffiti in the 1970s, “Jesus saves – but Dalglish gets the rebound” (Dalglish being a striker for Liverpool Football Club, who were then European champions).
Intended to emphasize the timeless quality of the Christian message, its attempt at humour is probably not going to be of much comfort to someone who has just lost their job or their house. A smiling preacher attempting witticisms is not much use to someone who can no longer pay their mortgage and has to tell their children that they must leave their home and their school and their friends and try to start a new life elsewhere with little money and little hope of things improving.
Whilst acknowledging the unchanging nature of the Gospel, a certain cynicism suggests that while Jesus may not save much cash in a recession, there is plenty of scope for some of his employees to do so.
Walking around the supermarket with its avalanche of special offers and price reductions, the thought occurred that having a secure home and an income that, although modest, was as secure as the house, was a considerably better position than that of most people in the community: Clergy save – especially in a recession. When one has cash in one’s pocket it is tempting to delight at all the price cuts without asking too many questions as to how those price cuts have arisen.
Perhaps it is the lack of exposure to the cold realities of the economy that prompts the silence about the recession in clerical quarters. Checking church news stories, there are statements about Gaza and lots of clerical news. But what about the nationalisation of banks, the wholesale loss of jobs, the sharp increases in indebtedness, the economic cul de sac that is being faced? Not a whisper.
Back in the 1930s, there was a political poster depicting four men at different heights on a ladder. The man at the top was sumptuously dressed; the man at the bottom had poor clothes. The man at the top was telling those below him that for the sake of the nation, everyone would have to step down one rung. The ladder was standing in water and one step down would put the man at the bottom, who was already submerged up to his neck, below the surface.
One wonders where the average bishop or parochial cleric would have stood on that ladder, and where Jesus, had he been around in the ’30s might have stood.
If church leaders begin to use such words as “restraint” and “sacrifice” and the “national interest”, while living in safe houses on secure incomes, the cynicism will be confirmed.