Righteousness and equity
Reading the British Public Attitudes Survey can be a mixed blessing. It contains both good news and bad among the pages of statistics and graphs.
The 28th report, published last year, picked up the issue of child poverty. While almost 80% of the British public recognise that child poverty exists and almost half of us believe that it will grow in the next ten years – both of which accurately reflect reality – when it comes to understanding the causes of child poverty, we don’t do so well.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. (Isaiah 11: 3b-4a)
Some 63% of us believe that child poverty was caused by 'parents not wanting to work.' Yet we know that almost 60% of children in poverty are in working families. The problem is not one of attitudes towards work, but the availability of decent work. We have come to believe something about poverty that is most definitely not the case.
In an increasingly hostile media environment where people in poverty are often characterised as lazy, it appears that people believe the simplistic assessment of tabloid headlines rather than the painstaking analysis of researchers.
The writer of Isaiah gives us all pause for thought. By contrasting the easy assessment of situations based on face value – 'What the eyes see and the ears hear’ – with the ability to judge properly, Isaiah critiques us all.
In a world where picking up the wrong idea is easy, we should heed the warning, look past the headlines and judge instead with righteousness and equity.
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