Messages of Hope

Build back better

Published / by Sandy

In responding to the COVID19 pandemic, governments all around the world did things that previously they had resisted doing. Support for people who were no longer in paid employment was doubled. Homeless people were provided hotel accommodation, to protect them and the broader community from the spread of the virus. Child care services were provided without charging families a fee for them.

The COVID-19 crisis still has a while to run yet. Many developing countries will be very vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 due to their more limited health care systems.

The question we face as a community is, do we need to return to the way things were before the COVID-19 crisis, or can we build back to something better?

On May 15th, the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the Council of World Mission issued a joint statement about the world we seek to build as we move to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. They stated:
Even as capitalism supplants the impulses to love, care, and share with the urge to compete, the crisis has seen communities all over the world mobilizing deep reserves of compassion, kindness, and generosity, particularly where markets have failed. This underscores the potential of an economy based on care of the most vulnerable, each other and the earth‘.

The church bodies called on all of us to be nurturing communities:
Loving, caring, and connectedness are key elements for resilience in the face of Covid-19. Physical distancing has needed to be counterbalanced by familial and social solidarity. As we nurture community, it is possible that new models and values for our economies could flourish rooted not in competition but in care for each other and the earth; that new conceptions of family beyond the restrictions of patriarchy and kinship relations and led by the visions of the most vulnerable would form the foundation of our communities; that borders would fall, racism be dismantled and xenophobia be replaced by radical hospitality’.

They called on churches and church members to play a prophetic role at this time, seeking to transform systems:
Covid-19 is overshadowing many with fear, overturning their security and even undermining their faith. In this moment of crisis, we need a liberative theology coupled with a redemptive economy. The human causes and systemic roots of this pandemic point to the exigency of systemic change if we are to be converted by the revelation Covid-19 is offering us, even as, like some latter day Shepherd David, it brings some of those giant systems to their knees. We must build back better, to ensure an Economy of Life that is founded on justice and dignity for all.
This is a prophetic moment. As churches we can see here a path towards the new creation. This struggle could bear the fruit of the earth’s redemption from wanton exploitation. This is eschatological hope rooted not in the end of days, but in the fall of sinful systems. All shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51) if the truth is told, the old idolatries of empire and economy cast down, and the care of the Creator reflected in a creation not exploited endlessly but blessed deeply’.

This is a bold and loving vision. We may be sidetracked by the bleak path that screams at us from the media. We may be immobilised by our anger and disbelief at greed and corruption. This gloomy future would involve governments slashing services and reducing taxes, with voices in the media owned and controlled by billionaires already making such calls. Like excluding environmental groups from the Australian budget lock up, where is is expected that details of the Coalition’s plan for job creation will be revealed, including an expansion of gas extraction and fast-tracking of project approvals. Like reducing the top-up payment by $300 to welfare recipients in September, which will leave 2 in 5 people living on less than $14 a day after paying their rent (Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) report). Four in five people living on pandemic-boosted welfare payments will be forced to skip meals if the coronavirus supplement is reduced. Almost half of recipients will also have to ration their medicines. Meanwhile many Executives have pocketed millions from JobKeeper payments. Unbelievable corruption and waste while so many people are in dire situations.

We must resist the bleak vision and put forward the prophetic vision that reflects God’s love for all humanity and for the planet. Let us all play our part.