Thursday, July 04, 2024



Politicians like to say that archbishops (their shorthand for the Church) should stay out of politics. That is, they should not publicly criticise governments, or call society to account on matters of political debate. This is a nonsense, of course, both because in a democracy everyone should be encouraged to engage with politics, and also because the Church is inherently political, in the sense that God demands justice for the poor.

The readings set for Holy Communion on this General Election day are Amos 7.10-17 and Matthew 9.1-8.

Amos consistently spoke out against the indifferent exploitation of the poor by the wealthy in ancient Israel, warning that if they insisted on pursuing this trajectory it would end badly for them. Amaziah, an advisor to the king, who today we would call a politician, demands that Amos shut up and go home, attend to his own affairs. The Church ought to stay out of politics. Amos responds that, as Amaziah has committed himself to his life of casual exploitation, such a calamity would befall the wealthy of the land that his wife would be forced into prostitution, his sons and daughters die by the sword, his wealth be divided up, and he himself die in exile. It is important to note [1] that Amaziah’s wife and adult children were not innocent bystanders, collateral damage, but fully complicit in the exploitation of the poor, and [2] this was not God’s best will for them—God’s will was that they return to him and turn their back on injustice—but, rather, the inevitable eventual consequence of their conscious and deliberate choices.

In contrast, in our Gospel passage we meet a group of friends who are bringing a paralysed man to Jesus, as to one they hope will show compassion. Their action is inadequate—they are recycling either a dining mat (in this culture, people ate reclining on one side) or a funeral bier to carry the man—but it is the best they can do with what they have available to them. The first thing Jesus does is forgive their sins, or, address the shortfall between what they want to do and what they are able to achieve. Addressing their sense of inadequacy, which, left unaddressed, might paralyse them, too. When some bystanders object to this audacious grace, Jesus responds by healing the man, physically. By making up the full gap between what the friends can do and what they hope for.

When you cast your vote, cast your vote in the best interest of the most vulnerable person you know. Your action, and whatever is done by whoever forms the next government, will be inadequate. Ask Jesus to forgive—to send away, or write off debt—the inevitable shortfall, and trust that he chooses to do so.


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