In 1753 John Wesley said, “So wickedly, devilishly false is that common objection, ‘They are poor, only because they are idle’.” Yet today church-goers and the general public alike are willing to believe that the key factors driving poverty in the UK are the personal failings of the poor – especially ‘idleness’.
A recent report from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church lays bare six myths about the poor which enable the majority to live with the comfortable assumption that both poverty and wealth are deserved.
The biggest myth of them all is ‘They are lazy and they don’t want to work’. The most commonly cited cause of child poverty by church-goers and the general public alike is that “their parents don’t want to work”. Yet the majority of children in poverty are from working households. In-work poverty is now more common than out of work poverty. We readily accept that across the country there are families in which three generations have never worked. Yet examples of these families are absent and research says it is likely that they will stay that way. How did we come to believe these things?
The other 5 common myths that the report disputes are:
- · ‘They’ are addicted to drugs and drink
- · ‘They’ are not really poor–they just don’t manage their money properly
- · ‘They’ are on the fiddle
- · ‘They’ have an easy life
- · ‘They’ caused the deficit
None of them have any evidence to back them up and they have wormed their way into the country’s collective conscience. The worrying thing is that the myths are believed by church-goers too. And if church-goers believe it then who is going to ‘proclaim good news to the poor’ or ‘proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’?
So what can we do? Well the first step is to find out the truth about poverty. Don’t believe everything the media, the government or those seemingly well-informed people tell you. Look it up for yourself.