Housing and inequity are also issues of righteousness and morality

Housing and inequity are also issues of righteousness and morality

Christians are often concerned about spiritual and moral evils. Rightly so, because God is holy, and God desires righteousness across all the earth.

As Christians, we must not be too selective in what we see as unrighteous. In the Word of God, there are many more types of sin we are urged to avoid than just sexual impurity, drunkenness, and blasphemy. What about pride, selfishness, greed, and indifference to the poor?

In the first few chapters of Isaiah, for instance, the prophet condemns not only religious insincerity and idolatry, but also greed, injustice, corruption, exploitation of the vulnerable, “grinding the face of the poor”, and those who “add house to house”.

In New Zealand, we have a major and growing problem. Some people have large incomes and splendid houses (and often multiple houses), but many others have much lower incomes, and live in crowded and unhealthy houses for which they pay high rents. An increasing number have reasonable incomes, but to find an affordable house seems to them an almost impossible hurdle.

Many New Zealanders feel entitled. But many others feel they and their whānau can barely get by. Such inequity has become multi-generational and entrenched, and spills over into many other social disorders.

Are these matters Christians can ignore, as essentially matters of just economic and social policy, and political? We don’t think so. We believe there are deep moral issues in these matters, and that as Christians we must always look for justice and righteousness, and for loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Mark Maney’s article, Kiwis deserve HOMES, helpfully explores one aspect of this.

Kiwis Deserve HOMES

Kiwis Deserve HOMES

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Luke 9:58

There is currently a housing crisis in New Zealand. Not only has it become extremely difficult for first home buyers to buy their own home, homelessness has grown at a frightening rate. New Zealand currently has the highest level of homelessness in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). New Zealand has almost twice the proportion of homelessness as that of the runner up, Australia. The implications of this are significant and distressing, particularly for children, minorities, low-income households, and other vulnerable groups.

From New Zealand Property Focus: Housing affordability – unlocking the solution 15 December 2020

* From New Zealand Property Focus: Housing affordability – unlocking the solution 15 December 2020

The cost of buying one’s home is also extremely distressing. Statistics NZ recently reported that “homeownership rates have fallen for all age groups since the early 1990s, but especially for those in their 20s and 30s” and that overall, home ownership is at its lowest in almost 70 years. ANZ has estimated that “since the late 1990s, home ownership costs have increased from about 35% of household incomes to around 45%, and the time taken to save for a deposit (assuming one is saving 10% of pre-tax income) has grown from 8 to almost 15 years – and is only getting longer.

It’s one thing for middle-class people to never be able to afford to own their own homes. Generally, almost all middle-class people live in homes, they just rent them instead of owning them. However, there is an entire group of people in this country who not only will never own their home, they can’t find a home to live in; even if they do, they are not able to afford it. If we want to be considered a just society, this is absolutely unacceptable, and we as Christians need to be at the forefront decrying this. It’s true that owning a home is a privilege, not a right. But I believe IT IS A RIGHT for everyone who wants a decent home to live in, to be able to get one. At least, that’s the type of society that I would like to live in and I think the one the Gospel calls us to create.

We as a society also need to realise that homes are homes and not houses. Not everyone needs ¼ acre with 4 bedrooms. I personally grew up in an apartment (in Canada), and honestly, I prefer it to house living. Apartments, condos, tiny homes, town houses, duplexes, lofts, there are all sorts of possibilities for housing, let’s not close our minds to them.

Housing is a complicated issue to solve. If it was easy, I’m sure a government would have solved it by now. But successive governments have failed to implement any policies to actually help alleviate the crisis. The Prime Minister seemed to really care that there was a problem back in 2011 when she was one of the youngest MPs in parliament and didn’t own a home. But now that the Prime Minister and her party are free to action any policy they want, it is not clear that they are truly interested in effectively addressing the crisis, at least not to the extent that it will lose them votes.

However, as COVID has taught us, where there is a will there is a way. The government undertook radical measures to protect New Zealand from a health crisis. They were able to accomplish this because most of New Zealand was behind them.

Well, we have another crisis on our hands, and I believe the Church has an opportunity to advocate real positive change in society. Secular groups like ANZ and The Aotearoa Pledge are already trying to change things instead of waiting for an indecisive government.

In that vein, I propose the slogan, “Kiwis deserve HOMES” where HOMES stands for:  

Healthy Housing in NZ should be warm and free from things like dampness and mould. One should feel safe and protected at home from things like fires and earthquakes.

Outward-facing. Housing in NZ should contribute to community building. There should be ample spaces for people to go outside, to exercise, to worship, and to interact with our neighbours. Strong communities create a strong NZ.

Meaningful. Housing in NZ should help people create positive and meaningful memories. Many people in NZ currently fear being evicted from their homes due to increasing rents, difficult landlords, and housing costs. A home should be affordable, where a person, couple, or family/whānau can live, put down roots, and blossom in a stable situation.

Environmentally friendly. Housing in NZ should take the environment into consideration. We need to honour and steward the land God has given us. Housing should not negatively harm our planet and needs to be built in an environmentally sustainable way so future generations of Kiwis can enjoy our beautiful country.

Suitable. Housing in NZ should be suitable to those living in said housing. They should be designed to be comfortable, affordable, and utilising best and most ethical construction methods. Every Kiwi should feel they belong in their home. 

No one should be homeless in a country as rich as New Zealand. As Christians, this is an area where I think we can make a real difference. Let our voices be heard as we advocate that all Kiwis deserve HOMES.

