As soon as I entered the Cheque Centre shop in Burscough Street yesterday afternoon, I realized this was not the kind of place Archbishop Justin would want me to patronize.
I now find out that in just five years this payday loan company has enjoyed sales of a £615.7million without paying any corporation tax. No wonder – their APR for short-term loans can be 1410%. They prey on the weak.
I won’t be going back.
There were two queues – and I took the one on the right, behind the gentleman who seemed to know what he was doing. (I was in a hurry). What he was doing was obtaining what appeared to be a large sum of holiday cash. Cheque Centre give the best exchange rates in Ormskirk – that’s why I was there, buying some Euros for our family holiday in Brittany.
On my left was an elderly lady (at least, she was older than me) trying to trade in some mobile phones with some awkwardness. I could see that they were clapped out-Nokias. She got nothing.
Two queues – in microcosm, two worlds.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people, or one in eight people in the world, suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Say that again, one in eight are starving.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation Worldwide estimates that obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. I would imagine things are no better five years later.
This is not simply injustice on a large scale, it is an affront to God himself.
I would be appalled and ashamed if some of my daughters lived in ostentatious prosperity while their sisters with their children were chronically undernourished.
Q – What do we do?
A – Do something.
As disciples of Jesus, we are not allowed to opt out, to be daunted by the huge odds, to be intimidated by the size of the task. For God’s sake, we refuse to accept things as they are.
Christians differ, of course, as to how to approach the problem – either radical change of the system or gradual reform from within. But what unites us, in the words of Ronald Sider, is the scandal of rich Christians in a age of hunger.
He writes: “God’s Word teaches a very hard, disturbing truth. Those who neglect the poor and the oppressed are really not God’s people at all—no matter how frequently they practice their religious rituals nor how orthodox are their creeds and confessions.”
So here in Ormskirk, we aim to serve the poor and the disadvantaged. Debt counselling, the food bank, even street pastors. And we endeavour, by our support of Christian workers, like the Leake’s (“Welcome back to Salta, Andrew”) and Christian agencies, to combat injustice. Often it seems that we are just chipping away.
It’s a start but we haven’t finished, by no means. Very simply, the love of Christ compels us to do no less.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Notices for the next two weeks attached.
Next blog – 30 August.
Must dash – a ferry to catch.