Friday, 1 February 2013

On the evils of food banks...

I am involved in setting up a local Food Bank. It's a great project...

  • Churches are working together that hitherto have not even spoken to each other.
  • Ministers who might sometimes be preoccupied with more introspective tasks are giving time and energy to something that meets a genuine need in their wider local communities.
  • Volunteers are putting up their hands enthusiastically to get involved.
  • Congregation members are already keen to buy a bit more food in their weekly shop, to bring to church to donate to the food bank.
  • 'Secular' partners locally think we're doing 'a good thing' - and consequently seem more inclined to think 'we' might be 'a good thing' too.
  • We face, ahead of us, a golden opportunity to work alongside, and to be alongside, neighbours whom we know but have had little contact with, and strangers who might, in the process, become friends.
  • And best of all, we feel good. We're 'plugging a gap', 'coming to the rescue'. We, the old archaic, strange old Christian church are doing something useful.

All of these, in one way or another, are good things. But they also have the seeds of unspeakable evil. The fact that, on the surface, and even a little underneath, this looks and feels like 'a good thing'; the fact that good things will inevitably come out of it - these can, if we're not careful, seduce us into thinking we are invested in an enterprise of the highest good.

But we are not. We are responding to the callous dismantling by a powerful and detached government, of the 'social contract' that preserves an element of compassion within the mechanics of the state, and that ensures that the most vulnerable in our society do not slip through the net. We are concealing what is going on. We are sticking plasters over great fissures opening up in our society. We are slipping the ultimately disempowering practice of 'charity' into chasms that, ultimately, only justice, truth and reconciliation can bridge.

I will keep working with my sisters and brothers on the developing food bank here, because I do not want to participate in the sin of passively watching my neighbours going hungry. But I refuse to participate in the even greater sin of celebrating the 'opportunity' of colluding with an evil, socially destructive government, either by silence, or in words of mis-placed hope.


  1. Sad, but true. Whilst happy to volunteer at our local food bank myself, I also look for opportunities to support campaigns for adequate government provision. I believe most people involved with food banks do the same.

  2. Absolutely! I'm becoming daily more angry at what is happening in our country. I'm trying to work out the best way to voice a protest in a way that will be heard by those who are in power.

    1. Why do people think those in power "don't hear" for they know exactly what is happening and why .

  3. how can I followthis blog without creating agooglemail account or any other kind of account? it won't accept my ordinary email address.

  4. justice and mercy are two chambers of a healthy heart. But so often we just do the mercy bit - and even then by proxy - so that our hearts are out of rhythm and lack true compassion.

  5. Church Action On Poverty, not to be confused with Christians Against Poverty, campaigns on these issues.

  6. Foodbanks, a North American import you can definitely do without. Never thought I would see foodbanks in the UK. I lived the first half of my life on the North American continent, Canada, which is a relatively liberal and kind country, with many social benefits based on European models. I would have great difficulty settling into a North American lifestyle again. Driving back from Leeds this afternoon, taking No. 2 son back to university, my 13 year old daughter pipes up, "I want to live in America! It looks so fun and glamourous!" I am thinking to myself "Why?" Does not pass my civilised governance test, not a place I would choose to live, not at all."