* New Zealand Property Focus: Housing affordability – unlocking the solution 15 December 2020

Some additions to the Pro-Truth Pledge

Some additions to the Pro-Truth Pledge

The Pro-Truth Pledge is a statement which reflects many people’s frustration with the types of public debate which have become increasingly common in recent decades. Across the spectrum of views, political and otherwise, there has often appeared to be a diminished regard for truth, objective research, reason, and fairness.

The Pro-Truth Pledge comes from a secular source, but we recognise its helpfulness. As Christians, we of all people must be deeply committed to speaking with a deep regard for truth. The pledge has been brought to the attention of NZCN through our former national director, Glyn Carpenter, who has also suggested some appropriate additional clauses.

“In this post-truth era, where fake news and conspiracy theories abound, there is a great need to restore truth in the public square. Sadly, New Zealand is not immune from these problems.”

Glyn Carpenter – Christian Resolution

The background to the Pro-Truth Pledge can be found in a book by Gleb Tsipursky and Tim Ward (PROTRUTH: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth back into Politics. Changemakers Books: Winchester UK, 2020).

I Pledge My Earnest Efforts To:

Share truth

  • VERIFYfact-check information to confirm it is true before accepting and sharing it
  • BALANCE: share the whole truth, even if some aspects do not support my opinion
  • CITE: share my sources so that others can verify my information
  • CLARIFY: distinguish between my opinion and the facts

Honor truth

  • ACKNOWLEDGE: acknowledge when others share true information, even when we disagree otherwise
  • REEVALUATE: reevaluate if my information is challenged, retract it if I cannot verify it
  • DEFEND: defend others when they come under attack for sharing true information, even when we disagree otherwise
  • ALIGN: align my opinions and my actions with true information

Encourage truth

  • FIX: ask people to retract information that reliable sources have disproved even if they are my allies
  • EDUCATE: compassionately inform those around me to stop using unreliable sources even if these sources support my opinion
  • DEFER: recognize the opinions of experts as more likely to be accurate when the facts are disputed
  • CELEBRATE: celebrate those who retract incorrect statements and update their beliefs toward the truth

In addition I will…

  • RESPECT: respect people; refrain from speaking about any person in a way which undermines their dignity as a human being
  • FOCUS: focus on debating issues not attacking people (even indirectly); avoid personalising matters
  • SEEK: look for the good in people and in their arguments; seek to build bridges not walls or trenches
  • UPLIFT: speak in such a way as to build people up not tear down; not retaliate when personally attacked
Christians and the COVID vaccine

Christians and the COVID vaccine

New Zealand is currently rolling out its COVID vaccine to frontline workers and medical personnel. This means that the general population will soon be in line to receive the vaccine en masse.

At the same time, much anti-vaccination material is swirling around in society. In my research, I’ve seen that Christians – along with everyone else in society – have a range of thoughts about whether they will take the vaccine. Their thinking falls into four broad categories.

There are those who don’t like any sort of vaccine, believing them to be at best ineffective, and at worse dangerous.

There are those who feel that this vaccine is an overreach of the government, a violation of individual rights. (Some might also worry that the vaccine is possibly linked with the “mark of the beast”).

Then you have a third group, who like many of their secular counterparts, have concerns about taking a vaccine that was produced so quickly, without the normal lengthy trials. “Are we sure this vaccine is safe, how can we know what the long-term side effects might be?”

Finally, there are those, and this is no doubt the largest group, who are confident that despite the compressed time-frames in formulating and testing the anti-Covid vaccines, and the possible risks, it is still highly likely to be safe for most people, and that out of love of self and neighbour one should in due course receive the vaccination.

Christians do need to respect the rights of that minority of people who decide not to take the vaccine, but we are not obliged to agree with their thinking. However, it does seem the best way for this and other societies to defeat this virus is to vaccinate as much as possible of the population. If you want to see more information in support of this approach, see the links below.

The DNA of an evangelical

A worldwide fellowship of the Gospel

Around the world, in countless cultures, there are approximately 2.4 billion people who identify as Christian. Many of those are “evangelical” in faith, i.e. they are biblical, Gospel-hearted believers. The World Evangelical Alliance, the global fellowship of Gospel-minded Christians that was first established in 1846, and now has 134 (independent) national alliances in its membership, includes the New Zealand Christian Network.

On 28 February 2021, the WEA officially handed over leadership roles. Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, of Germany, began his tenure as the Secretary General of the WEA. Thomas visited New Zealand in 2019 and took a shine to NZCN’s Te Rongopai DVD.

In his inaugural speech, he talks about the DNA of being evangelical.

Rev Dr Brian Winslade, new Deputy Secretary of the WEA

Introducing Rev Dr Brian Winslade

A worldwide fellowship of the Gospel

Around the world, in countless cultures, there are approximately 2.4 billion people who identify as Christian. Many of those are “evangelical” in faith, i.e. they are biblical, Gospel-hearted believers. The World Evangelical Alliance, the global fellowship of Gospel-minded Christians that was first established in 1846, and now has 134 (independent) national alliances in its membership, includes the New Zealand Christian Network.

Earlier this week, the WEA officially handed over leadership roles. Among them, Rev Dr Brian Winslade, of Hamilton, was introduced as the new Deputy Secretary of the WEA. Watch his introduction video above. Brian is also a member of the NZCN Working Board.

If you would like to know more about the DNA of being evangelical, you might want to watch Dr Thomas Schirrmacher’s inaugural speech as the incoming Secretary General of the WEA. (Thomas visited New Zealand in 2019, and took a shine to NZCN’s Te Rongopai DVD).