In our part of the world education, democratic rights, careers and work, opportunity and equal pay seem to be open to everyone, but we know it is an illusion: privilege is everywhere – private education, old-boy networks, favouritism, etc. Before the Education Act of 1944 there was no opportunity for secondary education except for those who could pay for it. Wonderfully talented people left elementary school at fourteen, many avenues of work and career blocked. Even after 1944 the 11+ exam “creamed” the brightest for secondary education and left the others for the world of work and many with a sense of failure . . . . at eleven.
Comprehensive education was an improvement, with parents still free to choose private – but how hard to hear that some who preached comprehensive education politically but paid privately for their children’s education.
University was open to the wealthy and to the relatively few who were given grants and there were few places for women – but what advances we have seen in the late 20th and 21st centuries. Wonderful! Now there are more women in higher education than there are men.
Come to the coal mining areas, and other labour-intensive parts of our country, and remember the horrifying working conditions for many of our people – including women and children working down the mines. We understand the longing of parents for their children to have opportunities denied to them. Such sadness, injustice, desperation.
Democracy is a gift but it should be a right. Where in our world do you see true democracy? We see powerful, controlling, totalitarian systems that favour those who have privilege and power and are slow to share it. For example, in the West, we are buying our way out of Covid-19 but watching its ever-strengthening grip on the broken, poor and corrupt nations that followed the collapse of 20th century empire in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Africa, South America.
We long for world justice in work (not slave conditions), health, income, freedom, justice, education, opportunity. Do you think that the world will be as fortunate in 2121 as we are now in Britain in 2021?
Imagine the world as the poem opening the Bible imagines: God seeing all was good, the equality of woman and man, asking them and their children to care for this beautiful world. Do you pray for Kosovo, Somalia, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Venezuela, the Ukraine, Hong Kong, Tiawan, refugees and exiles? Please say yes. Does our world break your heart, its treatment of women – forced marriages and relationships, inferior positions – break your heart? Say yes.
The Faiths seem to have little voice – what can bastions of male privilege say? Good men here and there, of course, but when did they inspire the world to democracy, freedom from slavery, women’s rights? Only when good men, already inspired by God in the world, hear the call to serve and bring their experience of equality and justice, into religion and Faiths. They bring the new understanding, they do not find it in religion. Male arrogance, parading itself as the chosen, melts under the just questioning of new understanding. The Church is the people of God in God’s world. God seems to first inspire the visions of justice outside religion – democracy, equality, women’s rights, education, opposing and abolishing slavery, etc. World and Faith are God’s calls.
God bless our world and our faith,
(9th May 2021)