Old Prophesy, New Times

At mass today I was struck by the Old Testament reading.

It’s a reading from the prophet Amos and was obviously written a long, long time ago. Despite the age of the passage I found it amazingly pertinent to the world today. In our period of austerity imposed by the Coalition government the poor have been badly hit and the rich seem to be prospering. This is obviously nothing new as Amos rails against those who cheat the poor.

 

I repeat the passage here.

 

Amos 8:4-6,9-12

Listen to this, you who trample on the needyand try to suppress the poor people of the country,you who say, ‘When will New Moon be overso that we can sell our corn,and Sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?

Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,by swindling and tampering with the scales,we can buy up the poor for money,and the needy for a pair of sandals,and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’

That day – it is the Lord who speaks –I will make the sun go down at noon,and darken the earth in broad daylight.

I am going to turn your feasts into funerals,all your singing into lamentation;I will have your loins all in sackcloth,your heads all shaved.

I will make it a mourning like the mourning for an only son,as long as it lasts it will be like a day of bitterness.

See what days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –days when I will bring famine on the country,a famine not of bread, a drought not of water,but of hearing the word of the Lord.

They will stagger from sea to sea,wander from north to east,seeking the word of the Lordand failing to find it.

 

I wonder how that would be received by our government today. They have recently prompted the idea of teaching our young people traditional values. Well traditional values would be old values and you don’t get many older than the Old Testament.

 

Do you think the Coalition might recognize themselves in the passage? Perhaps that’s just seeing it my way.

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Bedroom Tax and All That

Lord Mayors State Coach 1

Worried about the rent? (Photo credit: Gauis Caecilius)

 

I’ve been puzzling over the bedroom tax or whatever the government call it. They argue that it all about fairness. It’s only fair to withdraw the benefit money for the rooms the poor in social housing don’t need. That sounds fair. They could be living in  a smaller place that is cheaper and let a larger family move in to the bigger house. Very fair – if you don’t look any closer.

Nobody has produced figures to show where these smaller houses are and they haven’t show where the overcrowded families are either. The closer you look the hollower the argument becomes. Now I thought that a government with lots of civil servants to work these things out would have all the data to hand to explain their arguments. – They don’t, perhaps because they have paid off the civil servants, perhaps because they really don’t want to look to closely at the facts.

It seems to me that they are picking on the poor, putting them out of their homes or cutting their income – because the benefit bill has to be cut – because we are in a financial fix. Why are we in a fix? I think we are in a fix because the big bankers trousered large amounts of cash in bonuses for dodgy deals that collapsed eventually. The bulk of us have our incomes restricted or cut while the rich get more money.

That might sound like a good idea – especially if you are rich. For the economy it is bad news. Most of us – especially the poorest spend the money we get. It keeps the economy going. If we have less, we spend less and businesses fail – the economy goes down. So why hit the poor? Simple: the government are not poor and the poor can do little about it. The government can blame them for the fix we are in.

At Mass yesterday we had a reading from the prophet Amos. I’ll quote it here.

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country, you who say, “When will the New Moon be over so that we can sell our corn, and Sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?

Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel, by swindling and tampering with the scales we can buy up the poor for money, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob, “Never will I forget a single thing you have done.”

The word of the Lord.

Now Amos must have been some prophet, he could see these guys coming two thousand years before or is it just that nothing has changed over all that time? The Lord will not forget and neither should we.

Remember what is being done to the poor and remember who had a part in it. You will be faced with a choice in two years and you will be responsible for calling them to account.