A place of belonging in community

This Sunday, the Gospel reading (Mark 1:29-39) includes an account of the healing of a woman struck down with fever. In the biblical world, as in our contemporary world, illness and disability bore a heavy social cost: not only would a person be unable to earn a living but their ability to take their proper role in the community would be taken from them. In his healing ministry, Jesus’ actions serve to restore people to community, and enables a return to a ‘vocation’.

The 2013 Productivity Commission of the Australian Government identified that people with long-term health conditions are one of the groups most likely to experience deep and persistent disadvantage (Ch 3). Equally, disadvantage can lead to poor health. The evidence shows a positive relationship between socio-economic status and one’s health. Australians living in more disadvantaged areas experience much higher rates of chronic disease and mental health problems. Disadvantage, disease and mental health problems go hand in hand. A study undertaken by NATSEM found that ‘household income, level of education, household employment, housing tenure and social connectedness matter when it comes to health’. 

Some of the findings included:
• those who are most socio-economically disadvantaged are twice as likely as those who are least disadvantaged to have a long-term health condition;
around 45%-65 % of Australians living in public rental accommodation have long-term health problems compared to 15-35% of homeowners.

Midnight Oil put it so well, ‘the rich get richer and the poor get the picture’. 



The onset of poor health and disability can happen to anyone, regardless of education, employment or wealth. And the onset of poor health, an accident or illness resulting in disability, or the birth of a child with a disability, can be a trigger event for disadvantage. The absence of good health can affect many aspects of an individual’s life. As the OECD (2011b) said: Being healthy is one of the most valued aspects of people’s lives, and one that affects the probability of having a job, earning an adequate income, and actively participating in a range of valued social activities. (p.
103).

The Commission’s report on Disability Care and Support found that people with disabilities and their carers, as a group, are among the most disadvantaged in Australia (PC 2011c). Disadvantage for this group manifests itself through poor financial status and social isolation, as well as lower personal wellbeing. In 2010, 42% of people in households receiving the Disability Support Pension were estimated to be living in income poverty (ACOSS 2012).

Last Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivered a landmark speech on ‘The Good Economy’. As a former business executive who worked in the oil industry for more than a decade, he speaks with particular authority on economic issues. The ‘Good Economy’ is one that is based on the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity requires economic decisions that directly enhance the creativity and well-being of human beings. This contrasts with policies which are unashamedly pro-business with the claim that they will create more jobs and everybody will benefit in the long run – the ‘drip down’ principle.

He acknowledges that market capitalism is an ‘extraordinarily efficient’ means of wealth distribution and liberator of human creativity, and that the alternatives ‘have always led to inhumanity or even tyranny’. But he explains that it too easily accommodates human greed and needs to be reconciled with social justice.

The Archbishop says there is ‘a possibility, a great potential, for wealth to act as life-giving water, spreading through all the channels of our economy’, but wealth needs to go hand in hand with a narrative of gratuity, solidarity and subsidiarity that is ‘creative, generous, imaginative, responsible and communal’.

In our contemporary context, how might Welby’s call to a “narrative of gratuity, solidarity and subsidiarity that is ‘creative, generous, imaginative, responsible and communal’” be fleshed out, so that all may flourish and find a place of belonging in community?

References:

“Building the Common Good” is a chapter in the book, On Rock or Sand?, edited by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia, a report by the Australian Government Productivity Commission, July 2013 (especially P.136 of report onwards)

NATSEM, Brown and Nepal 2010, p.vii

Michael Mullins on Eureka Street

Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech, The Good Economy

Sarah Henrich, Working Preacher

posted 06 Feb 2015 by Sandy