Dr John Smith

Talk of a 'benefits culture' is too simplistic, says Dr John

Talk of a 'benefits culture' is too simplistic, says Dr John

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I have been thinking about my next sermon. It is based on a passage in the New Testament where Jesus asks Saul, “Why do you persecute me?”

Persecute is an unpleasant-sounding word and so is its meaning.

We persecute when we oppress or harass people because of their race, political or religious beliefs. Some people would say that is what is happening now, difficult times become dangerous times and we are beginning to look for scapegoats who are making things worse.

In other words we look outside ourselves and blame others – politicians, immigrants and bankers, for example. But the word I hear more and more is “benefits”.

If you happen to be receiving benefits you are the problem, without you all would be well. So do not become chronically disabled.

Do not work full-time but for a low wage, and if you do, do not have children because you cannot afford them.

Do not have life limiting disease. Do not have terminal disease. Do not have schizophrenia; do not have a learning disability. Do not because you are the problem.

How sad this all is. How dare we persecute the poorest and the weakest?

There are benefit cheats, but they are a small minority, just as are the tax dodgers at the other end of the spectrum.

It is too simplistic to say we are either strivers or shirkers.

We can’t all become managers and directors; most of us do our best and do not get paid very much for it.

Most of us do not aim to do as little as possible for as much as possible.

What sort of society have we become when we are so suspicious of each other, when we blame rather than care, when we love less rather than love more?

I have been thinking about my next sermon. Jesus said: “Love one another just as I have loved you.”

This is not a bad way to start, and it is not a bad place to finish either.