The relentless fight for political freedom from the market, a missional response

At the height of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln gave and address at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 that contained these words. “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”  What we sometimes forget, is that this battle was directly related to the global market system of the time.  The battle in the USA was whether the State was there in the vision of the founding mothers and fathers of the nation to be centred on human freedom, or like many other nations, end up just another expression of an oppressive feudal state where the uber rich oppress the many.  The battle at the heart of this civil war was for the right to enslave human beings as the cheapest form of labour in the growing of global commodities of the time.  Lincoln won the battle, but I do not think he won the war.  Looking back at the USA now in 2020, I think we can clearly see that the market won and civil rights has never been fully delivered in one of the most divided and unequal societies in the world.

What exists now in the USA and now in the UK is economic slavery, maintaining cheap labour with reduced employment and terrible wages.  The Global Market won, and democracy and equality lost out.  We are now all commodified and where human dignity is now in decline.  You could argue that actually there has been a constant state of battle in the Western World ever since the Black death in 1346, when the feudal system and oppressive market society collapsed in the pandemic, as there were too few workers, so that wages and freedoms had to rise to ensure crops and industry were sustained. It was purely economics that drove this social change, and that since then there has been a battle between a society of justice and fairness v a market feudal oppressive system culminating in our current society.  Until recently you could argue the market had won, but now in another global pandemic, will this give us an opportunity again to diminish the power and relentless scourge of the market society? Or will it actually make a more feudalist system more likely to be reimposed? How does the church respond?

We remember that Jesus’ entire ministry happened in the context of the oppression of the Jewish people under the super power of the time, and that included the imposition of an international market system at the time.  It has always been a personal bafflement to me why Jesus did not call out this oppression at the time, other than Jesus being clear about money about fairness and money being of this world in Caesars name. The only hint of challenge to this, are the words of Jesus before Pilate after he had been flogged where he says “I am not of this world’.  Chad Myers helpfully reminds us that the greek here for ‘world’ here is ‘Kosmos’ the same as ‘domination system’.  With this in mind, Jesus is calling out the Roman Empire as a militaristic market society as a domination system and so we Christians, holding onto our understanding of Jesus ‘now but not fully yet’ Kingdom in the context of having to live in a domination system, but not of a domination system,

I want to point out at this point, I am not being an extreme Socialist or Communist, this is the stories of the Gospels and and Letters of the Apostles, and my thought has always been that more conservatively inclined Christians really need to get back the Gospel narrative, as you will be in for a shock!

So how do Christians react to the reality that our market society continues to oppression and now leads to destruction with global warming and ecocide.  Mission has to start with economic, ecological and social justice.  These are the heart of the Judaeo-Christian understandings of stewardship, jubilee and the Kingdom.  We can not idly sit by and see successive governments just continue to oppress people.  What will it take for Christians in the UK to stand up to the oppression of the market and the invisible power of the super-rich as Jesus sides with the unbearably poor?  What will it take to seek a Government that prevents the excesses of the market system by what used to be called a mixed economy?  What will it take for this to be seen by the church to be a missional priority?  It is not just about evangelism , fresh expressions and new ecclesial communities.  like Jesus turned over the market stalls in the temple for causing de-sacralisation, so we as Christians should be challenging and turning over the market stalls threatening the wellbeing of people and the continued existence of our planet.  It is high time that the Christian Church rediscovered it’s calling and historic roots. Now in this pandemic, can we face this calling to prophetic witness and prophetic living.

Could the 16 year old me survive today?

I wept this morning. I cried for young people who have been have been vicitimised, marginalised and oppressed by the governments response to the recession of cutting services, I cried with the young people who will continue to be the ones who suffer most as we enter economic recovery which the government wants to promote with further cuts. The latest government proposals on young people, demonstrate a society that has lost its way, a society of selfishness, greed and power.

I wept this morning as friends responded to my post on facebook about my own situation as a NEET (not in employment, education or training) 16 year old. I left home, not willingly, not out of choice but out of necessity after my father who had been sober for 5 years started to drink again. My sister helped, the state helped, I was not stigmatized, I had time to get my head together, I had time to start to find out who I really was, out of the shadow of my father, I survived, I flourished. As I write the tears start again for the young people I met this week on the streets who do not have the same opportunity I had, I see them in my minds eye and I am simply distraught at what the future holds if current government plans continue.

