Does religion do any good?

Good morning everyone

How does Christianity serve the community?

It’s a question many of us in faith groups across Bristol are trying to answer at the moment.

A campaigning group have asked us to fill in a questionnaire on what we’ve done for our communities over the last year. They plan to give the results from across the UK to whatever government is formed after the General Election.

There is a good story to tell. Christians have stood up to the challenges of the recession. Last year, more than twenty thousand Bristolians used food banks set up by Christian organisations like the Trussel Trust, the Matthew Tree Project and the Salvation Army.

I admire how the Salvation Army put their faith into action. Not just in relation to food poverty but also in drawing attention to – and combatting – major social problems like human trafficking.

And I think this highlights another important service done by Christians. Setting moral benchmarks.

Take the example of the Anglican Bishops last Tuesday. They issued a pastoral letter on the 2015 General Election, urging Christians to consider:

‘How we can build the kind of society which many people say they want but which is not yet being expressed in the vision of any of the parties’.

They point to the problems of loneliness in society and dare to question the need for a nuclear deterrent.

There’s been criticism of this from some quarters – mainly the right wing press. But I’d defend the Bishops for the stand they’ve taken. A big part of religion is about telling right from wrong. It seems to me that drawing attention to problems that should be addressed by Government is one of the main Christian responsibilities. And one of the most important services we can give to the community.

Postscript

I was genuinely impressed with the Bishops’ letter, although I do think that Quakers in Britain’s General election 2015: a guide for Quakers is clearer and more hard hitting. You can find out more about it here.

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