Just back from the Greenbelt Festival – we’ve had a great weekend. Family highlights include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the independence to be out and about around the site, Clare Balding, Simon Mayo and the Stories from People in the youth venue.
I thought mainstage was great this year, and enjoyed catching up with old friends. I signed a few petitions: Christian Aid’s challenge to end tax dodging, Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s call for the freedom to choose your own religion, and the Children’s Society’s demand for free school meals for all those in poverty in the UK.
I also enjoyed engaging with talks by Jim Wallis, calling for people of faith to build movements to “change the wind” in order to create the space for politicians to move and act for the common good. I’ve bought two books to be able to read more! It was also interesting to hear from Steve Chalke talking about how the church should get involved in building communities. He was advocating church involvement in education, health care and all sorts of other community and social activity, all exciting stuff. However, I was less excited by his analysis that we are entering a post-welfare society, and disturbed by the absence in his talk of any sense that the church should be involved in protesting or campaigning about this. As well as a practical role, the church has a prophetic role. We cannot sit by while community is contracted out to capitalism (as I said at the time!), but we need to ensure that we continue to live in a society where the most vulnerable are cared for, and our health and education provision is not subject to the whims of an array of providers or any kind of postcode lottery.
This feeling seemed to be echoed by several other listeners who came up and spoke to me afterwards. Greenbelt has, for as long as I can remember, been a voice for the voiceless. Whether we’re prophets or protesters, injustice cannot go unchallenged. Yes, absolutely, the church should help those in need, build community, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. But more than this, the church should challenge the structures that cause the injustice in the first place, or run the risk of collusion with the same.