Out of the shadows of my childhood, I began to explore my vocation, and pathway into youthwork. Unsurprisingly I left school with no O’levels but at 17 I was accepted to do a further education City and Guilds course in Leisure and Recreation. A course I started late because it took a while to see if I could get a grant and benefit to live and study. I moved onto to do Social Care and an A level, with a student grant and working nights in a printers and the fabulous support of my sisters family who let me live in the caravan in the garden, I began to mature and come to terms with who I was. At 19 I thought I was ready, but quickly realized I needed to go to Uni if I was going to do the youth work stuff properly, and that meant I needed more grant support. At that time automatic vocational grants (the first to go) had been cut and I remember sitting around an appeals table in County Hall in Exeter explaining my case to a panel of 15 adults, and making a simple promise to come back to the county for at least a year once graduated to help other young people.

Two years later, JNC youthwork qualification in hand, I returned to my sisters garden to live in her shed (the caravan was rusted away) and make good the promise I made in County Hall. At 21 I established my first detached youth work project in Devon, I worked part time and received housing benefit that helped make ends meet. I remember the young people I worked with 23 years ago, I remember them coming to the shed (my house) to plan how to establish a youth centre for the area, I recall the youth centre that was built on the basis of these proposals, and I still hear occasional stories from my sister about the work in the town. For those of you who know me, you will be familiar with the rest of my story, my long history with Frontier Youth Trust. My first paid post working and living on a difficult estate in the Midlands as part of YFC,(which incidentally encouraged my dad to shake my hand before I left Devon as he thought I had a proper job!) It was on this estate where I met real need first hand in my neighbors and began to learn what it means to be real community from them. Leaving to work for Worth Unlimited, with a job brief to make it work or close it down, but who now do an amazing job under a great CEO in Tim Evans in so many difficult areas across the country. Then more recently into StreetSpace who now meet over 8000 young people a month on the edge a month. I recall these stories, not to say look at me but to simply ask would the 16 year old me survive today. Asking this simple question causes the tears to return again as I know the answer would be no. Tears of gratefulness to my sister’s family and to the state without who I would not have survived. So the tears of thanks turn to a weeping that flows freely for the 1000s of young people I still hear about as youth worker, who share elements of my story, or far worse circumstances, growing up in a society that has lost its way…

Uneven Cuts

Hope has sustained me, but as I look at the situation in our country and how uneven, unfair and unjust a situation we find ourselves in, my hope is waning. The reports coming out from organistions such as the highly respected Joseph Rowntree Trust, or the National Council for Voluntary Youth services show how the poorest and most marginalised are bearing the brunt of the cuts. The wholesale dismantling of the youth service at a time of highest youth unemployment is one of the stupidest and shortsighted practices of the last 100 years. Usually the optimist in me would see the idea of the Big Society as an opportunity but already I see that again that it will be the most marginalised that will be most affected. It is already becoming clear that the investment needed to resource work with hardest to reach young people will simply not manifest itself, either in terms of people, skills, or money, as the voices of a powerful few sweep up the crumbs of what money is left, or baton down the hatches and become even more insular, to weather out the storm, and unfortunately this is a pattern I see both in the church and the local authority.
Occupy offered me hope, and as the leader of StreetSpace which has to be one of the fastest growing youth work agenicies my hope is still an ember, but I have to remind myself and challenge to church to recognise the inequality of the cuts, the simple injustice, that the poorest communities and young people are not to blame to for the situation we find ourselves in… so here is my reminder……

credit crunch, the resurection and change

One observation I have on the current situation with the banking system and governments propping up of credit etc, is how anti the ethos of the market economy it is. For years after the fall of the Berlin wall and demise of eastern european communism the free market was heralded as the way ahead. The collapse of one overarching system was trumpeted as the vindication for the market economy. People started to look to the free market, free trade as the way ahead for social ills, and the way out for global poverty and oppression. Introducing competive trade would help the world move on.

