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The United Church and the Economy

April 1, 1985 -

In February of this year the United Church of Canada issued a statement on the economy entitled "The Church and the Economic Crisis: The Policy of the United Church of Canada." The statement, adopted by the General Council of the United Church in August 1984, is unfortunately an amalgam of assertions and recommendations which by and large testify to the incompetence and left-leaning views of those who drafted it. It reiterates the absurd accusation of a few trade union leaders that the economic crisis of the past four years was designed by our government. From that premise the statement lashes out against what it calls "the rhetoric about the need for cutbacks, restraint, working harder, being more competitive." The authors fault the government for its appeal to tighten our belts, and they use as an example of a government-induced crisis the changing pupil-teache ratios ih schools.

The church people who drafted this statement not surprisingly pose as the champions of the poor in Canada, yet they fail to define their concept of poverty. Naturally, it cannot be denied that there is a substantial amount of poverty in the country, but for these church leaders to cite the British Columbia Solidarity Coalition (of trade unions and other groups) as a "beacon of hope," and to state that through such movements "Canadians are taking more responsibility for the vital choices facing our society," betrays the fact that they are not encumbered by a great deal of economic insight. This deficiency is also evident in their cryptic call for Canadian self-reliance as well as self-reliance and development abroad. Obviously, not every country can be self-reliant, particularly not in a world that becomes increasingly interdependent.

The statement is a litany of protest against markets dominated by the power of the rich, an indiscriminate condemnation of every effort on the part of Canada to build up an adequate defence force, an attack on back-to-work legislation and a sinister allegation that the "rights and liberties of property" (whatever that is) are placed above the rights and liberties of people.

Fortunately, there are also positive elements in the statement, such as the call for adequate protection of the poor and the maintenance of an equitable welfare system. But the statement clearly reveals the influence of the liberal Left, which blames all our economic problems on a conspiracy of the rich and the powerful. Such simplistic allegations not only present a distorted picture of rea1ity, but are a disgrace to the Church of the Lord which first of all is called to proclaim liberation from sin, a sin that equally has infected all sectors and segments of society. The statement is completely silent on the fact that a significant part of our economic problems are due to the greed displayed not only by the business cornponent of society but equally by workers and trade unions who in days of prosperity knew no bounds in the rush to enrich themselves, despite the cost to less fortunate sectors of the population.

"The Church and the Economic Crisis" is in our opinion a good example of an ideological misunderstanding of what both the Church and the economic crisis are all about.