Thought for the Month (May 2012)

Dear Friends,

For many, May is one of the most glorious months of the year. The scenic countryside of South West Kent, the buds springing to bright green leaves on Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons, and the parks, as well as large and tiny gardens crammed full of flowers, all remind us of the new life that the message of Eastertide continues to bring. But the month of May also brings us elections of one kind or another, and our politicians will be busy desecrating our countryside by flyposting.

It was Geoffrey Fisher (a former Archbishop of Canterbury) who said of the Government of his day, "we have evil men in high places". But it was in excess of a century earlier than this that the young Queen Victoria was so shocked that her leading politicians had such scant regard for those in poverty. Before my readers feel I am "interfering in politics", some may suggest that we may be where we are, because so many of our faith leaders remain silent. Moses made it clear in the Pentateuch that Jews were to care for their poor. Jesus throughout his ministry showed Christians an example of how to be alongside the dispossessed and disenfranchised. The prophet Mohammed taught that Muslims who ignore the poor would stand condemned. And yet, for the last thirty years or more, all too many Jews, Christians and Muslims have ignored the teachings of those they claim to follow when entering the Polling Station. And so the rich have become very much richer, and the poor poorer still.

Tribute must be paid to all those churches who are working hard to try to assist the poor of Tunbridge Wells. But if we as twenty first century Christians are to learn from our Old Testament (the Jewish and Jesus' Bible) we have to learn the lessons of corporate responsibility. Instead of laying the blame solely on Government for the countless deaths of old people each winter from hypothermia, and children going to bed each evening cold and hungry, we need to think about the apparent inability of the faith communities to elect people whose own faith is in accord with the teachings of Moses and Jesus.

Can we learn from the experiences of those we meet at Crisis Recovery, Debt Advice, or the Winter Shelter? If we have voted for the same political party for years, and we re-enforce that belief by reading the kind of newspaper which supports them, should we not look at the record of other parties? Do we have the time to write to our local candidates, and ask them what they and their Party are doing to eradicate poverty? Will we pray for guidance to prepare for the Election? I always set aside some time to prepare a Sermon, or to prepare to go to one of Karen Street's Bible Studies on the Psalms both in terms of prayer, reading and study! If I do that for something I know fairly well, is it not equally important that I prepare in terms of prayer, extensive reading and study, before casting my vote?

With every good wish,

(Rev) Michael Dent

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church