Examining the social responsibility of the church

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The terms “social justice” and “social change” are used quite frequently by institutions that are supposed to be change agents. To what extent these institutions achieve social justice and promote positive social change is debatable and may even be questionable. The purpose of this letter is to raise the issue of the relevance of the church in the community in light of the growing societal plight.

This is a time when people are literally eking out an existence. Around this time many people are fighting to put food on the table. This novel coronavirus has brought about necessary constraints for us to simply stay alive. It has also brought in its wake a loss of jobs and as a consequence, loss of earnings for many, many people. Governments all over the world are making arrangements to provide social relief to those most affected. The church, of necessity, will have a role to play in this scenario.

The church should be socially involved. The church must be socially involved through practising prophetic criticism, offering a goal and a model for social reformation and by leading practical action. It is sinful when the church is aware of social injustice but refuses to exert efforts for change. This is the sin of silence against unrighteousness and complicity with wickedness. The best way for the church to avoid this sin is to audibly criticise and visibly fight against social injustice.

We may not have always agreed with all of the views of the late Mr Satnaryan Maharaj, notwithstanding, he is to be admired, for he certainly functions as a strong voice for positive social change and against social injustice albeit for his representative body. The church, however, is called to be a distinctive form of life in the world. The church does not exist for its own sake, but for the sake of the world. Churchgoers expect that their life problems can be addressed in some form or fashion.

Church is more than just entertainment, having large numbers of people attending services or hearing messages of empowerment from the pulpit that makes one feel good. Church is a unique place that should instil change in people’s lives. People need to have, not only their spiritual needs met, but their emotional and physical needs as well.

I was in total agreement with the statement of the Prime Minister that T&T is not a refugee camp, however, when I read the statement by Archbishop Jason Gordon advocating for Venezuelan nationals seeking refuge, to be welcomed and treated with dignity my strong opinion was diluted a bit. He said that every nation in the world has been accepting refugees. That refugees have been welcome throughout the whole of history, and that we cannot be the first to decide that we do not want to welcome them. Gordon suggested that all agencies, including the church, unite and formulate a plan to integrate the refugees.

The institutional church must speak out about social injustices. The institutional church should articulate, in broad terms, the proper goals that social policy should promote.

The church is called upon to make a difference in people’s everyday lives. When the church is rooted deeply in the community and its membership is operating as public servants, the church will then be seen as impacting the lives of the people.

Cuthbert Sandy