The Grenfell Tower Tragedy
One of the misconceptions of the Old Testament was that God picked out the Israelites as the chosen people of God at the expense of other peoples. In other words God’s love was exclusive. However the reverse is true. God chose Israel to be a ‘Light to the other Nations’. To do this they needed to incarnate his presence on earth so that people could understand in concrete ways the character of God and how God wanted people to live. In other words they were the forerunner of Jesus who himself became the full perfect incarnation of God. Their instructions on how to be a ‘Light to the Nations,’ were in its most essential form: to have no other Gods or idols but Yahweh and to look after and care for the Fatherless (orphans), the widow, and the alien. In other words they were commanded to look after the poor, marginalised and voiceless. Then their ‘Light would shine like the dawn’ and the nations would be drawn towards God.
The Grenfell Tower stands as a monument, a horrific visual symbol, of a society that has neglected their responsibility towards the poor and marginalised; their voices have been constantly shut down. Whatever your political hue, David Lammy, a man who was fatherless himself, gave a powerful TV interview on Channel four news, which has a strong resonance with the Old Testament call to look after the fatherless, widow and alien, when he said:
“This is about the welfare state. For your middle class viewers, this is about whether the welfare state is just schools and hospitals or whether it’s about having a safety net. I get quite emotional as I say that. We need to live in a society where we care for the poorest and the vulnerable. And that means housing, it means somewhere decent to live. It was a noble idea that we built and it’s falling apart around our eyes. That’s what it’s about. And if it’s taken this tragedy to bring that reality home to people, who are lucky enough to live in very different circumstances then thank God. It’s about the welfare state. Do we believe in a safety net or not?”
Revd. Iain Lothian