A Spoke in the Wheel of Injustice


The relationship between civil society politics and religion is an ambivalent one. On the one hand politicians can warn faith leaders to ‘stick to saving souls’ or to confine themselves to statements about personal morality, particularly when they are critical of government social policy. We saw an example of this in 2013 and 2014 when Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke passionately about the vicious return of poverty in the UK since the 2008-9 financial crash. Welby criticised the UK government’s social policy in strong and clear terms. On the other hand successive UK Prime Ministers from Tony Blair onwards have recognised the enduring social capital possed by faith groups, especially in socially excluded communities, and sought to draw on this in relation to social cohesion and social inclusion policy agendas.

Last May I wrote an article entitled ‘A Spoke in the Wheel of Injustice’ for the online journal and forum ‘Public Spirit’ in which I ask what role faith groups should play in the face of institutional injustice and endemic inequality. What happens when ‘the common good’ is jusy not good enough? Given the result of the May 2015 UK General Election these issues are beginning to raise their head again. With this in mind I thought the article might offer some resources for reflection in this new political era. Have a read of the article by clicking on the link and see what you think….


Language Matters


Sometimes we can become overly obsessed with the language we use, seeing implications where none may exist. However the words we use often matter because they, albeit unconsciously, reflect the way we think. The word ‘untouchable’ favoured by Mahatmas Gandhi [ a high caste Indian] has rightly been displaced by the word ‘dalit’. The awful phrase ‘half-caste’ by ‘mixed race’ and finally [thank goodness] ‘dual heritage’ to speak of people who have one black and one white parent. Words can empower but they can also rob people of their agency – turning them into objects rather than subjects. The phrase ‘the poor’ is a case in point. 

In this blog post by Karin Kamp from the USA the minefield of the language we use when dicussing poverty is explored…..

‘This week, the Center for Community Change (CCC) released new research that details the way low-income Americans think and talk about living on the edge. It found that the language being used by policymakers and others to describe them is turning off the very people it is supposed to help…….’

Carry on reading….

Poverty – The New Violence

In recent years levels of poverty not seen since the Great Depression have returned to the UK. Poverty has increasingly become a new defining issue in urban political theologies. Are faith groups called to be pragmatic conduits of the common good – sites of social capital capable of fostering well being in the big society without raising too many awakward questions of government? Alternatively, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it are people of faith called to ram a ‘spoke in the wheel of injustice’? In my recent article for ‘Public Spirit’ I argue that consensual community engagement is not enough in an inherently unequal and unjust society – If God is ‘biased to the oppressed’ then theology becomes a motor for progressive social change and theologians public/political intellectuals.

The African-American activist philsopher Cornel West exemplifies this perspective better than most as the video below reveals. What challenges does West lay at the feet of academics, theologians, people of faith in the UK?