Now we see the collapse of this meta narrative. Those who extolled the market dont really practice what they preach. In the real market economy/free economy they would just let the banks that couldn’t survive go to the wall. Sure this would affect millions of individuals but why not aline your actions and follow your beliefs.

Maybe they never really belived in the market system, but it was just a convient excuse for making money and keeping the poor, poor, the rich, rich and the powerful, powerful! Maybe propping up the system has nothing to do with the millions of individuals but simply heads off the real change that comes though dying so something new and different can grow. It certainly seems the current process will keep the rich, rich, the powerful powerful and just make the poor poorer.

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What is Good?

In the discussion about Christian’s wielding power over others through the means of democratic government, the question comes up of what is good.

The crux of the question is: Is forcing people to behave in a particular way, so that people’s lives are easier, more comfortable, ‘nicer’, etc., “good”?

I can see that for most people a “good” thing is something that makes life ‘better’ for people. On the other hand we see that ultimately ‘good’ is having a relationship with God, which makes ‘evil’ the state of not having a relationship with God. ‘Good acts’ are therefore the things that we do that come out of our relationship with God and ‘evil acts’ are those things that we do separate from God’s influence. These two views of what ‘good’ is are virtually opposed to each other – the first claiming that good is independent of God, the second that it is dependent on God.

There is nothing wrong with having a subjective definition of ‘good’, it’s quite useful to be able to say “hey that’s good”. However, if we are trying to do good and we believe in God then the idea that we can do good apart from God is actually rather a distraction and can take us away from the good that God wants us to do. In fact, we can end up behaving in ways that oppose God in order to do what we feel is good. Take the simple statement “love your enemy” – we can suddenly turn that on it’s head if we believe that we can do ‘good’ by killing our enemy and stopping them doing the evil things that they were going to do. 🙁 (as if somehow ‘good’ can fill the gap left by the evil things that weren’t committed by our enemy)

This relates to my previous post ‘Freedom The Four Feathers on dvd

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Adaptation. divx Alive or Dead full ‘, where I ponder whether freedom is a prerequisite for good and whether anything that is forced cannot be good.


It seems to me that God created us with the intention that we have freedom. Before the fall Adam and Eve were entirely free, free to do whatever they wanted – note that they only wanted to do good stuff.

When I think about Jesus’ approach to things, the same seems true – he appears to only give us freedoms. He hasn’t tried to override our free choice – he wants us to freely choose to accept His ways. He challenges us but he doesn’t seem to have made (forced) anyone to do anything. When we do what He wants it seems to me that we do it because part of us wants to do it. Our motive is inside us and the outcome is the good that we do because of that good motive inside of us.

So perhaps we shouldn’t force others to do anything? Obviously the Crusades come to mind, but also other types of politics. Should we force people to pay taxes for good causes by using our power to vote in government elections? Sure, the result may appear to be good, but isn’t there a problem with us impinging on people’s freedoms, and claiming to be acting on behalf of Jesus?Scrooge dvdrip Ben move Thunder on the Hill rip

Synecdoche, New York full

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Criticism of Involvement in Government


I’m just posting this to add to the archives on the topic ‘Government’ which I (Mark) haven’t added to recently.
Found this great criticism of the activities of Jim Wallis (of

One note I want to add is that his criticism of ‘the social gospel’ is specifically a criticism of social works via government. He doesn’t appear to criticise doing socially good things personally (oneself).

Slipping through the net

Through the detached youth work we have been in touch recently with a couple of young people who left school to work, as quite lively Afro Samurai: Resurrection move young people they held down the job for a while or were one of the first to loose their job when the factory made cutbacks. These were always the type of young people who are always going to pursue work rather than training, or college, and possibly the most likley to struggle in the workplace. The issue is – if they were in training or college and left there would be a natural process for connexions to pick them up but for those in work there is no system, and I would argue that it may be these young people that are more in need of tracking. It took me five people and two phone calls of 20 minutes to find the right connexions advisor to put them in touch with, but if the yp dont visit, they will not be picked up unless they start trying to claim a benefit, (which at least one is adament he wont do) Talking to the advisor to question how they would get supported or if connexions would know if they lost lost their job the simple matter was they wouldnt, for at least a year till the next check up point. Talk about a big gap in the net for young people.